While the organic wine craze hasn’t hit the States as hard as it has other countries, these wines are making inroads. One factor keeping people from consciously choosing these brands is that there is a lot of confusion around what “organic” actually means. And, in particular, does it have sulfites? Let’s take a look!
Organic Wine in Europe/Canada vs. the U.S.
In Europe and Canada, organic wine is defined as a wine made from organically grown grapes that “may contain added sulfites.” In the U.S., winemakers must not add sulfites if they want to label their wines as “organic.” Further, naturally occurring sulfites must not exceed 10 ppm.
Let’s back up a moment: sulfites are preservatives and antioxidants that keep bacteria from ruining the wine, significantly increasing shelf life. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is natural byproduct of the fermentation process and has been used in winemaking for centuries.
Sulfites are not “bad,” anymore than gluten is “bad.” Some people have a sensitivity to them, however, which can cause symptoms similar to asthma when consumed. In this case, they may want to opt for a U.S.-approved organic wine or choose a Chilean or European variety that contains lower sulfite levels than non-organic wine (which has up 350 ppm).
Again, without naturally occuring sulfites, and those introduced during the winemaking process, shelf life is greatly diminished, and the flavor of the wine can be drastically affected.
Sustainable wines, like those crafted by Natura, are not considered “organic” in the United States as they introduce a small amount of sulfites to prevent spoilage, maximize shelf life, and prioritize flavor. Natura, though, is classified as an organic wine in Europe and in Chile, where Natura’s grapes are grown organically – with no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or chemicals.
How do you drink more “green”? Opt for wines that are labeled “Made with Organically Grown Grapes.” Eliminating toxins from your glass of wine is certainly a healthy step!
The short answer is that organic wine does contain sulfites, though at different levels in the U.S. versus Europe/Canada. The best course of action is if you are sensitive to sulfites is to choose an organic wine or wine made with organically grown grapes and enjoy in moderation.