We’d love to tell you that you can drink as much organic wine as you like and not get a hangover but, being fans of the truth, sadly we can’t do that (although anecdotal evidence suggests that the effects may be less severe). Not to worry as there are loads of other reasons why you should consider making the switch to organic vino!
The pressure on conventional wine suppliers to create large volumes of affordable wine has unfortunately led us down a path of mass-produced, lower quality, high-additive wines which are grown using methods that degrade the quality of the soil. Luckily as consumers you have a choice to avoid this scenario by buying organic wine.
Like all organic farming methods, growing grapes organically works in harmony with the soil to benefit both the fruit and the earth, creating a high-quality end product. In celebration of Organic Wine Week we talked to Clive Dougall, Chair of Organic Winegrowers NZ, about his love for wine and why it’s so important to buy organic.
No Toxic Chemicals
The use of chemicals when growing certified organic grapes are very strict, Clive tells us, and synthetic chemicals commonly used in conventional agriculture are very damaging to the natural ecosystems and soils, and our health. Pumping plants with fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides, all with the aim of increasing production only really works in the short term and isn’t sustainable due to the long term adverse effects on the land.
“We may not be able to grow the same quantity of grapes per hectare as chemically grown grapes, but our grapes are robust, fighting for themselves, creating their own connection to the soil and soil microbes to help them receive their necessary nutrition and mineral requirements.
That strong microbial connection is what is important for the individual character of a wine - the true individual expression of the land (also known as ‘terroir’). That’s what great wine is! And that can't be said for non-organic grapes in general. Those plants are a mono-culture and are totally addicted to the chemicals the farmer needs to supply them. Those grapes are not able to truly express the individuality of the land from which they come.“ Clive Dougall
When it comes to the winemaking process, organic wines have much lower levels of sulphur and other additives. Clive tells us that there are 1000's of things that are legally allowed to be added to wine, the effects of which are not really known. Many are synthesised chemicals and additives that alter the taste and texture of a wine.
Sulphites are a common additive used as a preservative to stop the wine from spoiling. Sulphites are not bad for us in general but many people do have some adverse effects to them. For example, Clive says that he commonly feels a flushed feeling around the neck and gets a sniffly nose when consuming wine with sulphites. Others can experience other negative side effects, like nasal congestion, an itchy throat, a runny nose, skin rash, and hives.
Organically certified wine has a limit to the amount of sulphites it can contain and keeping under this limit requires concerted effort. In New Zealand, the limit for sulphites in organic wines is 150mg/L, where as non-organic wines generally contain between 250mg/L to 400mg/L depending on the sweetness of the wine.
Often wines require ‘fining’ which is a process that removes harsh edges to the wine. Some fining agents are animal derived, such as egg whites, gelatine, fish, milk. However, Clive advises that these animal products are no longer necessary as there are other vegetable derived fining agents available. It is also possible for the winemakers to avoid the need to fine wines altogether.
Take a look at our vegan wine selection in store!
So there you have it – by choosing organic wine, you can be sure that it has been farmed responsibly benefiting the environment and yourself and is likely to be a higher quality of wine with individual character. Pity about the hangover though, but you can't win them all!