We get a lot of requests for organic wine, and, though a large percentage of our wine is made sustainably, the response to the request is much more complicated than you’d think. Many, many of our small producers are practicing sustainable farming. Many are also practicing biodynamic and organic farming. But to be completely certified organic is not as simple as controlling what happens in the vineyard. Organic certification has a lot to do with the winemaking process, so a winemaker might use organic grapes but not be certified organic.
Much of the debate revolves around sulfites, a naturally occurring biproduct of fermentation. They are used as a natural preservative in wine, which, in a product where ageability and longevity is key, is a quite important component. But sulfites have gotten a bad rap. Many people blame them for headaches (when it’s probably histamines in grape skins that are the culprit for that).In fact, there are more sulfites in a salad bar or a handful of dried fruit than a glass of wine. So, the stringent dictates against sulfite use in organic certification essentially means that a winemaker has to chose between wines that can hold up and wines that are organic–even if his/her grapes are grown organically. Without sulfites, wine has to be refrigerated, like orange juice.
So, we’re on a campaign to give props to our winemakers who have taken all strides to farm organically, but may not have the USDA organic certification on their label. We’re sticking ladybugs on our wine cubbies to indicate sustainably farmed wines, and are slowly but surely identifying all we have in house.
So look for the ladybugs!