Organic wines, Wine Guides

Reasons to drink organic wine

What is organic wine?

For now, let’s not talk about wine. Let’s talk about the grapes – the fruit of the vine and the only ingredient that matters.

Consider for a moment the tasteless, the bruised and the under ripe fruit you’ve bought over the years. Maybe you’ve left it in a windowsill to see if it’ll ripen? Have you bitten into a rosy red apple and been at a loss that there’s no taste at all? Or, popped a strawberry into your mouth and known at the first bite that there’s a mouldy one in there somewhere…!

The cooks and the bakers reading this will know that whilst there’s much that can be done with under-par fruit, lots of recipes are best avoided because they are dependent upon the freshest, tastiest and healthiest ingredients.

Winemakers know that the quality of the grapes they harvest is everything when it comes to making delicious wine. All the latest vinification gizmos in the world won’t turn dull grapes into vinous magic.

This isn’t news and it is unlikely to surprise you that many, many wineries understand the value of growing their grapes organically to get the results they want.

Visit the website of almost any wine estate in the world and you will read about the importance harvesting ripe, healthy fruit. Producers will take about ‘environmentally friendly’ viticulture and the limited use of herbicides and pesticides. And, given a glass of Prosecco for every time we have read, ‘adopting organic practices’, well, frankly there wouldn’t be a body at Vintage Roots HQ sober enough to take an order!

Seeing these terms on back labels and on marketing material does not mean you are drinking a glass of truly organic wine. Why? Because organic wines must be made following clearly defined rules in both the vineyard and the cellar. For a wine estate to call itself organic, it must follow the letter of organic viticulture and winemaking law!

Before 2012, when there were no rules for how ‘organic wines’ should be made in the cellar. We used to have labels that simply said ‘wine from organically grown grapes’. Since 2012 we can confidently talk about ‘organic wines’, which follow winemaking standards that ban certain treatments and additives, as well as limiting the amount of sulphur dioxide or sulphites used. There are numerous organic certifying bodies around the world whose different stamps and logos you may come across. In the UK the Soil Association are best used and in Europe it is Ecocert.

“Great wine requires a mad man to grow the vine, a wise man to watch over it, a lucid poet to make it, and a lover to drink it” – Salvador Dali

 

Why organic wine?

If you’re looking for reasons to buy and drink organic wines, we have several hundred options to persuade you… Okay, you’re looking for smart, sensible reasons so read on! Whether you prefer organic white wine or have a preference for a glass of organic red wine, we delve into some of the benefits of organic wine below.

It is better for the environment

The benefit of organic viticulture and farming is clear. A greatly reduced negative and irreversible impact on the soil, greater carbon efficiency helping climate warming, increased biodiversity and creation of healthier jobs in the countryside.

Organic practices encourage soil fauna and flora, improving soil structure and health. In turn, the retentive abilities of the soils for water and nutrients is improved, helping increase microbe levels, aiding healthy plant growth, disease resistance and ultimately improving wine quality.

Environment

Much organic vineyard management leads to returning carbon to the soils which can directly impact productivity and mitigate global warming. Vintage Roots also has chosen to carbon offset all of our wine and drinks imports from around the world, helping to make it a carbon-neutral company, one of the very first wine companies to do so.

Better for your those with allergies & sensitivities

We are not aiming to scare you but there is plenty of evidence to suggest there are strong links between the use of systemic pesticides, and herbicides with increased risk of cancer and diseases which impact our nervous system (think Parkinson’s Disease). There are also papers that write persuasively on the negative impact of pesticides on fertility. The list goes on, and there is the added (and unknown) risk of chemical cocktails, from ingesting a range of toxins from different sources.

For some people, a sensitivity to sulphites and conditions such as asthma can make drinking non-organic wines a problem. As the use of added sulphur is considerably less in organically-made wines, they are often the only choice for sufferers. {Please note, we are not doctors! Please visit one if you have a medical worry.}

Read our blog on low-sulphur and no-added-sulphur wines here.

Organic wine is better for hangovers

Hippocrates was the Greek Father of Medicine. (COVID lockdown lead to one person going back to the Ancient Greeks…!) and he said some very wise things, not least, “The first glass of wine is for health, the second glass of wine is for gaiety, the third glass of wine is for good sleep, and every further glass is a danger.” He added, “Too much wine usually causes complaints.”

Friends, when you wake groggy, headachy and grumpy, you entered the danger zone! Anecdotally, there are plenty of stories about the ‘better’ or ‘no’ hangover morning after a night of organic wine drinking but sadly the science doesn’t agree.

It is made from organic grapes (No GMO)

We are not GMO fans – hugely disruptive to our already very vulnerable ecosystem and potentially toxic, there seems no reason to support them. Nevertheless, GMO vines have been developed and are sitting in labs around the world. For now, they are not in vineyards. We have even heard that a grapevine that glows in the dark has been developed at the University of Florida. Say no more.

Toxic

More worryingly, there are some GMO yeasts in circulation and if you drink non-organic, there is simply no way of knowing if the wine you have in your glass has been made using a GMO yeast.

The good news? Well yes, GMOs in any form, are not allowed in organically and biodynamically-certified wines. Phew.

Less sulphur and fewer additives

The permitted levels of added sulphur in wines are lower for organic winemakers. The permitted maximum for organic red wine is 100mg/litre as opposed to 150mg/liter for conventionally made red wines, whilst organic white wines can have no more than 150mg/litre (as opposed to 200mg/litre). For those that struggle with allergies, breathing difficulties, and just want to manage their health, this is good news.

Additives can be a dirty word, but some are allowed in organic winemaking. For example, the EU recently allowed pea protein to be used as a fining agent. It’s known to work quickly and to be more effective than many alternatives. The sort of additives organic winemakers cannot use would include, calcium alginate for thinning and polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (yup, it’s a word – the number of letters alone is fairly intimidating!!) to correct the wine’s colour!

Organic wine is not as expensive as you think

In an article that asked why more people don’t drink organic wine, the winemaker, Caro Feely, wrote this article about organic wine on Jancis Robinson’s website (www.jancisrobinson.com).

Perhaps people think organic is too expensive. Yes, organic is more expensive than non-organic but as a marine biologist in France likes to put it, ‘I buy organic because I can’t afford a cancer treatment.’ Research by the Gironde (Bordeaux) Chamber of Agriculture shows that the cost of production for organic wine is 28% higher, largely due to two forces: an average 20% reduction in production volumes and higher labour costs. While there is no data on the price of organic versus conventional bulk AOC wine in the region, a straw poll of a few of my winegrower friends indicates that the bulk market price is currently around 27% more for organic, and there is downward pressure due to the increase in the volume of organic wine available. There is no revenue incentive to convert. The Association of Organic Winegrowers of Nouvelle Aquitaine makes the unhappy point that in the bulk market, whether the wine is organic or conventional, the price achieved is below the cost of production. Ironically those who are not polluting have to pay to be certified while those who are using highly toxic systemic chemicals are not controlled and pay nothing. It should be the other way around. Organic certification should be free and those using systemics should have to pay to be controlled so that we know they are using these products in the correct way and within the permitted levels.

At Vintage Roots we work hard to keep our prices as competitive as possible. Our organic red wines start at £7.99. The organic white wine range also begins at £7.99 and the organic rosés at £7.99.

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