Every day it is more common to see the word "Organic" in the description of a wine bottle. But is going fully organic feasible? And, Does it benefit the final consumer and the environment?
In an increasingly transparent world, where it is more common for people to worry about what goes into their bodies and take care of our world, it is customary to question how our foods and drinks are produced.
Let's start with the basics of organic vs non organic wine:
What is an Organic Wine?
According to the USDA, “Organic is a labeling term found on products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible. Organic produce must be grown on soil that had no prohibited substances (most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) applied for three years before harvest.”
Everything starts from the vineyard; the use of fungicides, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, and other synthetic products, is prohibited. Transforming a vineyard into fully organic is not overnight. It is a long and tedious process in which many factors intervene; after a few years (usually 3 to 5 harvests), the vineyard can be certified by specialized organizations if the producer meets all the criteria.
Wines produced with organic grapes have benefits: The vineyards are apparently "healthier" and can live longer; the workers are less exposed to potentially harmful chemicals. Organic wine marketing is trendier than ever, so the wines can be relatively easier to sell.
However, there are some disadvantages:
Going organic or fully organic is more expensive than conventional methods; the process and the certifications can be costly and take a long time. Small producers willing to become organic cannot afford the steep price for certification. When you have this seal, you are logically allowed to sell at a higher price. Second, massive companies, which have the capital to pay for this, do not have the time and do not follow the correct protocols and practices, putting our health and the vineyards at risk.
A poorly managed organic vineyard can run more significant risks, such as fungal infections and different diseases. These diseases are treated without the use of chemicals. To name an example, in Bordeaux, the mildew fungus is only allowed to be fought with copper sulfate, which is completely harmful to the soil.
Organic agriculture indeed guarantees to a certain extent the absence of agrochemicals dangerous to health, but, as we all know, there are very few production areas where climate behavior is ideal.
Organic agriculture supposes the prohibition of the great majority of agrochemicals to fight against pests and other diseases. As an alternative to this prohibition, some regulators have allowed using "less harmful" or "less aggressive" products such as copper sulfate. Still, as heavy metal, it accumulates in the earth, irreversibly damaging the soil ecosystem.
In addition, organic management limits the amount of production of the vineyard, which leads us to mathematically conclude a greater environmental impact in less yield of kilos per acre.
Adrian Bridge, Director of The Fladgate Partnership in Portugal, has concluded that "Your carbon footprint is significantly higher with organics, and you don't need to go organic to make great wine. With organics, when you are likely to get 25% lower yields from your vineyards, you end up producing more Carbon Dioxide per liter - and you'll be using more Copper Sulphate too, which builds up in the soil. So, it's far better to be a sustainable farmer and eliminate herbicides, and cut down on pesticides, but you don't have to remove them altogether."
In 2019, Basile Tesseron, Vice President of the CIVB (Conseil interprofessional du Vin de Bordeaux), stated that copper causes too many problems due to its “stagnation in the ground”, and decided that from that year on, Château Lafon-Rochet, would stop organic production. "It is a product in the category of heavy metals, so it does not evaporate, it accumulates in the soil. What worries me is the waste, and for me, it is no longer a durable solution. Especially because for a large number of products, performance is often lower."
It should take utmost consideration to preserve good bacteria in eliminating unwanted microorganisms.
So, what is left for us to do as wine consumers? The reality is that we have to inform ourselves about what we are drinking, where it comes from, and the wines and regions we taste. The best way is to do it with the help of an expert, and Big Hammer Wines is your perfect ally for this. With our expertise and competitive edge in the wine industry, you can rest assured that the quality of our wines is guaranteed.
Visit bighammerwines.com to learn more about organic, natural, and sustainable wines.
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