Today is the Twelfth day of Christmas and this is the last verse of my rendition of the Twelve Days of a Green Christmas, so take a deep breath before you sing all the verses…on the twelfth day of Christmas my green friend gave to me…twelve organic wines…eleven soy candles…ten traded shares…nine native plants…eight motion lights…seven chakra gems…six solar panels…five milkweed plants…four pints of milk…three wax wraps…two re-purposed pallets…and a smart ther-mo-stat!
Not only was it interesting researching organic wines, I also learned a lot. I thought labeling of organic wines was controlled better than food labeling which is only partly true. After reading the Organic Consumers Association’s (OCA) article on organic wines I learned the original USDA and the Organic Foods Act (which includes fermented foods, i.e. wines) was established in 1990. The regulation 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 now housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.
Only a few wineries have become certified organic wine processors, for various reasons including cost, while many produce “sustainable” or “biodynamic” wines along with a few certified organic wines. Although there are no set standards except for certified organic, wineries that take the ecology of the vineyard into account and try to minimize chemical treatments and energy use, are called “sustainable”. “Biodynamic” winemaking follows the teachings of Austrian anthroposophist Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925), and incorporates homeopathic treatments, as well as astronomical and astrological considerations, into the organic process.
The Organic Wine Journal offers a list of certified organic wineries in the US (select the “wineries” tab for other countries). 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 GMOs, toxic 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 “Sustainable” marketing claim lets you know the grapes used were grown organically but they have not chosen to receive USDA approval and cannot claim their wines to be organic. 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. Another good article I found was on the Organic Vintners website. The pesticides on grapes are not easily rinsed off so unless you buy organic wines that means you will probably be adding toxic pesticides from the grapes into your body. For Vegans it is also important to know that animal by-products are used to clarify and filter wines so be sure to buy Vegan wines if you are Vegan.
My green friend certainly knew how to select some good wines for me on this, the final day of the Twelve Days of a Green Christmas. Armed with this information, the next time I head to the store for organic wine I will be reading those labels with a sharper eye and not looking at how the store may label or group their wines!
If you are reading this last paragraph of my Twelve Days of a Green Christmas, thank you for hanging in there and making it through all twelve days! As I mentioned on the first day of a green Christmas the Twelfth Day aka Twelfth Night, Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Little Christmas, as it may be called depending on which culture with which you are celebrating.
In researching the Twelve Days of Christmas I learned I must have made a mistake somewhere but I am having a difficult time figuring it out. Here is my predicament: the twelve days begins on Christmas day and ends on the twelfth day, today, January 5th. According to the calendars the 2016 Epiphany is January 6th, tomorrow. So is the Epiphany today, the twelfth day, or tomorrow? If you can help me get this straight for next year I would really appreciate your input below. This may very well be my “epiphany” this year 🙂