Photo: What is the difference between organic wine and conventional wine?

Choose organic wine and spirits. (Credit: willia4 via Flickr)

Wineries that produce certified organic wine cannot use toxic pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers to grow grapes.

An organic vineyard will fertilize crops with compost, compost teas, green manure and cover crops. Instead of herbicides, they rely on mechanical weeding, mowing around the vines, mulching and companion planting. To avoid the use of insecticides to control cutworms, organic practices include grazing chickens under the vines or picking cutworms off the leaves one by one.

Certified organic wine doesn't use any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) either. GMO yeast for example, is allowed in conventional wines. And when it comes to other additives, certified organic wines don't contain sulphites. However, wine labelled "Made with organically grown grapes" may have sulphur dioxide. The latter might also be processed using the same equipment and in the same facility as conventional wine.

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So among organic wines, bottles with a third-party certified organic label would meet the highest standards. You also come across biodynamic wines.

Biodynamic farming techniques use a vineyard's natural resources to cultivate grapes without pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers or growth stimulants. A certified biodynamic vineyard often meets or exceeds the standards and regulations for organic-certified farming.

Some wineries also take land stewardship and living in harmony with wildlife seriously. They educate workers, asking them not to kill native snake species, which are often rare or endangered. They might install snake barrier fencing and incorporate worker safety training. Others restore native habitats through planting native shrubs, wildflowers and grasses or account for losing some of their harvest to local wildlife like bears.

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