Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Cost of Organic Drinking

I was just reading this article by Smart Money entitled "Top 5 Green Products Not to Buy". Most of it wasn't very surprising, but #5 Wine and Spirits was one that I had to question. The article correctly points out that distilling, fermenting and filtering remove any pesticides. I also agree that just because something can pass the USDA regulations for "Organic" doesn't mean that it's good for you. Yeah, I think anyone can figure out that just because your vodka is organic doesn't mean you should drink more.

But Smart Money misses the point of organic. It isn't only about what we put into our bodies. It's also about what we do to our earth. It's not just a marketing tactic to sell higher priced wine. The amount of pesticides used to grow the grapes equals a hefty cost to the environment.

An article by explains "organic" quite simply:

"Wine labeled organic means that at least 95 percent of the grapes used were never sprayed with pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Such chemical purity is ensured by 40-foot buffer zones from farms that spray specific chemicals, loads of paperwork and on-site visits from third-party certifiers. Organic grapes then go to a certified organic winery that doesn't use chemical cleansers or add any preservatives like sulfur dioxide, an antioxidant that gives wine a significant life span."

Anyone who is really into wine and knows something about it will ponder not whether it's worth an additional cost--but is it drinkable? Many people feel that organic wine doesn't taste as good. They are partially right. Some of the flavor in wine comes from the added sulfites. Sulfites are added for preservation, holding off the natural process of turning to vinegar. But sulfites do not meet the government definitions of "organic" because often they are not naturally produced. Therefore organic wine cannot contain sulfites.

photo by sarahfelicity

So, organic wine will taste different than what we are accustomed to. It will also go bad quicker. This means that you need to refrigerate that wine right away, no matter what color it is. As a bonus, organic wine is good news for people with sensitivities to sulfites.

There is a comprimise. Some wine producers are opting for the label "organically grown grapes". This wine will be a more environmentally friendly choice, but is unlikely to be produced by a certified organic winery, therefore it does include sulfites. It may pollute the environment just not as much.

I'm sorry Smart Money, but I have to disagree that organic wine is not worth the cost of putting less pesticides into our water. Yes, companies are jumping on the band wagon of organics, but there's a lot of jumping before they can actually ride. Certified organic products must meet specific standards it's not just a nicely designed marketing label with an inflated price.

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