Day 14.1: Why I Swallowed the Kool-Aid on Organic Wine

Double dose today, the interest was greater than my capacity for scheduling and Amy managed to sneak in after the deadline, but the more the merrier.
Amy Atwood comes to us from MyDailyWine where she gets into organic and biodynamic wines every few days, which is better for the liver i suppose.

When I first got into the wine business in 1996, there wasn’t much talk about organic wine, much less the natural wine movement. Domestic U.S. wines that were labeled organic were mostly poor quality and rightfully relegated to a dusty lower shelf for the aging granola gang.
Of course, multitudes of European wineries have farmed without chemicals and/or biodynamically for decades if not centuries but nobody talked about it much.

Organic wines are needlessly confusing in the U.S. due to the USDA’s regulations. They insist that there may be no added sulfites for a wine to be labeled ‘organic wine’. If there are added sulfites, then the wine is labeled ‘made with organic grapes’.
This is not true in many other countries including all of Europe, where a wine is called organic if it is made from organic grapes.

I am defiant and ignore the arbitrary USDA definitions. When I write abut organic wines, I include all wines that are made with chemical free grapes, of course including biodynamic and even non-certified but practicing organic vineyards.

I will not delve deeply into the no added sulfite discussion here but I have many times on my blog, MyDailyWine, where I focus on organic, sustainable and biodynamic wines.

But a mighty shift has occurred in the wine industry and amongst wine lovers during the past few years.
Organic wines got good! I say this tongue in cheek because of course there have always been delicious organic wines.

It mirrors the shift that has occurred for organic produce.
Do any of you remember when the only organic lettuce you could find was expensive and riddled with gaping holes?
Now even discount chain groceries carry a wide selection of high quality and affordable organic produce.

I believe the above point is more key to organic wine’s growth than most industry insiders awknowledge.
Once families decide that they no longer want to eat fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with toxic chemicals, it doesn’t take long for the smart ones to realize that wine grapes aren’t much different and that wine is a natural product.

And suddenly the European wineries started talking about their biodynamic and organic practices openly.
And dozens, now hundreds, of U.S. wineries started to produce wines made from organic grapes.

Some of my colleagues in the wine industry, specifically those that dominate the natural wine movement, can be a bit more strident in their tone and certainly more exclusive in which wines they champion.

I applaud all their efforts but my mission is to take organic/biodynamic wine to the people. Inclusive and welcoming and delicious. And for most people that doorway will not be a $23.99 Cab Franc from the Loire.

Their epiphany wine will more likely be a Benziger or Quivira wine. And thats okay. Personal style may differ but regardless, many U.S. wineries are headed in an exciting direction. Free of toxic chemicals and the resulting harmful runoff into our waterways and ground soil. Many U.S. wineries are also starting to take a very serious look at their excessive alcohol levels.

I recently was asked by a wine consumer if I could taste the difference between wines made from organic grapes and those made with chemically farmed grapes.
That could make for a very complicated answer but I kept it simple.
I said next time you are at the store, buy one chemically sprayed apple and one organic apple. Taste them both and take notes. Then do the same with exercise with two bootles of wine, one made from organic grapes and one with non-organic.

There’s your answer. And mine.

Follow day by day here:

Up next: Kevin Kelley and his fresh wine experiment; or: Kevin Kelley must be sick of his name and “experiment” in the same sentence.

~ by Cory Cartwright on July 2, 2009.

4 Responses to “Day 14.1: Why I Swallowed the Kool-Aid on Organic Wine”

  1. if quivera or benziger is your epiphany wine, just kill yourself.

  2. “Organic” is a term that has to a certain extent been compromised in the US by corporations seeking to exploit the marketing potential of the term. While it can be technically true, it can be misleading too. For example, factory farms that use “organic” feed for their livestock but still engage in many undesirable practices can sell their product as “organic”. In other words, unfortunately, not all organic is created equally. I suspect the same is true with wine but at least the trend is in the right direction.

  3. “if quivera or benziger is your epiphany wine, just kill yourself.” And as expected, we have heard now from one of those who “can be a bit more strident in their tone and certainly more exclusive in which wines they champion.”

    People are not restricted to one wine epiphany. If one’s first positive reaction to organic/biodynamic wine is Quivira/Benzinger, it might well lead one to another series of epihanies at a quirky little shop on Folsom in SF.

  4. I love the juxtaposition of Kook Aid and Organic wines and I love the answer to the riddle or the riddle in the answer, Obi Wan…

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