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WHY BUY ORGANIC?

The Top 5 Reasons #1 - Organic wines taste better Taste is certainly a matter of personal perspective. Research studies, however, have shown that organic wines receive high ratings from trusted critics and from consumers as well. Research conducted by Prof. Magali Delmas, an environmental economist at UCLA, found that wines made with organically grown grapes rate higher, using a widely-accepted ranking, than wines made with conventionally grown grapes. Regarding her study, Delmas was quoted in Science Daily: “Wine made with organically grown grapes is higher quality,” Delmas said. “Growers have to devote more time and attention and take better care of organically certified vines than conventional vines, and our results show that these efforts are apparent in the product.” Delmas and her research team studied 13,426 wines from 1,495 California wineries. Vintages ranged from 1998 to 2005, and more than 30 varietals and 25 appellations were represented. A Stanford study by Prof. Michael Hannan found that vintages produced under guidelines associated with strict labels were more likely to receive higher ratings from consumers and critics than those that weren’t. in Robert Parker’s 2008 ratings of Alsace wines, for instance, six of the top ten producers (those rated “exceptional”) were biodynamic and two were organic. Of those ranked “excellent,” five were biodynamic and three organic. The researchers studied 3,545 wines from 96 wineries in the Alsace region of France. In their final analysis, looking at dry Alsatian white wines from 1981 through 2008, the researchers concluded that wines made by biodynamic vintners received higher critical ratings than those not certified as such — whether they were tasted blind or with the labels showing. Formal certification increased the ratings when the taster could see the producer. And finally, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a Burgundy wine that is the most expensive in the world, is produced organically. #2 - Pesticides Grapes certified organic are grown without synthetic fertilizers and in a way that protects the environment and preserves the soil. Pesticides, fungicides or herbicides sprayed in the fields where grapes are grown are poisons that can remain in small amounts in your wine long after it is placed in the bottle.  Read our pesticide fact sheet for details. #3 - Fewer or no additives Organic wine is made without using chemicals that would harm the planet or be dangerous to your health, according to standards set by the USDA National Organic Program or NOP. Genetic engineering of ingredients is also not allowed. Organic wine undergoes the same rigorous requirements of USDA organic certification as other organic products throughout its production cycle, from vineyard to bottle. The certification process is overseen by the NOP and it also it has to meet the requirements of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, especially for sulfite labeling requirements. #4 - Support Family Farms According to the...

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PESTICIDE FACTS

  What’s in Your Wine?   People like to think of wine as “just grapes.” But there is a lot more in your wine glass than fermented grapes.   For example, yeast is added to aid fermentation. Salts, sugars and acids may be added to control and direct the fermentation process. When we compare the differences between organically-certified wine, wine made with organic grapes, and conventionally-made wine, we need to look at how many chemicals are added and where they come from. Small amounts of compounds called sulfites are present in all wine, whether it is certified organic, made with organic grapes, or conventionally made. Sulfites, used as a preservative, can be added to all wines at the discretion of the winemaker, even in very small amounts to organically-certified wine. When making conventional wine, literally hundreds of chemicals can be and are used, not just added sulfites. Some conventional winemakers add sugar, oak chips and flavor agents. On the other hand, (or in the other glass) wine that is certified organic is allowed to have about 70 chemicals added to it, including organic and naturally occurring acids, salts, and enzymes. However, unlike in conventionally produced wine, any chemical used in a certified-organic wine cannot have an adverse effect on the environment or on human health as defined by the Food and Drug Administration. [Source: The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, issued by the National Organic Program (NOP).] Out in the fields where wine grapes are grown, the differences between organic and conventional wine are a lot easier to explain. Conventionally-grown wine grapes can be treated with synthetic pesticides, fungicides and insecticides. Organically-grown grapes cannot be treated with any synthetic pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, or fertilizers. According to the California Department of Pesticides Regulation, in 2010 25 million pounds of pesticides were applied to conventionally-grown wine grapes in California. That was a 19% pesticide increase from the year before. Conventionally-grown wine grapes received more pesticides than almonds, table grapes, tomatoes or strawberries. Insecticide use increased by 34% and acreage treated with sulfur, a fungicide, increased by 21%. The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) classifies about a million pounds of those chemicals dispersed on wine grapes as “bad actors,” meaning that they are known or probable causes of cancer, are neurotoxins, or groundwater contaminants. Roundup, a herbicide, is widely used on wine grapes in conventional farming. A recent study has linked Roundup with health dangers, including Parkinson’s, infertility, and cancers. In 2010, more than 400,000 pounds of Roundup (known as Glyphosate to the trade) were applied to wine grapes. What Levels of Pesticides Actually End Up in Your Wine? There have been several studies that have that examined pesticide persistence in...

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GMO’s IN WINE?

