Wellness as it works for you is our mantra. Whether that means avoiding sugar altogether, living by the 80/20 rule or doing yoga after binge watching Netflix, we’re firm believers in practicing a lifestyle that most resonates with you. After all, when something feels true, you’re more apt to stick with it, right? For me, a kale salad for dinner is only enhanced by a glass of delicious wine. That adds up to 80 percent greens, 20 percent grapes and that formula makes me—and my tastebuds—really happy. But while my bathroom is a shrine to green, safe and gorgeous personal care products lovingly formulated by makers whom I adore and admire, I realized recently I wasn’t nearly as mindful about what I was drinking as what I was putting on my skin. Which led me to wonder: How important is organic wine in a wellness routine?
It’s a Matter of Taste
As it turns out, organic wines may just taste better. Better, say, than that deliciously crisp white I’ve got chilling for my summer picnic in the park? Apparently so. “Winemakers love to say that great wine is made in the field. Because of the mystique around the art of winemaking, a lot of consumers forget that the art of grape growing is just as important,” says Hadley Douglas, co-author of Drink Progressively and owner of the award-winning The Urban Grape in Boston’s South End. “Organically grown grapes and the subsequent wines are thought to express more ‘terroir’ than conventionally grown grapes. Terroir is wine talk for tasting a sense of place that is unique to the wine you are drinking. Organic farmers work hard to tease out and celebrate these interesting aspects of wine, as opposed to masking them to make a formulaic wine that tastes the same year after year.”
Organic Wines Still Have Sulfites
I’ve been fortunate enough to not suffer from a sensitivity to sulfites, but I have friends who do, and I like to be mindful on their behalf, since the true joy of drinking wine for me comes from sharing it with someone I love. Though I’ve heard that organic wines can be better received for those with sulfite sensitivities, Hadley sets the record straight. “All wines have sulfites,” she says. “Sulfites are a natural by-product of yeast eating the sugars in the grapes and juice during fermentation. In fact, anything that goes through fermentation will have sulfites! During the winemaking process, many winemakers will add additional sulfites right before bottling because it helps to stabilize the wine for travel and aging. If you are sensitive to sulfites, look for wines that have ‘no added sulfites,’ and try to buy wines that are meant to be drunk in the current year’s vintage, like Beaujolais.”
Which Region Rocks for Organic Wines?
That’s good news for me, as I love a Beaujolais—and I’m happy to offer it to my more sensitive friends. But while I’m delighted to turn to France for a lovely bottle, I do love my West Coast wines, too, along with other regions of Europe. “Every winemaking region will have organic producers,” Hadley assures me. “Sometimes, you have to do your research—not every producer is certified because it’s expensive, and some producers in difficult regions want to ‘leave the door open’ in case they need to save a vintage from weather, disease or pests. Europe has a lot of depth in organic wine because they’ve been doing it instinctively for so many generations. We recommend Languedoc-Roussillon, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley in France; Priorat and Txakoli in Spain; and Tuscany in Italy.”
But Wait! Organic May Not Everything
“There is one myth we have to dispel, however,” Hadley says. “Many conventional wines are also made conscientiously, but it’s harder in some regions than others to grow organically. If you can’t find an organic wine, your next best choice is to choose a small, family-farmed producer who is still bringing a love of farming and winemaking to his or her product. That sense of terroir will still be present. The wines to avoid are the mass-produced ‘grocery store’ brands—these wines are often junk, filled with junk.”
Ever the expert, Hadley was kind enough to take the guesswork out of going organic and share a list of some of her favorite organic wines with me. I’ll be reaching for these all summer long—and I may even share them with those I love.
The Best Organic Wines to Try This Summer
Bassermann-Jordan Riesling (Pfalz, Germany), $22
Bassermann-Jordan has always had a focus on producing outstanding wines using organic practices within Pfalz, Germany. This medium-bodied riesling is an off-dry style with brilliant acidity, rich notes of round cotton candy and then intense lime and grapefruit, with an incredibly long finish. Call this a summer sipper!
Domaine Guillot-Broux “Les Genievrieres” Macon (Burgundy, France), $30
Domaine Guillot-Broux has been certified organic since 1991. Abandoned after the phylloxera crisis, this vineyard started being cleared and replanted in 1983. This winery is a wonderful example of how careful farming can restore devastated vineyards. “Les Genievrieres” is 100 percent Chardonnay—but a light and fresh style Chardonnay with pure fruit and great acidity. You will not find flavors from heavy oak aging in this wine.
Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Rosé (Provence, France), $36
This is a family-owned estate of 17 acres situated on the highest cliff in France overlooking the Mediterranean. The family cites the importance of organics as a way of life and not just a trend. They follow their own version of biodynamics as well, doing all work in conjunction with the moon. All work is done by hand—not even tractors are used. The wine, a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault grapes, displays a mosaic of savory herbs, wild raspberries, nectarines and wet stones with a hint of saltiness. Perfect with seafood, salad and sunshine.
Clos de l’Elu “Indigene” (Anjou, France), $25
This light and luscious blend of 50 percent Gamay, 30 percent Grolleau and 20 percent Cabernet Franc from Loire Valley is bursting with ripe red fruit notes and a savory, herbaceous finish that keeps your mouth watering. Winemaker and proprietor Thomas Carsin uses 20 to 50 year old Gamay and Grolleau vines—varietals that were once widely planted in the Anjou region and have since almost all been pulled up and replanted with Cab Franc and Chenin Blanc. This is a rare treat that shows an unusual and sophisticated look at Anjou!
Domaine Reveille “Ultraviolet” (Languedoc-Roussillon, France), $30
Belgian transplant France Crispeel’s (a female winemaker!) aim is to produce wine that respects natural life cycles and minimizes the human impact on the environment. The purpose is to produce living wines that are the real expression of a specific Mediterranean terroir. She ferments in concrete tanks using natural yeasts and does not add any sulphur. Notes of wild dark fruit and smoked herbs are enhanced with layers of old leather, dried violets, black pepper, stewed pork and a touch of iodine. Intensely aromatic with a liveliness on the palate, the tannins are firm but approachable and the finish is energetically juicy.