We often receive a lot of questions surrounding Organic wines, so we thought we'd dive right in and clarify some common misconceptions.
Wines without Sulfites are better for you
Blamed for everything from allergies to hangovers, Sulphites are compounds that naturally occur in the human body, certain foods (pickles, chocolate & eggs for example) and wine. They can also be created synthetically to use as a preservative. Organic, biodynamic and natural wines have a maximum level of Sulphur addition which is set well below the levels for conventional wines. It is important to remember that it’s naturally released as a by-product of fermentation and serves as a microbiological stabilizer. Not only is this essential in preventing the growth of bacteria, but it would be impossible to have a completely Sulphite free wine. In fact, without Sulphites it would be difficult to make a wine that looks or tastes like the product most shoppers are used to drinking. So, if a little is actually beneficial can too much be the problem? This leads neatly to our next myth...
Organic wines never give you a hangover
The cause of headaches, hangovers and hives are common complaints levelled at non organic wines (reds in particular) and the levels of Sulphites they contain. The facts are a little less clear cut. However, red wines actually require far less Sulphur than whites as the tannins from the grapes and seeds act as a natural antioxidant and preservative. Red wine has significantly more histamine present than white wine, though, and this (along with those sneaky tannins) is a much more likely headache-inducing cause. So, although it’s fair to say Organic wine is better suited to give you less trouble (by avoiding too many Sulphites that you might be allergic to and with fewer pesticides present), the more likely culprits are alcohol content, histamines and tannin.
Organic wines taste funny
An easy one to dispel! According to two recent, separate studies analysing the scores of 200,000 wines given by independent critics in both California & France, those wines produced Organically or Biodynamically really do taste better. There is certainly not an organic or biodynamic flavour that can be identified in wines, however, it is still up to the wine producer to make good wine and their skills are just as important as the fruit itself. It will never be good just because it is organic. But crucially, because preventative measures are the main weapons for the winemaker, they need to spend more time in the vineyards and winery to observe and pay attention to details. This is almost guaranteed to show in the quality of the wines themselves. A small caveat – since natural wine is not tampered with during fermentation and lacks any additional ‘designer’ yeast, this is at least one of our trio where you can generally expect a taste that is different to a ‘typical’ bottle of wine.
Organic wines do not age well
Organic/Biodynamic wines will age and keep just as well as any other wines. They are completely stable and will improve and age gracefully – not to ignore the fact that lots of wines are intended to be drunk (and are indeed at their best) when they are young and fresh. Many of the best producers in areas such as the Médoc and Barolo have moved in recent years to a more sustainable (and in many instances organic or biodynamic) production. This is surely testament to their belief in the fantastic ageing potential of these fine wines regardless of the step change. Another small caveat for the Natural wines – the very small levels of Sulphites and other non-interventionist factors mean they may have limited stability for long term ageing. Typically produced in smaller quantities as a result the message is usually enjoy them in their youth.