I’ve been seeing more and more organic wine in stores lately, but I haven’t been motivated to try much of it. Why? Because they tend to be unstable and I’ve never really found a good one—by current US “organic” standards anyway. The reason is that sulfites cannot be used in the production of wines labeled “organic.”
Sulfites protect wine from acetic bacteria and give it stability and consistency. But they aren’t permitted in organic wines. That means that the entire grape farming process can take place without using any pesticides or other chemicals, but once sulfites are added it can no longer be considered organic. And without adding sulfites, there’s a good chance that the taste of the wine will change rather quickly in the bottle and it just won’t be very good.
That was the point of an article published today on salon.com titled, Does Organic Wine Taste Bad? I totally agree with the perspectives shared in the article. Sulfites are necessary to ensure the quality of the wine and I’ve never been concerned about consuming sulfites.
The article notes that sulfites are mostly a concern for asthmatics. I expect that the alcohol in wine is more detrimental to my health than the sulfites—of course I’m no scientist. I’ve heard some people state that they don’t drink wine because the sulfites give them a headache or a hangover. Again, I have a hunch that it’s the alcohol that’s doing that.
I think it’s also important to note that sulfites occur naturally in wine. The natural levels are typically too low to give the wine stability, and so additional sulfites are added.
I recently did a review of Melania Colleccion Cabernet Sauvignon, which is produced with organic grapes but isn’t labeled as an organic wine because they still used sulfites in the production. “Eco-friendly” is an area where I think there is opportunity for the wine industry. I am a fan of organic farming and minimizing the use of pesticides on crops, but I also concede that there are benefits from chemistry. It’s a matter of finding the right balance and using chemistry to our advantage where needed, but minimizing over-use.
For now, I’m sticking with my sulfite-laden wines. But I may pick up some wines “made with organic grapes” from time to time.