In recent decades, organic foods have gone mainstream and we are increasingly seeing the same trend playing out in the wine aisle. More products from a wider range of brands are popping up with labels touting their organic bona fides, as with this “green” version of a popular orange-labeled Italian prosecco, which is full of the fresh and flirty flavors of golden apples and green pears. This makes perfect sense, since the flavor benefits of forgoing conventional agricultural chemicals in favor of more natural farming methods are easier to taste in fermented products like wine and cheese than they are in fresh produce or prepared foods.
But where shoppers are accustomed to legal organic claims and USDA seals on food items, the language used on wine labels is often less straightforward. In the United States, there is a legal distinction between “organic wine” and wine “made with organically grown grapes.” Both must be made with 100 percent organic fruit, but the former can only contain naturally occurring sulfites up to 10 parts per million. The latter allows added sulfur dioxide up to a higher threshold of 100 parts per million (a maximum that is much lower than the maximum for standard wines). This is important because using no added sulfites at all can let microbiological spoilage deaden a wine’s flavors and shorten its shelf life dramatically, while the health dangers of sulfites are negligible to anyone who doesn’t have a sulfite-specific allergy.
In short, if you want to support more eco-conscious farming without sacrificing consistency of delicious flavor, it’s often better to look for wine made from organic grapes than to search for those carrying a formal “organic wine” seal.
Mionetto “Organically Grown” Prosecco Veneto, Italy; $13.99 (regularly $16.99; sale price through July 28). PLCB Item #1215