You may recall from the episode I did on organic food that the Environmental Working Group ranks grapes as #3 on the dirty dozen list due to high levels of pesticide residue found on conventionally grown grapes. Grapes are also, obviously, the main ingredient in wine. So that begs the question, do you need to be drinking organic wine, too?
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Quick trigger warning here: If you are sensitive to conversations about alcohol, are currently pursuing your own recovery or are making strides to stay sober, please skip this episode.
Okay, so there has been anecdotal evidence since the start of the pandemic that alcohol consumption has increased dramatically among women — no surprise there. Until the end of September they didn’t have any actual data, but a study has now confirmed that alcohol consumption has gone up by 19% among people over 30 years old. So, if many of us are drinking more, and it’s no secret that alcohol isn’t great for us, the purpose of this episode is to help us to consume it in a less harmful way. Today we’re talking specifically about wine.
You may recall from the episode I did on organic food that the Environmental Working Group ranks grapes as #3 on the dirty dozen list due to high levels of pesticide residue found on conventionally grown grapes.
When it comes to the dirty dozen list, I encouraged you to buy organic specifically for those foods in order to limit your glyphosate exposure, as well as your exposure to other toxic pesticides and herbicides.
Grapes are also, obviously, the main ingredient in wine. So that begs the question, do you need to be drinking organic wine, too?
As of 2018, organic grapes account for only an estimated 5 percent of total vineyard acreage worldwide. Spain, France and Italy represent 73% of all organic vineyards in the world while the U.S. only makes less than 2% of organic-labeled wines. (This will be important to remember later on in the episode).
Here are the issues with conventional wine to be aware of:
- The grapes are typically grown using genetically modified organism (or GMOs), pesticides and herbicides
- Dyes and synthetic additives are often used to improve the color of conventional wine — this includes concentrated wine additives like Mega Purple, and flavoring agents such as malic acid and caramel color. (I talked about why you want to stay away from synthetic dyes in the episode on “Food Dyes”)
- Non-organic wine manufacturers add extra sulfites to make sure their wine lasts longer on the shelf
- All grapes naturally have sugar but some winemakers choose to add more sugar to improve the wine’s taste
- Conventional wine typically has higher alcohol content which can contribute to worse hangovers than drinking organic or biodynamic wine
Based on those factors, you can decide for yourself why you may want to avoid conventionally-grown wine but here’s the best news of all:
Organic wines typically cost less than regular wine because the fermentation process is quicker, which means the growers don’t have to age it in barrels and charge you for all of that time.
It wasn’t until recently that I found this out. One night my husband came back from a grocery run with a bottle of USDA-certified organic cabernet. The price tag said $7.99 and I looked at him like he was insane. I opened it, fully expecting it to taste like cough syrup, and it was — in a word — delicious.
I am by no means a wine connoisseur so it’s not like my standards are high, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how good such a cheap bottle of organic wine could be. And now I know why it was so inexpensive.
So while drinking organic wine may at first sound bourgeois or elitist, in most cases, it’s actually cheaper to seek out the cleaner, more sustainable option.
A quick note here: 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.” While it’s still great to farm organically, if you’re looking for the real thing, make sure to check your labels.
So, in this episode’s segment of “This for That” I’m going to encourage any wine drinkers listening to seek out organic or biodynamic wine instead of conventional wine. If you don’t live in an area where organic wine is available in your local liquor store, I can recommend online ordering from Dry Farm wines which seems to be all the rave in the clean living corner of social media.
Dry Farm wines can be ordered in boxes of 6 or 12 bottles (the quantities may even go up to 24) and all of the wines share natural farming practices, including organic or biodynamic farming. Every bottle is handcrafted in small batches with minimal intervention, meaning limited or no added sulfites, sugar, food dyes, chemicals or other enhancements. As a bonus, every bottle is lab-tested to be sugar free, low in sulfites (it’s impossible to avoid them entirely in wine) and lower in alcohol.
I know this probably sounds like an ad but I assure you I’m not getting paid to tell you about this. Although, Dry Farm Wines, if you hear this feel free to send a bottle or two my way : )
I already ordered a box of six reds for the holidays and while the price per bottle is definitely more expensive than the $8 USDA organic wine my husband brought home from the liquor store, I was really excited about Dry Farm wines being sugar free. That was enough to make the extra price per bottle worth it to me.
If you’re at a restaurant and want to order a glass of wine but there aren’t any organic-certified options on the wine list, then a good rule of thumb is to order wine from Spain, France or Italy where they’re less likely to be grown with pesticides but may just not be certified with an organic label. Generally, you want to avoid ordering wine from the U.S. unless it’s USDA certified.
Enjoy responsibly. Cheers!
Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Clean Living Podcast — I’m your host Shannon Lohr. Did you know that you can find out your own clean living score? I have a quiz on the podcast website where you can learn where you are in your clean living journey. Just go to cleanlivingpodcast.com and scroll down to the quiz. Here’s to creating a cleaner, more sustainable world for all of us.