The most basic definition of organic wine is wine made from organically farmed grapes. The standards for what constitutes “organic farming” vary from country to country, but generally excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
And then, there is the second phase of winemaking, fermentation of the grapes into wine. This is where it gets more confusing. There are a number of inputs that can be added to the fermentation process, but for organic certification, these ingredients must be specifically allowed and cannot exceed 5% of the total product.
Specifically, in the U.S., during the fermentation process, sulfites cannot be added to the wine in order to receive organic certification. While wine naturally produces some sulfites, they cannot be added. In Europe, the level of sulfites must not be greater than 100 mg per liter for red wine to receive organic certification.
In addition to a reduction of sulfites in the bottle, organic winemaking also bans any GMOs or non-permitted additives. The biggest omission from conventional winemaking is the lack of coloring agents and concentrated wine additives like Mega Purple, and flavoring agents such as malic acid and caramel.
If the wine is made from organic grapes, but fails to receive organic certification during the winemaking process, then the wine can still carry the label “Made with Organically Grown Grapes”. Whilst still a good practice to farm organically, if you’re looking for the real thing, make sure to check your labels.