The Wine's Organic, but How Does It Taste?
Salon.com ran a fascinating article over the weekend about organic wines, and how the USDA prohibition against using sulfites in those wines can lead to instability and unpredictable flavor changes during aging. Some wine-makers get around this rule by labeling their product as "made with organic grapes," a designation that guarantees that at least 70 percent of the grapes in the wine are organic, but one that also allows for the addition of sulfites to help preserve flavor.
Sulfites are a naturally occurring byproduct in wine-making, and are additionally added as a preservative to prevent oxidation. According to the article, wine-makers have been adding sulfites for hundreds of years to help slow the gradual transition into vinegar that all wines undergo. Hence some experts are wary of wines produced without sulfites. There's something about the directness of this statement that I find really refreshing:
"Generally the taste of organic wines isn't very good," says Andy Waterhouse, interim chairman of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC-Davis. "People who want to buy organic wine should refrigerate it after buying. Personally, I'm not seeking out organic wines."
Despite that, though, sulfites do have their detractors. For one thing, it is technically a synthetic chemical and therefore violates the rules of organic certification here in the U.S. Some people also have allergic reactions to sulfites in food. As an asthmatic, I am actually a bit sensitive to sulfites and sometimes have a reaction to wines that contain high levels of the preservative. (I have a similar reaction with some dried fruits like apricots and apple rings.) But I generally have no problem with most wines, a fact that jibes with what Dr. Ulrike Ziegner, founder of the Riviera Allergy Medical Center in Redondo Beach, California, says in the article:
People are overly concerned. There are more sulfites in dried prunes than there are in wine," says Dr. Ulrike Ziegner, founder of the Riviera Allergy Medical Center in Redondo Beach, Calif. "If you're a severe asthmatic, you should stay away from sulfites, but the rest of the world, I think, will be fine.
What's your take on organic wines? Is it worth sacrificing taste in order to avoid the inclusion of synthetic additives? Or are the U.S. organic rules overly strict and "ludricous," as Véronique Raskin, American importer of European organic wines, believes?