Organic wine: what’s all the fuss about?

I can’t believe I’m about to complain about the fantastic weather we have been enjoying over the last few weeks – I guarantee I will eat my words when it reverts to characteristically British cold nights and rainy days. My complaint is as follows: the capital is simply not equipped for the battalions of sun-deprived Londoners seeking precious and coveted spots in pub gardens all over the city. I experienced this pain first hand on Saturday when I, along with two friends, went on a desperate and ostensibly futile hunt around the Regent’s Park / Camden area. Every pub we ventured into was so heaving that it wasn’t clear which would be the greater challenge: finding a table or getting served at the bar.20140726_181201

To cut a long story short, we abandoned Mission Pub Garden in favour of Mission Wine In The Park. The idea of walking into Whole Foods to pick up supplies and head into Regent’s Park seemed incontestably effortless. So that’s exactly what we did: we grabbed a bottle of vino (a screw cap of course), a few plastic cups (oh the horror!) and some snacks (walking the equivalent of a marathon had built up quite an appetite). The park was so bustling that I genuinely believe that all 8.3 million Londoners were, at that moment, either in a pub or in a park.

To be honest, I didn’t even know that Whole Foods sold wine until yesterday (turns out they have a reasonable selection). In keeping with the chain’s reputation as a proponent of organic produce, Whole Foods stocks organic wine as well as conventional non-organic wine. No surprises there.

The West has become enamoured with the term “organic”. You can buy organic vegetables, fruit, meat, milk, cheese, humous, eggs, pâté, beans, corn… and that’s just page one of Ocado’s website. The definition of organic varies by country, but it generally means that the product has not been subject to pesticides, chemical fertilisers and other unnatural substances.

When it comes to wine, however, there are two different types of “organic”.

Wine made from organic grapes: this is the ‘lighter touch’ certification of organic. Prior to 2012, EU rules referred solely to grapes – winemakers were only allowed to certify their wine as “made from organically grown grapes”. This term means that the grapes are grown without the use of artificial fertilisers, herbicides or fungicides. This is a category in the US, too.

Organic wine: when a wine is certified as organic, it is subject to more stringent regulation. The EU created this category in 2012 and states that everything that happens to the grapes between harvest and bottling must respect the organic philosophy. For example, some winemakers add sorbic acid to preserve their sweet wine but this practice is now forbidden in organic wine. The regulations go one step further in the US – across the pond, sulphites are not permitted in organic wine (unless they are naturally occurring). Conversely, European winemakers are permitted to include a certain level of sulphites in their wine and still call it organic.IMG_5568

Another term you may see on a wine label is “biodynamic“. This philosophy takes organic farming to a higher level – a spiritual, holistic level. It features methods such as treating the vineyard as an whole ecosystem and using an astrological sowing and planting calendar. Biodynamic fans believe there is much more to growing organic grapes than simply abstaining from using unnatural pesticides.

Some argue that organic wine is healthier than conventional wine, but there is mixed evidence there. One question many people have on this topic is: can drinking organic wine prevent hangovers? I think that is unfortunately a case of wishful thinking…

That said, swathes of winemakers are converting to greener practices as consumers become more aware of the artificial chemicals used in agriculture (apparently grapes are one of the most highly sprayed fruit). This shift has to be a good thing.

Have you ever tried organic wine?

 

By the way, if you’ve used Grapeful before I’d much appreciate a review on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. If you haven’t used the app yet, please download it! It is a free app that helps you pair wine with food, discover new wine styles, view wine lists of certain restaurants, share wines with friends, impress a date with fun facts about wine, and much more. For more information visit www.grapeful.co.uk 

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