Why you should be drinking organic wine
Over the recent years, organic and ecological wines have been gaining in popularity all over the world. More and more wineries are producing them, yet they still remain a minority, and it’s not easy to find good ones.
There are different usage and regulations for the term “organic,” which vary depending on the country you consult, which makes it difficult to understand what organic and biodynamic wines are all about. In a nutshell, for a wine to be labelled “organic” it has to be made from at least 95 percent organically grown grapes; both US and the European Union require that just 95 percent of the product is organic in order to award it organic status.
But what does organic mean? It means that the ingredients used to produce the wines are grown without the use of artificial pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically-modified organisms or ionizing radiation. If you believe that organic means chemical free, you are incorrect. Some chemicals are allowed, albeit in small quantities, if there are no acceptable substitutes and if the chemical is considered safe.
Likewise, organic wine may not have been produced using sustainable techniques, which are methods of producing wine that respect nature and leave the vineyards in the same state or in better condition for future generations.
Biodynamic/ecological viticulture is essentially organic viticulture with the addition of some practices that look specifically at the ecosystem. Some of these techniques include surveying the alignment of the planets and the phases of the moon for planting, harvesting, etc.
There are nine special preparations that are fundamental to biodynamic viticulture, including treating plants, animals and crops as a single interconnected system. Disease and insect control are addressed through botanical species diversity, predator habitat, balanced crop nutrition, and attention to light penetration and airflow. Weed control emphasizes prevention, which includes timing of planting, mulching, plus identifying and avoiding the spread of invasive weed species.
Either of these practices, which are similar but different, have the common goal of respecting the environment and delivering a wine as natural and free of chemicals as possible. But how does this matter to you and the taste of the wine?
If you have not tried organic wines for a while, (admittedly, in the past they used to be dreadful), I encourage you to give them another try. Nowadays, they are gorgeous and obviously healthy. A good example of this is Aroa Jauna, from Bodegas Aroa in the North of Spain, a tiny winery producing only organic wines, winners of many accolades and offering great value for money.
Avoiding pesticides and working naturally with pests makes a huge difference: Hacienda Lopez de Haro wines in Rioja plant roses at the front and back of each row of vines as they know that pests will attack roses first. This is just one example of a more delicate, natural way to work around problems, rather than simply spraying with chemicals to “prevent.”
But perhaps the best reason to try organic wines is that due to the almost complete lack of chemicals and reduced use of sulphites, you can drink more with less powerful hangovers!
BIO: Alfredo de la Casa has been organizing wine tastings for over 20 years and has published three wine books, including the Gourmand award winner for best wine education book. You can reach him at www.wineinvietnam.com.