Everything You Need to Know About Organic Wine

Motivated by increasing public health and climate change concerns, wine drinkers and wineries alike are turning to organic wine, and particularly USDA Organic Certified wine. Simply stated, certified organic wines are made with certified organic ingredients and without artificial additives. Organic wines have the benefit of being made naturally. In addition, USDA Organic Certified wines are thought to be more environmentally friendly, as they undergo an inspection process that ensures sustainable winemaking practices.


What is the difference between made with organic grapes and usda certified organic wine?

First and foremost, most wine drinkers (and even some avid organic wine drinkers) are unfamiliar with the difference between organic wine and USDA Certified Organic wine. California-made organic wine is made with organic grapes that have been certified through  California Certified Organic Farmers, or CCOF. This 30-year-old organization has a strong history in the organic movement and currently works to certify, educate, advocate, and promote organics.  CCOF certification requires that certified organic produce is grown on soil that has been free of prohibited substances for three years prior to harvest to ensure that the crops will not be contaminated.  There is also a list of materials that are approved for and prohibited from organic production.  Organic vineyards must also be focused on the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water.  After meeting these criteria, organic producers need to get certification by submitting to CCOF their Organic System Plan (OSP), and the vineyards are inspected.  Once approved, to remain certified in good standing, every operation must be re-inspected annually. Field Notes and Flourish are two examples of wines made with organic grapes focused on enhancing and sustaining the environment for future generations. 

In order for a wine to qualify as USDA Certified Organic, it must be made with certified organic-grown grapes in addition to being produced in a certified organic winemaking facility where the grapes, vineyards, and facility are inspected and maintained without any additives. Every ingredient used must be certified organic. There are no chemical inputs, added preservatives or detectable sulfites.

Juan Cerna, winemaker for Our Daily Wines, breaks down the USDA Certified Organic winemaking method: “When processing [USDA Certified] organic wines, no sulfur is added at any point in the processing. The wine is also gluten-free since it does not come in contact with wheat, rye or products that contain gluten.” While veganism is not necessarily a requirement of USDA Certified Organic wines, Our Daily Wines and Mother’s Choice are considered to be vegan as “no animal products are used to produce or fine the wine,” according to Cerna. 


What is the usda organic winemaking process?

The winemaking process begins with grape sourcing from CCOF vineyards, with the goal of bringing in fruit that is ripe and contains a good amount of acid. Once delivered to the winery, CCOF approved American Oak Fines are used to help stabilize the color and impact the oak flavors.

Once the fruit is crushed, fermentation begins with CCOF approved yeast and nutrients. Our USDA Organic Certified wines are also gluten-free wines as there are no grain-derived coloring or flavoring ingredients, nor are there proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, or barley.

The grapes are pressed to separate the skins and seeds from the wine. Once pressed, a CCOF approved Malic Acid bacteria is used to convert malic acid to lactic acid. This process works to improve the flavor of the wine, changing the profile from aggressive and sharp to smooth and round.

Often, traditional winemaking practices involve the use of animal products like egg white, gelatin, or milk protein in the fining and filtration process. Our USDA Organic Certified wines are entirely vegan since the wine is cleaned up through the process of racking off heavy lees, then filtered to separate any unwanted yeast bacteria from the finished wine. 

Finally, the wine is blended and moved to CCOF approved Oak to give the wine some additional tannin structure. A cooling system is then used to control the temperature. The wine is stored in full oak tanks and cooled to 50-55ºF. It is important to keep the tanks full and cool to prevent spoilage microbores from growing and impacting the wine in a negative way.

The cooling system is used in place of the synthetic sulfites that are used in traditional wines to retain flavor, control bacteria, and extend shelf life. USDA Certified Organic wines instead rely on naturally occurring sulfites and advanced cooling and cleaning techniques to ensure freshness.


What are the benefits of switching to organic wine?

Organic wines have the benefit of being made naturally, as they do not contain artificial ingredients in the growing or winemaking process. USDA Organic Certified wines have the added benefit of being produced in USDA Organic Certified winemaking facilities where every process and ingredient is certified through a comprehensive inspection by an agent. The inspector makes sure winemakers are using sustainable farming, ensuring that the grapes are grown naturally by checking the fields and inspecting soil conditions, crop health, water systems, storage areas and equipment, management of weeds and other crop pests. This process ensures that the wine is being made sustainably, without over-using water or leaving behind leftover residue, working to preserve the soil and protect the environment.


All in all, organic wine drinkers can feel good knowing they are choosing genuine, high-quality wine that is made naturally and sustainably.  USDA Organic Certified wines work as a great alternative for those with sulfite sensitivity, gluten allergies or vegan preferences.  

Organic Wine

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