We are used to seeing organic eggs, organic fruit and organic milk at the supermarket. Lately, organic wine has begun to appear on the shelves at wine shops. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a social drinker, you might have wondered what exactly makes organic wine different than traditional wine.
“Organic wine is the emphasis on growing grapes with natural remedies and enhancements, rather than manufactured fertilizers and pesticides,” said Erica Witte, owner of The Poison Cup, a wine and art boutique in Chicago.
Some of the remedies that wine growers use as alternatives to pesticides include companion crops, which entice friendly animal and insect species that mitigate the population of other vine-damaging species; cover crops, that utilize crab grass, clover and poppies to help control waste water runoff, water usage, and soil nutrient levels; and composting, which helps to replenish soil nutrients with recycled plant and animal waste from the vineyard, such as grape skins that have already been pressed and crushed.
“Anyone who is concerned about the planet’s lack of potable water should consider trading traditional wines for organic,” Witte said. “It’s also perfect for anyone skeptical of FDA-approved pesticides or fertilizers.”
Organic wine also prohibits the use of sulfites, which is a hot button issue for many consumers. However, wine-drinkers should keep in mind that small amounts of sulfites occur naturally in wines, even in “sulfite-free” wines.
If you’re thinking of making the foray into organic wines, Witte suggests learning a little bit about the vineyard where the wine is produced to get the best sense for whether or not you will enjoy a specific wine. Witte also recommended three of her favorite organic wines that offer balance flavor for anyone looking to add to his or her wine collection.
Chono Rose Syrah: Made from 40-year old syrah vines grown on the very west limit of the Maipo Valley, Chile, this is a good example of a wine produced by progressive winemakers who have adapted sustainable practices. The wine demonstrates good acidity, bright berry fruits, and a clean refreshing finish. Crack this open with an organic spinach & goat cheese salad, with dried cranberries and pine nuts over top. Olive oil and lemon juice is the perfect dressing.
Montinore Estate Muller-Thurgau: Made on an estate that manages 230 acres of grapes in the Willamette Valley Oregon, this wine is farmed using the strict methods of Biodynamic farming. Made from an obscure German grape varietal, it is an easy to drink wine with hints of floral and citrus. If you plan to pair this with a meal, it would rock out a savory chicken dish topped with apricot glaze.
Matsu “El Picaro”, Toro, Spain: Made from 90-year-old Tempranillo vines grown using biodynamic techniques, this wine is part of a trilogy whose labels chronicle three generations of winemakers in northern Spain. “El Picaro” is the brightest, fruitiest, most youthful wine with a rustic, old-world edge. For the perfect food pairing? Grab your venison loin and make some peppered crusted medallions, truffle mashed potatoes mushrooms sautéed with butter & sherry.
Written by Maris Callahan. Maris Callahan is the author of In Good Taste and as an avid self-taught home cook, is widely knowledgeable about all things culinary. She is especially passionate about helping new cooks learn how to prepare healthy, delicious meals and snacks, even when life is busy.
She believes in Ghirardelli chocolate, farmer’s markets and cooking from scratch when possible. When she is not in the kitchen working on her next recipe, Maris works as a marketing professional at an agency in Chicago and in her spare time, contributes to several websites including SheKnows.com and Diets in Review.
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