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What Exactly Are Organic Wines?

April 18, 2008 – The word "organic" in wine has the same meaning as when applied to other products of our everyday consumption such as organic poultry or produce and conveys the concept of natural growing practices. Organic winemakers use only natural fertilizers and never use pesticides. It is simply a pure and natural method of wine growing and wine making.
There are two main branches of the organic movement in winemaking in France. One is organic and the other is biodynamic. Let me give you a quick idea of biodynamic viticulture (the growing of grapes).
Biodynamic agriculture dates back to the early 1900s. It was the concept of a German spiritual philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, who believed that all things in life are interconnected–spiritual, medical and agricultural. The concepts he conceived are in practice today through the Anthroposophical Society (Google this to get the whole story). Essentially, he was the father of all types of Organic agriculture.
Suffice it to say that biodynamic winemaking encompasses a philosophy of "spiritual" proportions. More than just a method of winemaking, the followers of this movement think of the vineyards as a self contained organism. The vines, soil, animals, cover crops, manures and composts, celestial influences and the grower themselves are part of the "whole." All of this carries over into the picking of the grape and the winemaking process. More attention to the process of winemaking from beginning to end cannot be found.
Organic growers are not as fanatical but adhere to a strict code. No pesticides, no herbicides, no synthetic fertilizers and minimal chemical additives (more about this later). The main idea behind this is that wine made from grapes grown in this fashion is better for the earth and the wine drinker because all the things added to the growing process will eventually show up in the wine, as well. Maintaining a healthy, naturally biologic soil is the goal of the organic grower. This in turn invites beneficial insects and microscopic organisms that control the detrimental varieties, thus eliminating the need for chemical control. It's all a matter of balance. Nature will produce healthy grapes if the grower allows the good parts of nature to control the bad parts.
Quality? In my view, the quality of all our organics is equal to or superior to any wine of equal style. There is a small premium on the price, but not as much as you might think, and you might find it worthwhile. Most are stronger, cleaner and have more saturation of taste than their counterparts.
The subject of sulfites is a delicate one; it is misunderstood. Sulfites occur naturally in the grape; they are an important part of winemaking. Sulfites are the antioxidants that preserve wine from spoiling, and some is usually added in the winemaking process. Sulfite free wine exists, but I have never tasted one that I would buy for myself. A wine without sulfites should not be considered an "organic" wine, as wine can be made using non-organic grapes. Wines without just the right amount of sulfites are very unstable. The trick here is the addition of minimum quantities of sulfites. The least amount necessary to do the job is the rule of the organic wine maker. There are less sulfites in organic wines than in traditional wines, so if sulfites are a concern, and you are a wine lover, try organic wines. One last note: In general, there are more sulfites in white wine than in red. So, if you want to be kind to the earth, and perhaps kind to yourself, try the organics!

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