When it comes to the topic of organic wines, the definition can be confusing. First and foremost, there is no such thing as “no sulfite” or “sulfite-free” wine. Sulfites occur naturally at low levels as a by-product of fermenting yeasts present on all grape skins. Even industry labeling mavens like the USDA can’t agree: they define organic wine as made from organically grown grapes with no sulfur dioxide added; and, the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) guidelines state a wine made with 99.99% organic ingredients cannot be labeled “organic” unless no sulfur dioxide has been added to it. Even a wine made organically (with no sulfur dioxide added) is only a low-sulfite wine and not sulfite-free.

In the past, the drawback of wines made without the preservative of added sulfites was instability and spoilage. Advancements have improved and enhanced the quality of low-sulfite wines since their debut, and organic vintners have technologies available that restrict the amount of sulfur dioxide in wines to a negligible amount, while still preventing oxidation, controlling bacterial growth, and stabilizing the wine. For a tutorial on sustainability check out the Frey Vineyards in Mendocino, CA which made our “top 20” list and claims to be “America’s First Organic Winery.”

As more winemakers are converting to organic methods of farming, many are taking it a step further to biodynamics. Like our “uberboomers” who go above and beyond, biodynamics (uberorganic) don’t use pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms.  Further, to be biodynamic certified, the grower must set aside a minimum of 10% of their total acreage for biodiversity. Now embraced by some world-wide high profile vintners, many winemakers see biodynamics as the method to sustain the future of their vineyards. Many organic, sustainable and biodynamic vintners, like Cooper Mountain Vineyards have made the commitment to the holistics of biodynamic farming practices “to support terroir — the French term for all of a vineyard’s characteristics that help shape a wine.”

By choosing wines made with organically grown grapes, you support the winegrower who is dedicated to making a higher quality product. Like alchemical gardeners, organic winemakers who also farm biodynamically aim at nurturing the health of the vineyard rather than depleting it and this benefits us all, especially when savoring the terroir in the glass!

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