What's the buzz on organic wine?
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Who doesn't appreciate a good glass of wine? Seemingly no one. Wine is great! When you ask that same question and add the word 'organic', does that answer change?
There is a lot of confusion around organic wines and what they are, and somehow perceived as lesser quality, which couldn't be less true. We all ask what organic means for the finished product. Is it any good? The answer to that is, yes, of course! Organic wine doesn't have to be confusing either.
Everything down to labeling or the nomenclature used by a producer can be a bit intimidating, whether it's just the word 'Organic Wine' or 'Made with Organic Grapes', and which country and with a certifying organic body accredited the producer, it all boils down to the same thing. Organic wines have no synthetic or chemical fertilizers or pesticides, are kinder to the environment, and do not add sulphites in their finished product.
Organic wine producers farm organically and have mastered the art of winemaking without the use of chemicals.
Many organic wine producers are more in tune with their vines than non organic producers, because they have had to really delve deep into the understanding of their vineyards cycle, micro-climate and what challenges those pose to their product. Because they can't use chemicals, they have had to master preventing most issues in their vineyards, like preventing a pest outbreak before it happens. Whatever can't be prevented, they get creative with work around solutions. This really lends to creating master quality wine that one can really feel good about.
Instead of using herbicides, they often employ sheep in their vineyards to eat the unwanted weeds and plants. Sheep add beneficial fertilizer to the soil while they graze.
Chickens are released in the vineyards and eat the weeds and insects that harm the vines, all while their pecking aerates the soil.
Cover crops are used in between vines to create competition for water in vines (which is a good thing when ripening grapes!), and to add valuable nutrients in the soil. Flowering cover crops are especially important to attract pollinators to the vineyard.
One of my favourite wine brands, Bonterra Organic Vineyards, is the world leader in organic wine viniculture and winemaking. Based out of Mendocino California, they are making California wine with a fresh fruit style to stay true to their grapes. They make a succulent Cabernet Sauvignon that pairs perfectly with sliders and a gorgeous Chardonnay which is a grilled cheese's best friend. While their wines are tasty and their vineyards beautiful, it is their commitment to the environment that is really at their core.
Bonterra is also playing a huge role in protecting native bee species in their vineyards. By not spraying their vines with chemicals, it is creating an environment friendly for bees safe from harm. Bumble bees are in decline, largely due to use of chemical pesticides. They are key pollinators in any vineyard to support the micro-environment, and Bonterra strives to protect them and improve the biodiversity of their own vineyard.
Bonterra recently celebrated Earth Day in Toronto at the Cambria Gallery. It was a beautiful event full of organic food and wine that I was so privileged to host. We were able to share with key influencers in the community the importance of choosing organic. In Canada, Bonterra is working with Wildlife Preservation Canada to plant wildflowers to help reverse the decline of our very own native bees. The truth is over one third of all our food can be attributed to bees, and without them our vineyards would fail and there wouldn't be any wine.
So why drink organic?
Because what is good for the earth is good for the grape, and great for bees too!