As you start developing a trained green, consumer eye and become a savvy label reader, you'll notice in the wine world there are quite a few wines that are "made with organic grapes," and few carry the USDA's certified organic seal. Certified organic wines are a rare find on store shelves. So what's the difference between these two wine labels? I get this question all the time and here's your answer.
The National Organic Program (NOP), has set the same standards for wine as it has for food. USDA certification is strict. It guarantees that grapes are grown without synthetic pesticides or chemicals; and the wine is processed without added sulfites or sulfur dioxide. Bottom line, you can't add preservatives to certified organic food products or wines. And sulfites are considered by the USDA a preservative.
Certified organic wines, can have naturally occurring sulfites (all wines contain naturally occurring sulfites as a byproduct of the fermentation process), but the total sulfite level must be less than 20 parts per million. So for the for those who are super-sensitive to sulfites (asthma sufferers, for example), certified organic wines are the way to go. If sulfites are added to the wine and the total count of sulfites in the wine is taken above 10 parts per million, it must make the statement, "Contains Sulfites."
There are four wineries in California that take the additional step of processing their wine without added sulfites and are certified organic. They are Frey Vineyards, Coates Vineyards in Orleans, La Rocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, and Organic Wine Works.
If you want to buy organic wines that don't contain added sulfites, my top tip is to read the label. The ingredients and process used to make the wine will determine the label it carries.
Check out our articles and videos on organic wines: