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Is Organic Wine Worth the Hype?

by Kara Thompson

Summer is the ideal time to pour a glass of rosé, but with a rise in sober curiosity and health-conscious cocktails, you might be interested in swapping your regular wine for organic varieties. Here’s what you should know before uncorking your next bottle.

Why opt for organic wine?
Mike DeRobertis of Wine Import & Distribution Company says there’s no denying that there’s an increasing trend toward organic wine consumption. “Many wineries are moving in the direction of organic practices as much as they can, and even if a bottle isn’t organic, many wineries are using the least amount of pesticides possible, as well as more sustainable means of growing crops,” DeRobertis says.

While it’s true that organic wine grapes are grown without synthetic pesticides, there are several other factors that contribute to the distinction between organic and regular wine. For example, organic vineyards rely on natural fertilizers, such as compost and manure, to nourish the soil and promote plant growth.

The decision to choose organic wine often extends beyond concerns about pesticides and reflects a broader interest in supporting sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in agriculture.

Are organic wines worth the higher price point?

Contrary to popular belief, organic wines are not necessarily more expensive than regular varieties. While taste is subjective, some individuals believe that organic wines offer a more distinct flavor profile, making them more appealing to indulge in. In addition to taste, some other benefits include health considerations and supporting organic farming and sustainable practices.

Do organic wines impact our bodies differently?
The primary difference between organic and conventional wines lies in the agricultural practices used to grow the grapes, rather than in the final product itself,” says Elizabeth DeRobertis, a registered dietitian and director of the Nutrition Center at Scarsdale Medical Group, White Plains Hospital.

Organic wines are produced from grapes grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

However, DeRobertis says it’s important to note that during the winemaking process, both organic and conventional wines undergo fermentation, which significantly reduces and transforms any pesticide residues present in the grapes.

“When it comes to the impact on the human body, the effects of wine consumption are primarily related to the alcohol content and other components present in the wine, such as polyphenols. These effects are not specifically tied to whether the wine is organic or conventional,” she explains.

DeRobertis says that further research is needed to better understand any potential differences in the nutritional composition, phytochemical content or health effects between organic and conventional wines. As of now, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that organic wines have a unique impact on the human body when compared to conventional wines.

Which type of wine should you choose?
It’s reasonable to seek out organic wines if you find some that you like at your price point. But as noted above, experts say the amount of pesticides in even non-organic wine is negligible thanks to the grape fermentation process. DeRobertis adds that the hangover you get after drinking wine is likely more related to the percentage of alcohol content, the amount consumed or hydration status, and not necessarily related to organic vs non-organic wine.

3 Great Organic Wine Choices from Expert Ray Isle
Pieropan’s 2021 Soave Classico ($22) is a spot-on example of what Soave can be when it’s produced with care. Its aroma suggests spring blossoms and green apples, sometimes with a note of almonds, and it’s racy and crisp in the way that wines from volcanic soils are.

The blue- and red-fruited 2021 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($30) is delicious and also a bargain as far as Willamette Valley Pinots go. The winery is also a certified B Corp and participates in the 1% For The Planet project (1% of gross sales are donated to environmental causes).

The Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut ($55) comes from its 45 acres of grand and premier cru vineyards that have been farmed organically and biodynamically for more than 20 years. For Latitude, “the idea was to do something quite rich. So it’s the sites with deeper chalk,” Arthur Larmandier says, “where we get grapes with a rounder flavor profile.”

— Ray Isle is the author of the forthcoming book The World in a Wineglass: The Insider's Guide to Artisanal, Sustainable, Extraordinary Wines to Drink Now (Scribner, November 2023) and the longtime executive wine editor of Food & Wine.

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