We've discussed organic wines on this site before (click here for Part 1 and Part 2). Our initial picks were far from fabulous. The second crop was certainly better and showed some promise. Since then, organic wine has been making friends and influencing people, so to speak, along the way.
But they still have a long way to go to catch up to the rest of the wine industry. Many labels that produce organic wine are small growers. The larger labels that have organic wine either have a small section of their farm devoted to it or simply don't advertise the fact that they are organic. It seems the organic label will often scare consumers off.
In an article originally published in the L.A. Times on January 6th, there are some wine growers who are urging the government to allow sulfites--often the source of heated debate when it comes to organic wine--in the winemaking process. They feel that larger producers would then have an incentive to go green. See the excerpt below.
Why isn't more wine 'organic'?
By W. Blake Gray, Special to the Los Angeles Times
January 6, 2011
Currently for a wine to be labeled " USDA Organic" — a coveted seal of approval for most foods — it must have no added sulfites. However, most winemakers feel that sulfites are crucial in winemaking — they discourage spoilage and preserve fresh fruit flavors. Unlike most organic products, wine may sit for years before being opened. Furthermore, most wines contain some level of sulfites anyway since they are a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation.
As a result, even though organic food is one of the fastest-growing categories in the supermarket, "organic wine" is an afterthought. No large producers make it. Other types of eco-friendly wine have stepped in to fill the breach, including biodynamic, sustainable and "natural wine," which may have weak or even no official standards. Wine drinkers looking for a healthful, green product face confusing choices, and wineries can claim they're eco-friendly without anyone really checking.
Because of that, some leading environmentalists in the wine industry — including Paul Dolan of Mendocino Wine Co., a pioneer in organic grape farming — are asking the government to allow sulfites to be added to wines labeled organic. Dolan thinks that change would encourage more grape growers to be certified organic, meaning the use of fewer herbicides and pesticides in vineyards.
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Image courtesy of Parducci.com