|Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Eco Wines, Part 2: Certified Organic Wine|
|Tuesday, 24 September 2013 00:00 | Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry|
Currently, there are three ecologically important certifications vintners can achieve: organic, biodynamic and sustainable. We are all familiar with the organic certification standards for produce and prepared foods regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in accordance with the Organic Food and Production Act (OFPA), with standards set by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), administered by the National Organic Program (NOP)…oh, my.
A certified organic wine must not have added sulfites (a naturally occurring antimicrobial and antioxidant byproduct of fermentation, which is also often added afterward as a preservative), and the naturally occurring sulfites must measure less than 20 parts per million. Additionally, there are some wine-making ingredients not approved for organic labeling by the NOSB. Hence, it is easier today to certify pop tarts than wine as organic. And so, actual certified organic wine is extremely rare.
Frey and Organic Wine Works are two certified organic wines. Throughout all of my tasting experiences, I do not know of any others. Organic Wine Works was notably the first wine maker to challenge the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and become the exception to the then-regulation that no finished wine could be labeled organic. Before the NOP was created, the ATF was the regulating agency.
The organic certification is awarded to vineyards for upholding familiar organic farming methods, which include abstaining from most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering and ionizing radiation. Long-term soil management, distance between organic and neighboring conventional farms, the facility's cleaning and pest-control methods, and ingredient transportation and storage are inspected as well.
How to Read the Labels
The vintners will often display their farm's organic certification in their tasting room, information literature or in a paragraph or two on their website. Once you know that a vineyard is certified organic, remember to read the wine’s label to make sure the bottle you are drinking was produced from the certified organic vineyard’s grapes. Often wine makers will supplement their own vineyard’s production by purchasing grapes grown on other growers’ parcels, which may or may not be certified.
For example, I am holding a bottle of Madonna 2008 Gewürztraminer (signed by the winemaker, Buck, himself!) that says Estate Grown on the label. Since I know Madonna vineyards are certified organic, I know that this wine—grown, produced and bottled on the estate—is made from organic grapes (plus it says “ingredients: organically grown grapes” on the back). However, this bottle of Ampelos 2006 Syrache-blend made from Byron and Alisos vineyard grapes is not necessarily made with organically grown grapes, even though Ampelos is the only vineyard I know of to hold all three certifications—organic, biodynamic and sustainable.
Hopefully, this information will steer you in the right direction. Obviously, there are other questions to ask and other things to learn when searching for the most delicious, health-promoting and eco-consciously produced wine.
Continue to Part 3: Certified Biodynamic Wine
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