What is Organic Wine?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
A vineyard.
A vineyard.

A great deal of terminology is used on wine labels, and these terms can sometimes be very confusing for consumers when they are confronted with a row of labels which all look slightly similar. Organic wine is wine which has been produced with organically grown grapes and no added sulfites. There is some debate over how wines should be classified, with sulfites being an issue of hot contention among consumers and wine makers.

Toasting with organic white wine.
Toasting with organic white wine.

Sulfites are added to preserve wine, ensuring that it stays shelf stable and that it has a reliable, dependable flavor. Organic vintners have argued that they should be allowed to add sulfites to improve the quality of their wines, as truly organic wine can be notoriously unreliable due to the lack of additional sulfites. Opponents to sulfites have argued that they can cause allergic reactions and other health problems, and that it is therefore appropriate to insist upon no added sulfites in organic wine.

Sulfites, which some wine makers use as a preservative, can cause an allergic reaction.
Sulfites, which some wine makers use as a preservative, can cause an allergic reaction.

A truly organic wine should bear a certification label from the organization which inspected and certified the winery along with the claim that it is 100% organic. Certified organic wines must both satisfy tests of viticultural practices, and tests used to determine the level of sulfites in the wine. Some sulfites are present naturally, and are not a cause to disqualify a wine from organic certification, but if the level is high, it can indicate that sulfites were added, in which case the wine cannot be certified organic.

Experts think that organic red wine likely has more antioxidants than conventional red wine.
Experts think that organic red wine likely has more antioxidants than conventional red wine.

Some vintners deal with this issue by labeling their wine as “made with organically grown grapes.” They cannot claim that the wine is organic because of sulfites, but they can assure consumers that every other aspect of the winemaking process adhered to organic standards. Vintners and wineries opt for this choice when they want to promote environmental stewardship while also making consistent wines. Other wineries have pursued alternatives to sulfites in an attempt to satisfy organic standards while also ensuring that their wines will be dependable.

Organic wines typically have no added sulfites, a type of preservative often found in the alcoholic drink.
Organic wines typically have no added sulfites, a type of preservative often found in the alcoholic drink.

Another term which can appear on wine labels is “biodynamic,” indicating that the wine was grown in accordance with biodynamic techniques. Biodynamic and organic labeling both indicate that a product was grown and produced with environmental responsibility in mind, but the standards are slightly different. Wines may also be labeled as vegan, indicating that animal products such as bone and eggs were not used in the process of clarifying or “fining” the wine for sale.

Consumers are often frustrated with the unreliable performance of organic wines. For consumers who prefer to buy organic, it is a good idea to consult a wine buying guide or extensive review which focuses on organic wines and wineries before making an organic wine purchase.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • A vineyard.
      A vineyard.
    • Toasting with organic white wine.
      Toasting with organic white wine.
    • Sulfites, which some wine makers use as a preservative, can cause an allergic reaction.
      Sulfites, which some wine makers use as a preservative, can cause an allergic reaction.
    • Experts think that organic red wine likely has more antioxidants than conventional red wine.
      Experts think that organic red wine likely has more antioxidants than conventional red wine.
    • Organic wines typically have no added sulfites, a type of preservative often found in the alcoholic drink.
      Organic wines typically have no added sulfites, a type of preservative often found in the alcoholic drink.