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Organic Wines

Organic Wines? So confusing, I need another bottle..

Posted on March 2, 2012 by William Davis

Not too long ago, someone asked me the rather loaded question, “So, how are organic wines? Should I try one?”…

My answer then, as it is now, was this; “Most organic wines, due to the lack of SO2 in the finished wine, are difficult to age, if made in an inexpensive style. Some are good, some are awful, and some are made to capture the marketing edge that comes along with the tagline…”

So, let’s look at organic production of grapes. After all, wine is fermented grape juice. The greatest challenge with vitis vinifera is, as a crop, you cannot rotate like other produce. The vine, stuck for 25 to 30 years in one spot, means everything from wild boar to phylloxera gets to beat the living shit out of the vineyard. Ironically, this is how vines have ensured survival for eons. A vine, if it has no natural predators, produces leaf growth without grapes. The crazy stuff that grows on the side of old houses? Yep, no natural predators. Grapes are produced when the vine realizes it needs to ‘sow its oats’, and needs a vehicle to move its DNA. Sweet grape, meet foraging animal. Animal eats grape, goes somewhere on the other side of the meadow, and, well, you get the drift…ergo; the real challenge is to grow a plant that is resistant to both Bambi and biological pests, The easiest answer was, ‘let’s bomb the vine with pesticides’, but that ended up looking like Lindsay Lohan in a dark nightclub; looks good from a distance, but when you get a little closer it is apparent that evil work is afoot. It requires a ton of work initially in the vineyard, but it can be done, and with great success.

Now, let’s talk about the wine. We have good, healthy grapes grown organically (no bad stuff in the ground), and now, we have to figure out how to stabilize the wine from spoilage. During fermentation, bacteria is always about, wanting to crash the party and turn your expensive bottle of vino into vinegar. The best protection is free sulphur, in the form of potassium metabisulphate or SO2 added to the grape juice before or after fermentation-generally it is up to the winemaker. This is where government oversight pisses most winemakers off; the USDA limits the SO2 to less than 20 parts per million, which is a tiny amount. For most, that is playing Russian Roulette.

Organic wines have come around; the quality has improved significantly. For me, I look at organic or natural wines in much the same way as I do religion and spirituality; I admire Jesus as much as Buddha, or Gandhi, or the Dalai Lama. They all have something to offer. At the end of the day, find a GOOD bottle of wine. One that respects the environment, but isn’t afraid to be a cleaner, better product, if Mother Nature treated the vintage like a red-headed stepchild. After all, ain’t that what life is all about?



William Davis


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