How do you tell if a wine is organic or not?

Caro FEELY

What is organic farming?

Simply put it is:

– no chemical fertilisers

– no herbicides or chemical weedkiller

– no systemic pesticides (no systemic insecticides and no systemic fungicides)

When you buy organic you are guaranteed that the product has been grown free of systemics and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). These are clearly good reasons to seek out organic products. But how do you tell what is certified organic?

Organic wine: divining the signs

In the European Union it is illegal to mention the word organic anywhere on your product or in your marketing unless you are certified by one of the approved certification bodies.

It is a long road to become organic and certified. It is not something easily done just fEU-Organic-Logolimeor marketing purposes. It is true commitment financially, physically and mentally. Three years of organic conversion are required for vines.

All wines with the European leaf logo (right) the offocial sign for organic in Europe are guaranteed organic winemaking not just organic in the vineyard. 

Since 2012 organic winemaking rules guarantee the end consumer lower sulphites and far fewer intrants than those accepted in conventional wines. Overall you are guaranteed a purer wine with less additives in the winemaking process. If a wine fails the winemaking no mention can be made of organic even if it has been farmed organically. See ten reasons to celebrate supporting organic farming

Organic wine guarantees lower sulphites – why care about lower sulphites?

The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommend a maximum of sulphites of 0.7mg per kg of body weight per day. So a man of 100kg should have about 70mg per day. At legislated EU levels for conventional wine that means an average person reaches the maximum at just over a third of a bottle of white wine. Some countries have way higher levels than the EU. For example Australia has limit across most wines of 250mg/l and USA of 350mg/l (more than double the EU for red wines) per litre. At these levels just a single glass will put a large man over his sulphite limit.

To take a concrete example : for red wine the EU norm is 150mg/litre the new organic wine rule is 100mg/litre. For biodynamic Demeter it is 70mg/litre. With certified organic dry wine you can enjoy two glasses and stay well within the recommended level.

With European wine the organic leaf logo guarantees you are getting organic farming and winemaking. Organic rules and wine labelling rules are very stricly enforced in Europe so buying French organic wine offers labelling certainty.

See our series on why organic starting with basics in more detail. Come and learn more about organic farming with a visit to Chateau Feely in South West France ; stay with us or do a  day course or multi day walking tour .

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