Raising a glass to organic grapes
You already choose organic meat and organic vegetables. So why not enjoy a wine as organic as the food on your plate? Organic wine grapes are grown without chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers, all of which can leave their toxic trace in conventionally produced wines.
You already choose organic meat and organic vegetables. So why not enjoy a wine as organic as the food on your plate?
Sales of organic products are growing 20 percent each year–they comprise Canada’s fastest growing agricultural sector. At present, just under 1 percent of vineyard hectares in Canada are devoted to organic grapes (in the United States, it’s about 1.5 percent; in France, 2 percent). The vineyards devoted to organic production are likely to increase in number and size as it becomes increasingly important to consumers to know that both the food and drink they consume isn’t covered in chemical residues.
Growing the Grapes
Organic wine grapes are grown without chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers, all of which can leave their toxic trace (small enough to be measured in parts per million) in conventionally produced wines. The use of cover crops, natural pest predators, and disease-resistant vines reduces the need for spraying.
Both Ontario and BC–Canada’s biggest wine producing provinces–regulate and certify organic production. In the US, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program defines as organic those wines that have been made from organically grown grapes and produced without added sulphites (more on sulphites below). Other imported wines are certified as organic according to the national standards in their country of origin.
What happens to the grapes once they leave the fields also determines whether they may be called organic. A small amount of sulphites is found in wine as a natural byproduct of fermentation, but during the production process some sulphur may also be added as an antioxidant and antibacterial agent. Organic wines from the US can contain up to 90 parts per million (ppm) of sulphites if they’re red and 100 ppm if they’re white. However, the USDA says that wines with added sulphites cannot be labelled organic, though they may still claim to be made with organically grown grapes.
Last But Not Least
What else sets organic wines apart from their conventional cousins? The yeasts used in fermentation may not be genetically engineered. Some organic winemakers don’t fine or filter with agents made from egg whites or other animal products, so their wines are safe for vegans to consume.
Recently, resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grape skins, has been shown to act as a cancer-preventive substance. While eating whole grapes and drinking grape juice are still the healthiest options, this is also good news for wine drinkers–so lift your glass and toast the organic grape!
What is Biodynamic Wine?
Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) developed an agricultural philosophy that includes self-sustaining farming practices based on seasonal and cosmic patterns in nature. One vineyard in Canada, Feast of Fields, is based on the principles of biodynamic farming. For more information, visit biodynamics.com.
Some wineries offer tastings and tours–check out their websites for details.
Deep Creek Wine Estate and Hainle: Vineyards hainle.com
Quails’ Gate Estate Winery: quailsgate.com
Summerhill Pyramid Winery: summerhill.bc.ca
Lotusland Vineyards: lotuslandvineyards.com
Frog Pond Farm: frogpondfarm.ca
Feast of Fields: (a biodynamic farm) feast-of-fields.ca