  Are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) used in wine making? Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not allowed in organic or biodynamic wine production. But in conventional winemaking GMOs can play a role. A GMO strain of yeast used in winemaking has government approval and is on the market. GMO wine grapes have been made in labs but are not yet on the market. Are GMOs in your wine? First, some basic definitions. What are GMOs? According to the Non-GMO Project, GMOs are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. They are experimental combinations of genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Now, the genetic makeup of just about any agricultural crop, including grapes, has been altered by centuries of selective breeding by humans. The basic wine varietals (Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, etc) are the result of humans working over many hundreds of years to create a grape with certain qualities. But a GMO crop is different, because has one or two foreign genes, often from a completely different species, spliced into its DNA using genetic engineering techniques. A gene is a section of DNA on a chromosome that contains the genetic code that creates a specific protein that is used in a particular cellular process. Why create GMO wine or yeast? The attraction of genetic engineering for farmers is to create crops that are resistant to pests and disease. Genetically modified grape vines have been made in Chile, France, Germany, South Africa and the US. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a genetically modified pesticide-resistant wine grape called Chancellor. A scientist at the University of Florida has used a jellyfish gene to create a grape wine that glows in the dark. These vines have not been approved for commercial use, and organizations as diverse as the The Wine Institute, the Non-GMO Project, CCOF and individual wineries have stated that no GMOs should be used in the production of wine. But what about the yeast used in wine production? A GM yeast strain, called ML01, has been approved for use in the US as well as Canada, Moldova and South Africa. Since there is no law requiring ingredient lists on wine labels, GMOs may be present in conventionally-made wine in the US. (The Australian Wine Research Institute has issued a statement declaring that no GM yeasts will be used in Australian wine for the foreseeable future.) Why use GMO yeast? The ML01 variety of GM yeast would save winemakers some processing time because it can simultaneously perform two kinds of fermentation used in winemaking. (The two kinds are alcoholic and malolactic fermentation.) Wine...

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OVA Mission Statement

  “What’s in Your Wine?” The Organic Vineyard Alliance (OVA) is a group of winemakers, retailers, importers and distributors who have come together to educate, inform and enlighten consumers about the benefits of wines made with organic grapes.   Our fact sheets, articles, videos and point of sale materials help consumers understand how wines made with organically grown grapes benefits health, is a positive movement in global sustainability, and is ‘greener’ than conventional wine making. We believe that our organic wine education movement will have the same positive impact as the organic food movement – providing much-needed information about the food chain as it relates to grapes and wine growing, the widespread use of pesticides on conventionally-grown grapes, and the contrasts between organic grape production and chemically-enhanced conventional grape and wine production. OVA brings you the facts about wines made with organically grown grapes that is free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We discuss the use of sulfites in wine production, and you’ll have an opportunity to hear the voices of winemakers, importers, distributors and retailers sharing their excitement as the organic wine movement takes center stage in the national conversation. Explore our Top Five Reasons to Buy...

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Organic Wine Definitions – Behind the Label

When you want to drink organic wine, there is a lot of terminology to sort through. There is wine that is certified organic, wine made with organic grapes, wine made with organic grapes, but not produced according to the federally-mandated National Organic Program, Biodynamic wine, wine made with Biodynamically-produced grapes but not produced according to Biodynamic standards, sustainably-produced wine and also conventionally-produced wine.  To clarify the differences among these wine making methods, we offer some definitions. First of all, you should know that making wine involves more than “just grapes.” Yeast is often used to aid fermentation, certainly in organic wines so-called native (local) yeast is used. Sugars can be added, including sugars naturally occurring in grapes. Conventionally-produced wine may include residual pesticides, added preservatives, coloring, animal byproducts and mouth-feel agents. A variety of chemicals can be used to speed up, slow down, and direct the process of turning grapes into wine. Wine that receives the US Department of Agriculture organic certification is strictly regulated and never has any synthetic additives. Synthetic pesticides and herbicides are not allowed if wine is to pass the USDA’s organic certification qualifications. Any kind of pesticide that has been determined to be harmful to the environment or to people is not allowed. Wine that is made with organically-grown grapes may include small amounts of additives, such as sulfites, that are used as stabilizers to preserve the wine. All wine naturally contains some sulfites. Sulfites are on grape skins and in plants like onions and garlic. The descriptions and chart below show the differences between the different methods and philosophies of wine making.     USDA Certified Organic Wine Grapes that are certified organic under the USDA National Organic Program must be grown, handled and processed in accordance with uniform national standards. When wine is labeled organic by the USDA it means that the entire production cycle – from grape in the field to wine in the bottle – has been done in a way that promotes ecological balance, conserves biodiversity, and uses unadulterated ingredients. Growers producing USDA certified organic grapes must pass a certification inspection every year. No synthetic pesticides or chemical herbicides are used to produce wine certified organic. No sulfites are added. Native yeasts can be used but are not mandatory. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may not be used. Wine Made with Organic Grapes In this officially-designated category, you will see the term “Made With Organic Grapes” on a wine label. This means that the grapes used are grown organically, and production of the wine must be in accordance with standards set by the National Organic Program (NOP). No chemical pesticides or chemical herbicides are allowed,  but less than 100 parts per million (ppm) sulfites may be used. Processing additives approved by the...

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