Promoting Sustainability with Organic and Biodynamic Wine

Only a handful of wineries across the United States have been certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture. Originally, the USDA prohibited finished items to be designated as organic. After some debate, wines could finally be labeled organic after inspection of raw materials, production methods and records of the processes that were completed. So how important is it for your wine to be organic? Are there any benefits in offering an organic alternative? This article will help clear up any confusion about naturally produced wines.

In the United States, there are four separate categories that an organic wine can qualify into: 100% organic, organic, made with organic ingredients and made with some organic ingredients. In order to be organic labeled with the certified United States Department of Agriculture seal, the wine must be made with organically grown grapes and display who the certifying agency is on the bottle. Pesticide use on these grapes are out of the question. Organic wines cannot have any added sulfites but are allowed those that develop naturally during production. The total sulfite level, however, must be less than 20 parts per million. On the other hand, wines labeled “made with organic grapes” are allowed to have added sulfites. In Europe and Canada, wine made from organically grown grapes may contain added sulfites.

So what exactly are sulfites? Sulfur dioxide is a natural chemical that appears in the wine making process during fermentation. It is used as a preservation method and includes both antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Usually large-production wines have higher levels of sulfur than fine wines. Sulfites in wine are safe to have, but some people do suffer sensitivity reactions.

Some organic wines can also be classified as biodynamic. Biodynamic grapes are grown in a vineyard that acts as its own ecosystem. This means that the grapes are dependent on the surroundings that are developed by a variety of factors such as climate and sunlight. All biodynamic wines are organic, but not all organic wines are biodynamic.

There are many benefits that come from organic wines that affect multiple parties. First, organic wines are better for the planet. The reduction of pesticides and other chemicals used in the process make for a healthier environment as a whole – the soil and living beings are not longer negatively impacted by unnatural, added ingredients. Vineyard workers are also benefited by being able to work with organic grapes. They are no longer exposed to chemicals that could harm their health. Finally, there have been studies that show that drinking organic wine can be better for you. The grapes are washed before the manufacturing process begins, cleansing them of any unnatural residue. People can then drink a wine that hasn’t interacted with any artificial products. The taste of organic wines tend to be more expressive as people are trying the real deal – wines without added ingredients.

If your restaurant is curious about introducing organic wines to your menu, make sure to consider a few things: 

1. Where the wine comes from: Different regions have different rules on what is considered organic.

2. When the wine was produced: Organic wines can be stored but are typically best young and fresh, since they don’t have the added sulfites to help with preservation.

3. How it was made: Make sure there is some kind of certification on the bottle, deeming the wine organic. The wine can have various grapes within it but standards need to verified by a registered department.

4. Pricing: Consumers have the misconception that all organic wines are going to be more expensive. Many organic vineyards offer a variety of prices to consumers, including many at a lower price point.