When I began working full-time in the wine industry, there were sections in wine stores for organic wines and such wines proudly announced their organicness. The wines back then were referred to as: Yuk, ok for organic wine and wow this is actually good for organic wine. Cotturi Winery in Sonoma is even able to produce wines that have been highly acclaimed by the critics. The wines they produce do not have any added sulfites, which for people with severe allergic reactions to MSG and sulfites is a good thing. Note about sulfites: They increase the symptoms of asthma for about 5% of asthmatics (about .025% of the entire population). Another misperception about sulfites is that they cause headaches. Sorry, but the result of sulfites on that .025% of the population is not a headache, but rather shortness of breath and, with enough, anaphylactic shock. But wines with very low sulfites, storage needs to be perfect and even then there will be potential problems.
Organic wine production has evolved a lot since the days of Frey Vineyards and Organic Wine Works having their own section in wine stores. First off, the term organic now has many hungry governmental hands to feed in many different countries.
For those who have had bad experiences with organic wines in the past, don’t give up.
Secondly, there are many great wines that are produced organically but don’t state that fact in order to stay out of the organic section. These producers just want to be produced in the best way for the best results and find organic or biodynamic the best way to achieve this. The list of wines produced organically or biodynamically is getting longer each year. The reason for this has nothing to do with marketing but rather for the health of the vineyards and our world environment. The wine industry has a very close relationship with our environment so going organic helps in more than one way.
For those who have had bad experiences with organic wines in the past, don’t give up. Due to the laws surrounding organic and biodynamic labeling, it can be quite difficult to determine the farming practices a winery is using. I have been researching this for two of my clients, the Hamptons Wine Shoppe and The Maidstone Hotel in Easthampton. At The Living Room Restaurant in The Maidstone, the list has a notation next to each wine that it was farmed organically or a version thereof. The Hamptons Wine Shoppe can direct their customer to all the organic and biodynamically produced wines they carry.
There are some amazing wines produced with careful stewarding of their environment, some such as Domaine Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet, Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Frog’s Leap in Napa Valley, Domaine de Montille in Volnay and Catena in Mendoza. All the above producers own all the vineyards they use for production so they have total control of their vineyard practices, while there are other producers who purchase grapes and can’t control the farming practices but do everything in an eco-friendly manner. Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley runs their winery entirely from solar power and has been growing their vines with green methods for twenty years. But if you are looking to find the terms organic or biodynamic on any of these wine bottles, you won’t find it. Sometimes their website will talk about, often it is a matter of having an insider’s view of their farming practices. So ask your wine purveyor or sommelier.