Wine columnist Howard Hewitt wrote an article on his blog Grape Sense after we had a great talk this month. Here it is!
“Late last year I met one of the real iconic figures in importing organic wines to the U.S. Veronique Raskin has been fighting the good fight in the name of organics since 1980. She helped arrange my inclusion on a January press trip to France’s Millesime Bio trade fair in Southern France. I got to meet Veronique during a March trip to California. She has written this piece about organics. So for the second time in a week, I’ll share this as a guest column.
Veronique Raskin, The Organic Wine Company – You have been eating organic food faithfully all these years but, you may not have yet added to your organic meals what many cultures do: a glass of wine. The time may have come.
When you go pick up a bottle of organic wine to accompany your organic meal, part of your problem may be in not knowing exactly what an organic wine is. With all these terms getting thrown around like eco friendly, “NSA”, sustainable, green, natural, truly organic, etc., who could blame you?
Having founded The Organic Wine Company in 1980, I am certainly one of the elders of the organic wine movement. I have been actively involved in the developments of organic wine standards and even I am frustrated and confused, so I can imagine that you are just about ready to throw in the towel. So, let me offer some pointers for you based on thirty years of observation and experience in this industry.
What is really critical for all of us in choosing an organic wine is to make sure that they’re made with certified organically grown grapes. That’s the key. Inspect the label and be sure that an agency has certified the vineyard’s organic practices. Do not be content with vague terms like sustainable, natural, and green; they can be misleading). When it comes to your health, the workers, and our planet’s longevity, 100% certified organic grapes should be your number one criterion. The rest, in my opinion, is well-meant misinformation, poor science or straight up propaganda for commercial purposes.
If you wish to buy wines that promote the health of our planet and every creature on it (including yours), then the clear choice is a wine made from third-party certified 100% organically grown grapes. The rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t say it on the label, don’t buy it. Organic wine, like organic carrot or orange juice, is made from grapes grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.
In the USA, the two types of wines typically bundled in this category are “Wines Made With Organic Grapes” and “No Sulfite Added Organic Wines.” Wines made with 100% organic grapes are made with just that and an additional preservative (elemental sulfur dioxide), so the wine has structure enough to last the journey to your table. No Sulfite Added wines (or NSA wines) are produced without this preservative and are made by only a handful of winemakers. In Europe and Canada, organic wines are called “vins biologiques”; they are made with certified organic grapes and may contain up to 100ppm added SO2.
We want to bring to your family table highly drinkable, affordable wines, with structure, character and personality. Wines that are reflective of their terroir (a deep and mostly untranslatable word describing the soil and land in which the grapes are grown.) Wines that are pleasurable to your palate and promote the health of your body, the workers and our planet. I am extremely proud to say that our portfolio represents the work of many passionate, deserving wine makers from around the world and include vegan and biodynamic wines.”