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Organic Wine – Should We Lower Our Standards with Sulfites?

This morning I read a very well-written and interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times about what is going on in the organic wine world.

For those who are unfamiliar with the details of organic wine, I wrote a blog post about this a while back. Essentially, naturally-occurring sulfites above a certain number are not allowed in USDA certified organic wine. Added sulfites are not allowed at all.

The Los Angeles Times discussed a movement going on that would allow sulfites to be added. Some organic wine producers want to be able to add sulfites because they think it would encourage more wine producers to grow more grapes organically, without the use of herbicides or pesticides. They also say that sulfites are important, given that wine is regularly shipped around the world and these sulfites are critical to help prevent the wine from going bad.

The Organic Consumers Association and some organic wine producers do not want the standards compromised one iota. They believe that truly organic wine should not have added sulfites. Ever.

My Take: First off, I don’t drink alcohol and am not a consumer of organic wine. Whatever happens will not impact my personal drinking habits one way or the other.

When you have producers, such as Paul Dolan of Mendocino Wine Co., a pioneer in organic grape farming, asking for sulfites to be added, you have to take notice. These are people deeply entrenched in the organic wine industry and have a perspective that the average consumer does not.

Additionally, if I saw research or data from focus groups that showed me that allowing sulfites to be added would encourage winemakers to increase the amount of grapes grown without toxic pesticides or herbicides, then I am all for it.

As my readers know, I am a water fanatic. It is an incredibly precious resource and we need to do whatever we can to reduce pesticide use, since it inevitably ends up in the water supply. As the New York Times recently reported, the quality of our water supply is already a disaster.

According to the Pesticide Action Network, the USDA Pesticide Data Program found 59 pesticides in our water supply, 9 of which are known or probable carcinogens. Furthermore, atrazine, a chemical that is banned in the European Union and linked to a number of serious health effects, has shown up in 94% of all of our drinking water.

My interest is in keeping pesticides out of our food, soil and drinking water. Period. If loosening the standards on organic wine will accomplish this, then I am all for it.

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livingmaxwell: a guide to organic food & drink