Green eating is among the most popular food trends today, so it’s no surprise that in our quest to eat “real” we are not only examining what we eat, but also what we drink, particularly in the world of wine. Like most types of farming, the ancient art of grape growing has organic origins, but most vineyards today are so heavily sprayed that grapes comprise some of the most chemical-laden produce available.
According to Lisa Tsakos in her article, “Drink the Benefits of Organics Wine,” and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), almost 21 million pounds of pesticides were used on California grapes in the year 2003 alone. Given the tremendous impact this has on human health, as well as the health of the soil, wildlife, and even weather patterns in and around vineyard-populated areas, it’s no wonder more and more wines are cropping up with organic labels.
But how does a conventional wine drinker go about picking out just the right bottle of organic Chardonnay or Cabernet, especially when organic varieties inevitably come with a higher price tag? In terms of flavor, one way is by reading wine reviews before-hand, such as those you’ll find on the Organic Wine Review and Organic Wine Journal.
Or better still, find opportunities to taste the wines before buying them. While there aren’t many wineries in New England, some vendors do provide tastings, as is the case at Worcester’s Living Earth natural foods store. Here, select wines are chosen for free weekly tastings each Thursday evening from 5:00-7:00, and then discounted to the consumer at a rate of 10 percent.
More important, though, may be understanding what each health label really means. Wine simply labeled organic, for instance, indicates that the wine must be made with organic grapes. These wines are free of pesticides, but may or may not contain added sulfites, or sulfur dioxide, a preservative that causes allergic reactions and breathing problems in some individuals. Those sensitive to sulfites may want to consider looking for wine with a certified USDA organic label, which is different from other organic wine in that it must not contain any added sulfites. Since sulfites occur naturally as a by-product of the fermentation process, no wine is completely sulfite-free, but the sulfite level of USDA organic wine is less than 20 parts per million, as compared to 10 parts per million in other wine.
Humans have been enjoying the bold flavors of wine for millennia, and finding a good organic variety really allows people to receive the most health benefits possible from their beverage of choice. The Organic Consumer Organization cites that organic wine contains an average of 32 percent more resveratrol (the antioxidant found in red wine that helps prevent heart disease and cancer) than conventional wine. This leaves the health conscious population with one last indulgence they can feel really good about, in moderation of course.