By Jenny Benzie of Pour Sip Savor
Walk into almost any market these days and you are bound to see a section of Organic food or wine products. They are listed as such under detailed menu items in restaurants and often asked for by name. 'By name?,' you ask. If Organic is now considered a brand, it is a brand doesn't belong to just one company and is definitely a 'label' that is of interest to consumers.
Back in the day when you bought your fruits and vegetables from the roadside stand, you knew who the farmer was that sold them and where the farm was located. Same thing with local wine production as you filled your glass container at the winery itself. But with the advent of commercialism, big city living and less purchasing of food stuffs from the source, consumers want a way to know where the products they are consuming come from and also to have a measure of quality as to what is in the package.
This demand for these types of products from consumers is the idea behind Organic certifications that define an agricultural process, yet do not promise the product to be more beneficial or less impactful on one's health.
The regulations to be labeled Organic have varied from country to country until recently and were established by either a governmental body or an organization that wanted to create a sense of cohesiveness around what they were producing. These include a set of production standards for growing, storing and processing, along with possibly the packaging and shipping of such items. It is thought to assume quality and prevent fraud, assist in promoting commerce of a certain region and product assurance.
An example of these qualifications which have been around for many years before the term Organic became popular can be seen around the world with wine classifications. Think about the protected name regions of Champagne, Port, Chianti or Ribera del Duero. Each of these regions has a set standard of requirements (production limits and procedures, permissible grape varieties, area boundaries, etc.) in order to qualify to be labeled as such. As for Organic wines, they allow you to use a minimal amount of sulphur dioxide from grapes grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
It would seem to be a challenge to grow grapes in this manner and still produce a top quality wine. Many producers feel they do not need a third party certification to qualify their wine as Organic as long as they know they are following Organic practices. Whether or not you would be able to tell the difference in a blind tasting between a wine that is Organic and one that is not, there are a handful of producers who do label themselves as such and make a quality wine worthy of mention.
At Quivira in Dry Creek Valley, their quest is for genuine representatives of the land. Their unusual Grenache proves to provide authentic varietal expression.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards has a point of view that they husband, nurture and elevate, but not alter, in pursuit of a naturally pure wine of character. Hence their right-bank inspired Bordeaux style wine named POV.
Paul Dolan views Organic grape growing and wine making as a partnership with nature instead of an exploitation of the land. Try his Zinfandel from Mendocino County/Amador County.
For more information about Organic wines, check out www.organicwinejournal.com.
Jenny Benzie is Head Sommelier + CEO of Pour Sip Savor, who works with individuals and groups to create memorable wine events that focus on wine education. For more information or to book her for your next wine event, please contact