On the ninth day of Christmas my green friend gave to me…9 organic wines, 8 backyard hens, 7 CFLs, 6 fair-trade chocolates, 5 faucet aerators, 4 solar lights, 3 large rain-barrels, 2 new thermostats and a live…Christmas tree!
On this ninth day of Christmas I learned something new while researching organic wines. I mistakenly thought labeling of organic wines was controlled better than food labeling which is only somewhat true. After reading the Organic Consumers Association’s (OCA) article on organic wines I learned the USDA and the Organic Foods Act (which includes fermented foods, i.e. wines) was established in 1990. The regulation also fell under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the ATF would not allow “finished” products (bottled wine) to be labeled organic. After two California vineyards, Hallcrest Vineyards and Organic Wine Works challenged the guidelines a new USDA program was born, the National Organic Program (NOP) which is enforced by the ATF.
Only a few wineries have become certified organic wine processors while the rest produce “organic” wines. There are 4 categories that wineries can label their products: 100% Organic, Organic, Made With Organic Ingredients, and Some Organic Ingredients. I didn’t know this and chances are you probably didn’t either. I think the most important thing to remember when buying a “100% organic” wine is knowing that a USDA “Certified Organic” label not only ensures the grapes are grown organically (no artificial pesticides or fertilizers), but there are no added sulfites. Naturally occurring sulfites might be in the wine but the amount cannot exceed 20 parts per million. The “Organic” marketing claim tells you the grapes used were grown organically. These wines may or may not contain added sulfites. Apparently there is quite a bit of confusion about sulfites and OCA does a good job in the article explaining the sulfite confusion.
See if you understand the difference now…the picture above shows Organic Wines…does this mean they can or cannot contain added sulfites? Armed with this newfound knowledge, the next time I head to the store for my “nine organic wines” I will be reading those labels with a sharper eye and not looking at how the store may label or group their wines!