Organic wine brands have slowly been gaining in popularity over the recent years as people become more and more health conscious. Sustainability, eco-friendly and 100% natural are all terms that have been steadily rising to the top of people’s agenda. Having said that, there is still quite a bit of confusion when it comes to organic wines. What does it actually mean when a wine is labelled as organic?
In reality, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer for it. What it means to be “organic certified” differs from country to country, and it doesn’t always have to mean that 100% of the wine is organic. At the same time, organic wine has gotten a bit of a bad rep around quality in terms of flavor and taste. It’s true that certain restrictions are put on winemakers when producing organic wine, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great organic wine brands to choose from. I have listed out 5 great organic wine brands below that you absolutely must give a try.
What Does it Mean for a Wine to Be Labelled as Organic?
Before I get into the best organic wine brands, let’s quickly go through what it means to be an organic wine. There are a number of criteria a wine must satisfy in order for it to be eligible to be labelled as organic. These requirements are managed by the National Organic Program who oversee the setting of guidelines for the processing and labeling of organic products in addition to maintaining a national list of approved and prohibited ingredients. This means that both the ingredients, and also the processing or conversion into wine, must be certified as organic. Based on this, winemakers that wish to label their products may do so using 4 different designations:
- 100% Organic – This is the most difficult to achieve and requires the winemaker to use 100% (as the name would suggest) organically grown grapes and disclose information about the certifying agency. It is also not allowed for the winemaker to add additional sulfites to the wines other than those naturally occurring as a result of the fermentation process. The maximum level of sulfites allowed in 100% organic wines is 20 parts per million (ppm)
- Organic – Wines that are labelled organic must contain at least 95% ingredients that are organic in order to be able to carry the label.
- Made With Organic Ingredients – Wines that are labelled as “made with organic ingredients” must contain at least 70% of organic materials with the remainder not being organic. The use of added sulfites is also permitted.
- Some Organic Ingredients – Lastly, if your wine contains any ingredients that are certified organic they can mention this in the ingredient statement but they are not allowed to carry the organic seal.
The Top 5 Organic Wine Brands
Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for, what are the best 5 organic wine brands?
I’m a big fan of the Kendall-Jackson, Winery and that’s why they make it so high on the list. As mentioned in our earlier article, the term ‘sustainability’ has been running through their veins since the winery was founded in 1974 by Jess Jackson. It’s truly at the heart of what they do and they put great emphasis on it in everything they do. In Napa and Sonoma, a total of 100 acres of their vineyards are certified organic. Kendall-Jackson Winery take the long-view in everything that they do, both when it comes to quality and sustainability. As a result, they have put significant investment into reducing their environmental footprint as well by conserving energy and water usage resulting in the fact that all of their facilities including the total 10,545 acres of vineyard that they own are certified under the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) program.
The Chateau Maris Winery was actually the dream of an Englishman, by the name of Robert Eden, that moved to France over 20 years ago in pursuit of setting up a winery that reflects, instead of masks, the land on which the grapes are grown. It’s all about using nature’s resources and growing grapes in a way that is sustainable and complements the local environment. To Robert, grapes are “grown” and not “produced”. He is strictly against the use of pesticides and fertilizers, but rather used intensive composting to rejuvenate the soil in the vineyard he purchased when he first relocated to France. Each and every element on the vineyard is organic, ranging from the grapes to even the wood that was used in construction of the vineyard, which hails from certified managed forests in the region.
Although slightly on the pricier side, Hall Wines produces some of the best organic wines out there. The flavor and aroma that you get from them is simply unparalleled. So if you feel like treating yourself (or someone else for that matter), a nice bottle from Hall Wines is definitely not a bad choice. All of Hall’s vineyards are certified organic, and only natural products are used for weed and pest control. To minimize their footprint even further, they use 50% bio-diesel in all of their farming operations which significantly reduces their overall carbon emissions. To top it all off, both owners Kathryn and Craig Hall, donate a portion of business profits to charity through their own foundation. This is one definitely worth having a look at and if that doesn’t qualify as one of the best organic wine brands, I don’t know what does!
Our fourth organic wine brand, and our first South American contender, is Lapostolle Winery from Chile. Based in the Rapel Valley of central Chile, these guys became certified organic in 2011. First and foremost, their aim is to raise the profile of Chilean wine to not only be associated with affordable wines, by producing world-class organic wines – and they have done a very good job at it. They are particularly famous for their Carmeniere which is Bordeaux-style red wine that is grown almost exclusively in that region of Chile due to the fact that many other vineyards growing these grapes throughout the world have been infected by a fungus. As a result, they have an uncompromising approach to quality and sustainability with an eye on the long term.
Another winery from home soil, DeLoach is known for its Pinot Noir. They take to heart the old Native American proverb that “We do not inherit this land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”. Their first organic certification was awarded in 2008, and they put great emphasis on the fact that they consider themselves stewards of the land, with the responsibility of passing along a clean environment and revitalized, healthy soil, to future generations. Their focus is predominantly on “small-lot winemaking”, where they give exception care and attention to these lots in order to produce their wines.