Finding The Perfect Organic Wine For Your Wedding (Plus 5 Bottles To Try This Week!)
Image: Kate Harrison
My husband and I loved tasting wine for our wedding. It gave us a great excuse to get to know several organic, fair trade and biodynamic varieties we might not have tried otherwise. Like all wine, eco-friendly varieties vary in taste and quality quite a bit, so if you try one you don't like, don't write off the idea of going green in this department entirely.
Before you choose a wine for your wedding, it is important to understand the differences between the green options on the market. Organic wine is the most popular choice, but not all organic labels mean the same thing.
Wine and other alcohols are distilled from agricultural products such as grapes, barley, potatoes, or other plant-based foods that can be grown using organic methods. Like any other USDA certified organic food, wine and spirits that are certified organic cannot contain genetically modified organisms and must be cultivated without the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge or certain pesticides. They also cannot be irradiated.
The certified organic seal
Like other multi-ingredient products, the USDA certified organic seal on wine and alcohol ensures at least 95% of the ingredients have been certified organic, not counting water and salt. The remaining ingredients may be either synthetic or conventionally grown agricultural ingredients. If the label or a wine or spirit specifically says 100% organic, then a full 100 percent of the ingredients have been organically grown and processed.
Sulfites are often added to wines and spirits as a preservative or antioxidant, but they may not be added to certified organic wine or spirits. A small amount of sulfites may occur naturally as a byproduct of the yeast that is metabolized during the fermentation process.
“Made with” organic ingredients
If a wine or spirits label says it has been “made with” organic ingredients -- such as "made with organic grapes" -- then at least 70% of the ingredients must be certified organic, not counting water and salt. The remaining ingredients can be either synthetic or conventionally grown, but must be on the USDA’s approved list of ingredients. While it is prohibited to add sulfites to wines and spirits labeled as organic or 100% organic, they may be added to those labeled as “made with” organic ingredients.
Products with fewer than 70% certified organic ingredients may call out the certified organic ingredients in the ingredient list ("organic grapes"), but cannot market the product itself as organic or “made with” organic ingredients.
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Are organic wines and spirits better?
There is an ongoing debate whether organic wines and spirits (or any organic foods) are healthier or tastier than their non-organic counterparts. While the health, safety and taste arguments continue, proponents of organic say that at the very least, they are happy to enjoy their drinks without the added sulfites or synthetic chemicals, which are ofetn associated with wine headaches.
Human considerations aside, the organic methods of growing and processing the ingredients and final product are --- without argument from either side --- safer and healthier for the environment.
Which wines should we try?
Which wine will be right for your wedding depends on what you are serving, your taste and your budget. The best thing to do is to meet with a sommelier to discuss your personal situation. For DIY wedding couples, or couples looking for a few bottles to try tonight, here are some recommendations from Green Bride Guide and our local wine shop expert at The Wine Thief in New Haven.