Alcohol is something that Australia brings to any celebration and a lot of us like to enjoy a glass of something nice over christmas and new year, its a time to relax and spend time with our families and celebrate the year thats past and the exciting roads ahead for the new year.
I am a huge organic advocate where possible but I hadn’t delved too much into the organic wine and beer industry because I really don’t drink very often and haven’t had time to do the research properly and find out what its all about. Though I found myself asking recently what organic wine really is. I knew it had to be made through organic farming practises and most likely additive free. I decided to head straight to the experts at Cellar Organics and get them to give us the run down. Cellar Organics is an online hub for organic, biodynamic and preservative free wine and is very proudly Australian owned and operated by; Damian and Nicolle. They have been in the wine industry for many years and have a great story to share if you want to check it out here, they are super passionate about health and want to provide us all with good quality options of wine, beer and cider. You can browse their website here.
So here is what they have to say about what organic wine is and if you choose to drink alcohol why it is important to drink organic verse conventional…
Here at Cellar Organics, we stock 3 types of Organic Wines: Organic practices, Organic in Conversion and Certified Organic wine. The majority of our wines fall into the Certified Organic wine category. Wines that are listed as ‘Organic in Conversion’ indicate that the winery is currently adhering to the certification standards, however they have to wait out the period of time (no less than 3 years) prior to receiving full certification. We have a number of certification bodies here in Australia (eg; Australian Certified Organic (ACO) http://www.australianorganic.com.au, National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) http://www.nasaa.com.au etc).
If you find yourself asking ‘is organic wine preservative free?’ you may be wondering which wine to buy. The short answer is unless it is stated to be no added preservatives or preservative free wine then no, it is not. What being an organic wine means, with regard to preservatives, is that the wine is subjected to lower allowable limits of Sulphur Dioxide (preservative 220) present in the wine, than for wines produced using conventional practices. For example, NASAA allows for a maximum of 100ppm (parts per million) total Sulphur Dioxide or less, whereas non-organic wines can contain levels as high as the maximum allowable limit of 250ppm as set by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code 4.5.1. These values are not universally constant however, as organic certification varies from country to country. America, for instance, has a zero allowance for added sulphites in organic wine. One thing to note is that many good quality non-organic wines can often be found to have a Sulphur Dioxide reading that is far less than the allowance of 250ppm and is usually found to be around 60-150ppm.
Viticulture, or the happenings in the vineyard, very much focus’ on the health of the soil and the structure of the vines to minimise agricultural input. The physical state of the vines and surrounding vineyard are managed in such a way as to minimise risk of disease by promoting air flow through the vine canopies, and pest damage by employing physical barriers such as nets and encouraging the proliferation of natural predators. Soil management predominantly sees the use of compost and organic nutrients for soil fertilisation, and specially selected cover cropping to add nutrients to the topsoil and regulate water use. Adherence to organic practices means the grapes have been grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, with most fungicides also being prohibited. To put it simply, anything used in the vineyard must be a naturally occurring, non-poisonous and non-GMO based product.
During the winemaking process the wine is handled in a very similar way to conventional winemaking, with a few key differences. Certified organic wines may not be stabilised using ion exchange methods such as electrodialysis (uncommon in Australia), and additions of inorganic Nitrogen and Copper Sulphate, both of which are in broad use in conventional winemaking for specific purposes, are also not allowed. Use of additives derived from genetically modified sources and Genetically Modified yeast strains are also not allowed. Many winemakers take this to the next step by preferring to use wild yeasts for fermentation, a practice that is employed in both organic and conventional winemaking, but is more prevalent in organic wines. From the organic wineries’ point of view, the main benefit of organic practices is derived from the viticulture practices used as shown in the previous paragraph; resulting in better quality grapes which becomes better quality wine in the bottle for you.
Why organic wine? Conventional viticulture depends on the use of chemicals to protect the health of the fruit in the vineyard. These chemicals are harmful to the surrounding ecosystem risking the health of native species, surrounding crops and livestock, local residents and surrounding waterways. There is also a concern that trace amounts of these chemicals may remain on the grapes at harvest, ending up in the final product being the bottle of wine. So although they may not necessarily be preservative free, organic wine guarantees that these same chemicals are not present, the sulphite content will be lower, and the environment far less harshly impacted.