Mother Earth Living

Understanding Organic Wine Labels

Understanding organic wine labels and the ingredients you are consuming.
By Dana Dratch
September/October 2005
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Ever wonder what you’re really drinking when you buy organic wine—or even if your wine’s organic in the first place? Some organic wines don’t advertise that fact on the label—in part because organic vintages of yesteryear didn’t live up to taste expectations. Here’s your guide to the somewhat confusing terms on the bottle. (Hint: The only difference between a 100 percent and 95 percent organic wine may be whether it was fermented with yeast.)

Label: 100 percent Organic

What it means: All ingredients must be 100 percent organic, which means no pesticides or herbicides prohibited by the National Organic Program. Makers may not add sulfites. (Because sulfites occur naturally in wine, "organic" doesn't mean sulfite free.)

Who certifies it: Vineyard and winery are USDA accredited. Many display the "USDA Organic" seal.

Drink itCoturri WineryOrganic Wine Works 

Label: Organic

What it means: Ninety-five percent of the ingredients must be organic, and no sulfites may be added.

Who certifies it: Vineyard and winery are USDA accredited. May display the "USDA Organic" seal.

Drink itBadger Mountain Vineyards (no sulfites), Frey Vineyards 

Label: Made With Organic Grapes

What it means: At least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic. Manufacturers may add sulfites, but the amount can't exceed 100 parts per million.

Who certifies it: Ingredients are USDA certified, but the wine cannot carry the "USDA Organic" seal.

Drink itBonterra VineyardsHeller Estate  

Label: Biodynamic

What it means: Growers follow organic principles and focus on nourishing vines and soil through use of manure, crop rotation, lunar planting and natural pest control.

Who certifies it: Certified by the Demeter Association, an international nonprofit coalition. May also display the "USDA Organic" label.

Drink itCooper Mountain VineyardsFrey Vineyards 

Label: Salmon Safe

What it means: Growers guard against runoff and protect local wild salmon habitats with measures such as cover crops and native tree buffers. Applies primarily to Pacific Northwest wines. (Note: Not all Salmon-Safe wines are organic.)

Who certifies it: Certified by Salmon-Safe, a nonprofit organization.

Drink itBrick House VineyardsKing Estate Oregon Wines (made with organic grapes) 

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