I’ve gotten into the habit of looking for organic produce at the Farmers Market or grocery store. Just like I only eat tomatoes when they are in season, which in Pittsburgh means for a few short weeks in July and August., I only want to eat fruit and vegetables that have a lot of flavor So, why shouldn’t it be the same with my wine? Essentially, organic wines are produced with organically grown grapes. Organically grown grapes are grown naturally with no synthetic pesticides. Pretty simple, right?
Well, it’s definitely a harder way of doing things, but the taste is better. In general, organic farming typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. In order to keep weeds and bugs away from the grapes, organic farmers work with nature, rather than against it. One way they do this is by introducing cover crops to provide a habitat for beneficial insects that are the natural enemy of problem species, or have small sheep graze between the vine rows, eating the grass and weeds. The vineyard becomes a self-regulating, natural ecosystem. Hmmm, can get one these sheep for my backyard?
Another challenge is, what happens if one farmer farms organically, but their neighbor doesn’t? The only way to know for sure if there were no chemicals from the neighboring farm blown onto the organic farm is to chemically test the wine produced by the vineyard. Vineyards can also be certified organically but this process is complex. Different nations have different certification criteria and some wineries that are technically organic choose not to be certified for various reasons.
Just like at the Farmers Market, when you can talk directly to the growers of your produce, you dneed to talk to the vineyard directly or to the distributor to really know how the wine is produced. I’m thankful that Sarah Shadonix, Level III Sommelier, founder of Scout & Cellar (and my cousin) is the one who has these conversations and does the chemical testing. All I need to do is enjoy the wine! And what good wine it is.