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More and more people are opting for organic options, and wine is no exception.
Organic foods and drinks are summarised as being grown or made without the use of artificial pesticides, fertilisers, or other unnatural chemicals.
In order for food or drink to be organic, 95% or more of the ingredients used must come from organically produced plants, animals, or ingredients.
Organic wine follows the same rules, and many people believe that organic wine is actually healthier than regular wine.
But what exactly makes a wine organic, and how is it different from regular wine?
Keep reading to learn more about organic wine, how it’s made, and why you should choose organic wine.
For a wine to be organic, steps have to be taken in each stage of the winemaking process, from the growing of the grapes to the fining process.
In most wines you’ll find on the shelves of your favourite supermarket, the grapes have been sprayed with chemicals before they’re turned into wine.
However, in organic wines, organic grapes are used. These are grapes from an organic vineyard that haven’t been sprayed with any chemical pesticides, fertilisers, or herbicides.
Organic winemakers will have to adhere to different guidelines and processes to maintain the health of their vines without using harmful chemicals.
You might be wondering why winemakers use chemicals in the first place.
This is to kill off any unwanted insects or weeds that can consume or damage the vines, and lower the quality of the grapes or kill them.
Although these sprays can help to protect the vines on which the grapes grow, some of the chemicals can remain on the grape and end up in your wine.
In order to protect the vine and grapes without using non-organic methods, vineyard workers will have special practices and processes in place to ensure the grapes produce quality wine.
Instead of fighting nature by using chemicals, vintners will work with nature to increase the biodiversity of the vineyard.
One of the most effective methods of doing so is introducing predator populations to help manage pests such as insects and bugs.
This is because they will consume or damage the crops - and predator populations will prevent this from happening.
Another method of protecting the plants in a natural way is using natural composts to fertilise the vines, instead of compost that contains chemicals and other unnatural materials.
Weeds can be a common issue for organic vineyards. In regular vineyards, weedkillers will be used - but this isn’t organic, so organic vintners will often allow sheep to graze around the vineyard to keep the pesky weeds at bay.
These methods are effective, but in some cases, protective sprays will still need to be used. However, they will only be used when absolutely necessary, and the spray will still be made from natural products.
A spray often used by organic vineyards is made from copper, lime, sulphate, and water - which is a lot more natural than sprays using 10+ chemicals.
Many vegan wines are organic, but this doesn’t mean that all organic wine is vegan
Many organic wines will still contain other natural additives, such as yeast, egg whites, and animal products (e.g gelatin, bone marrow, blood).
Organic wines are becoming more and more popular - organic options have numerous benefits, from the taste and texture to the health side of things.
Keep reading to see why organic wines might be a better option for yourself.
Organic wines tend to be better for your body and for the environment. Fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals overall can be damaging to the environment.
Nitrogen from fertilisers can get into water supplies and harm the fish and other water-dwellers. Pesticides can kill bugs, but can also kill the good bugs that help with growth and protection.
The chemicals used can be harmful to the soil and surrounding environment, which isn’t a problem with organic vineyards.
The chemicals can affect the PH balance of the soil, making it difficult to produce crops naturally in the future.
Organic winemaking processes will help to promote biodiversity on the vineyards, which also protects the surrounding areas.
Small amounts of residue from the chemicals can end up in the wine - not enough to harm you in most cases, but it’s still best to steer clear of any chemicals when choosing your wine.
Organic wines will contain no sulphuric acids or chemical fining agents, which is better for your health overall.
Organic wine practices are natural, sustainable, and more eco-friendly than regular winemaking methods.
Although organic wines usually contain sulphites, they contain around half the amount found in regular wines.
Sulphites, aka sulphur dioxide (SO2), are known for antibacterial properties and can help to preserve the wine and extent the wine’s shelf life.
This is why organic wine generally has a shorter shelf life than cheaper, more commercial wines you’ll find on offer in your local newsagents.
Sulphites keep the wine fresh in both taste and appearance, meaning it keeps for a long time.
Consuming the legal level of sulphites is generally harmless, but some people are sensitive to sulphites.
People with severe asthma or people who lack the enzymes needed to break down sulphites may experience negative effects from consuming sulphites and should opt for organic wines that contain fewer sulphites.
People can suffer from allergic reactions after drinking regular wine full of sulphites. This can present itself as an itchy rash, hives, blotchy skin, or even painful cramps.
Because of these reactions, the amount of sulphites used in wine is highly regulated all around the globe.
Any wine that contains upwards of 10ppm is required to include the fact that it contains sulphites on the label.
Commercial wines typically contain higher amounts of sugar - this can either be residual sugar or sugar that has been artificially added.
The sugar levels in wine will determine how alcoholic the wine is - and when a winemaker adds sugar during the fermentation process, the wine will end up having a higher alcohol content.
The process of adding extra sugar during the winemaking process is called chaptalisation, which is illegal in some areas of the world.
Many winemakers will use sugar to mask a poor taste from the winemaking process or from using poor-quality grapes - as it can be difficult to taste anything through lots of sugar.
You’ll find that most organic wines will contain less sugar, but will maintain the typical ‘wine’ taste you know and love.
Novice wine drinkers tend to prefer sweeter wines with a high-sugar content as it doesn’t taste like a quality wine.
Organic wines tend to be better if you’re on a low-carb diet as they don’t usually contain as much sugar as commercial wines.
You may find organic wine in your local supermarket if they have a specialist section for organic, sugar-free, or vegan wines.
One of the best ways of buying organic wines is by searching online.
If you’re unsure where to look for organic wines, you could always join a Facebook group dedicated to organic lifestyles, or a wine-lovers Facebook group.