What is Organic Wine?

The demand for organic wine is growing, but what actually is organic wine?  Most people don’t know what organic really means and how it affects the wine. In this guide you will find all the answers to the most frequently asked questions about organic wine. 

Healthy grapes in vinyard as a symbol for what is organic wine

Published April 15th 2020

Organic wines are increasingly popular as consumers are getting more conscious about the environment and about their health. Organic, eco, bio, biodynamic and natural... The terminology related to organic and eco-friendly wines can be a bit confusing. This guide will answer the most common questions about organic wine.

What is organic wine?

First of all, let's define what organic wine actually is. Organic wine is produced using grapes grown in accordance to the principles of organic farming. This means that the vineyard does not use certain chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides in their farming. It is important to keep in might that the legal definition of organic varies from country to country. All organic wines produced within the European Union follow the same legislation. Organic wine grown in the US, for example, is sulfite-free, but in Europe and many other wine regions, organic wine may contain added sulfites.

Does organic wine contain additives?

Yes, but not always. Some additives are allowed in organic wine, such as yeast and egg whites. Being organic doesn’t necessarily mean that a wine is free from additives. Also, it is important to know that the allowed list of additives varies depending on the country. In Europe, it is possible for organic wine makers to add sulphur-dioxide, but this is not allowed according to US legislation. Sulphur-dioxide impacts the shelf life of the wine. If you want an organic wine without sulfites, you should choose a certified-organic American wine, as it is forbidden for US winemakers to add sulfites if they want to label their wine as organic. If you want a sulfite-free wine from Europe or other wine regions, you have read carefully wine's label or contact the specific producer. In general, all organic wines are low in sulfites.

Is organic wine vegan?

No, not necessarily. An organic wine can be vegan, but due to some additives that are allowed (such as egg whites), an organic certification does not imply that the wine is vegan-friendly. However, there are many organic wines that also have vegan certification.

Is organic wine healthy?

Yes and no. This is a hot topic and there is still no consensus in the wine world. Some people claim that organic wine is healthier because organic grapes are not sprayed with harmful chemical pesticides and fertilisers. They argue that organic wine is cleaner and thus more healthy for humans. Others claim that organic wine better for your liver. However, when it comes to production of non-organic wine, the levels of these chemicals in the final product are extremely low and harmless. Therefore, it can be misleading to claim that organic wine is healthier than non-organic wine. It is not clear what are benefits of organic wine, and if they differ from those of conventional wine. Some consumers worry about sulfites in wine, but the fact is that the amount of sulfites in conventional wine is very low, and sulfites are only a problem for a small amount of people.

Does organic wine taste better?

No, it does not taste any different from conventional wine. The organic farming principles used won't translate into a better tasting wine. There are many factors that impact the taste and quality of a wine; the climate, soil, the wine maker's skills and choice of grape variety. The organic farming principles will have little or no impact in the taste of the wine.  

Is organic wine good for the environment?

Yes and no. Studies show that organic wine only has a small impact on green gas emissions. The reason for this is because organic wine growers are still allowed to use "natural" pesticides and some of these can be toxic for the environment. Organic wine is often called eco-friendly, but this claim can be a bit misleading. 

How do I know if the wine is organic?

Organic wine needs to be certified in order to be called organic. The certification symbol varies depending on there the grapes were grown. If the wine is from Europe, it will have the official EU organic logo. Certified organic products in the US will have the USDA Organic Seal. Around the world, certified organic wine will always have an official logo, clearly indicating it is certified to be made in accordance to organic farming principles.

Organic logos from the EU and the USA
The EU organic logo (left) and the USDA Seal (right)

Is organic wine more expensive?

Yes, organic wines tend to be slightly more expensive compared to a non-organic wine of the same quality. This is due to the higher production cost associated with with organic production.

Is organic same as biodynamic?

No, organic wine and biodynamic wine are not the same. The production process of biodynamic wines incorporates astrological influences and lunar cycles. Biodynamic wine-making does not add any synthetic chemicals, additives or manipulations during winemaking. If you want to learn more about this, you can read our guide to biodynamic wine.

Organic vs natural: what is the difference?

Organic wine and natural wine are not the same. Organic wine is certified and made using only organic grapes. Natural wine is a loose term used for wines that are made with low intervention in the wine making process. The organic certification does not guarantee low intervention. An organic wine usually tastes the same as conventional wine, but natural wine can taste very different. There is no certification for natural wine, which means that wine makers can interpret the term “natural” as they wish. Therefore, natural wines vary greatly both in flavour and style, and usually have a slightly cloudy appearance. Most natural wines are made using organic grapes. 

What is the correct terminology for organic wine?

Organic, eco, bio, biodynamic and natural... The correct certification for organic wine is "organic". Bio wine might refer to biodynamic wine, which is not the same as organic. Natural wine is usually produced according to organic farming principles, but there is no certification for natural wines. Eco is sometimes used to describe an organic wine, but it is not a certification by itself.