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The Truth About Organic Foods, Wines, Sulfites and You

Sulfite Headache

Sulfite Headache

Let’s turn our attention to the ever-present and often confusing topic of organics. At least since 1990experts been fighting the good fight trying to sort it all out. That’s when Congress passed the National Organic Foods Production Act in an effort to standardize what “organic” really meant. The goal was to clarify for consumers and producers alike what was, and what wasn’t, acceptable when it came to organic food production processes. Well, standards may abound but there is no fine print on a label; it can be difficult to understand what’s really in the bottle. Let’s see if we can’t simplify matters:

What is Organic?

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements defines organic farming as “a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.” In other words, manmade products (like pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers) to support agriculture are left by the wayside; instead, nature is encouraged to thrive on its own.

Why Organic?

There are myriad studies on the benefits of organic produce. It’s good for the environment, promotes healthier living, and is said to protect the little ones of the world before they even enter the world. But, whether you think about these things or not, it’s hard to ignore a good old fashioned taste test…. studies show organic goodies often taste better than products subjected to human intervention.

Organic Wine

The folks at Mendocino Wine Co. clarify “for a wine to be labeled organic, federal regulations require composition of 100 percent organically grown grapes. The winery, itself, is certified organic. In the cellar there is little manipulation of the wine and no addition of sulfites, a traditional preservative. Consequently, organic wines have a short shelf life.”

Wine Made with Organic Grapes

Now there’s a confusing label! If a wine is “made with organic grapes” that means the grapes were farmed using organic principles and according to organic regulations. However these wines often contain additional sulfites (thereby giving the wine more stability and a longer shelf life – see below).

A Quick Word on Sulfites

The folks at Yorkville Cellars have done a terrific job of clarifying the what’s what with sulfites. Two key takeaways are: 1) “sulfites are created when sulfur dioxide is added to water or wine. The use of SO2 is as a preservative to prevent oxidation from turning wine (or food) brown or changing the flavors by taking away fruitiness.” Sulfites keep the wine fresh for your enjoyment. 2) If you experience headaches from drinking wine, it is likely not sulfites that are the culprit; they just get a bad rep because the FDA requires labeling about them specifically. Chances are there is something else in wine to which you are reacting. Remember, wine is a substance with hundreds of different compounds!

Shopping for Organic Wines

Any good fine wine shop should have a selection of organic wines at the ready. Even if a section is not dedicated to these wines, many wines from France or other Old World countries have been practicing organic viticulture since way before it was in vogue.

A longtime favorite winery of many is Mas de Gourgonnier in Provence, France; they even have a new sulfite-free offering that’s pretty tasty. Two new favorite wineries are La Marouette (France) and Pares Balta (Spain). Be sure to ask your local wine manager which offerings they have in stock.

To see a list of domestic wineries that produce organic wines (beyond Mendocino Wine Company and Yorkville Cellars), click on this link.

Source: Wicked Local


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