January is the time for New Year’s Resolutions and healthy lifestyle choices – that’s why this month we are promoting Candoni’s wines made with certified organically-grown grapes. Wine enthusiasts around the world are raving about the fresh taste and natural ingredients that are packed into bottles of organic wine. This month, the winemakers at Candoni De Zan discuss what “organic” means, why it’s so popular, and how you can pair these wines with the perfect meals and appetizers.
What is Organic Wine?
The word “organic” is used throughout the food and beverage industry to describe natural ingredients that are free of artificial contaminants. When we are talking about wine, this means that grapes are not coated with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides during the growing process. These chemical applications have some advantages, like warding off grape-eating insects and promoting development during harsh weather conditions, but there is also a major disadvantage. These artificial compounds can be absorbed by the grape vine itself, imparting a foreign taste to the grapes that is retained throughout the fermentation process.
The definition of what qualifies as organic varies drastically from one country to the next, so an organic wine from Europe may not always qualify as organic here in the US. The discrepancy lies in the fact that wine production is two-fold:
- The most important part of organic classification begins during the agricultural phase. In order to meet even the lowest standards for organic cultivation, grapes cannot be coated with artificial chemicals during the growing process.
- On the other hand, jurisdictions have widely different rules regarding the use of artificial compounds during the fermentation phase. Can a vineyard add sulfites, preservatives, or other artificial yeasts and still label their wine organic?
What’s the Deal with Added Sulfites?
Almost all wines, even organic ones, have sulfites. Are they safe to consume? Unless you have an unusual allergy to sulfites, these compounds are perfectly safe to drink. Sulfites (chemically known as sulfur dioxide or SO2) are naturally produced in small amounts during the fermentation process and often added later as a preservative. Thousands of everyday foods contain sulfites to extend their shelf life: jams and jellies, frozen seafood, maple syrup, condiments, cheese, packaged desserts, and many more. In fact, a single serving of dried fruit contains more sulfites than the average glass of red or white wine.
As a whole, more sulfites are usually found in white wine than red, which sounds backwards considering many consumers complain of headaches after drinking red wine. There is a good chance that sulfites aren’t causing these headaches – the real culprit may be any one of the thousands of natural compounds inside the bottle.
Wine can still be made with organic grapes while using added sulfites during the fermentation process. At Candoni, this is done for the convenience and satisfaction of wine drinkers just like you, because it ensures that even organic wine can be enjoyed after years of aging. Sulfite-free wine is unstable in the long run, often spoiling too quickly and losing its taste before even being uncorked (usually within two years of the bottling date). To preserve the organic flavors of the grapes, sulfites add freshness without changing the flavor.
It isn’t easy for wine producers to meet organic growing standards. Certification agencies do a great deal of soil testing, water quality analyses, pest control studies, and plant tissue sampling to see if a vineyard can actually qualify for organic status. In Italy, where Candoni wines are produced, our estates are certified as made from organically-grown grapes by Suolo e Salute, the nation’s leading agricultural inspection board with USDA accreditation.
The Benefits of Organically Grown Wine
After finishing a glass of wine made from organically-grown grapes, some drinkers will point out, “I’m only buying organic from now on.” Could they be serious? What’s the big deal about a bottle with an organically-grown label? It turns out there are some serious benefits to drinking wine made from organic grapes. Let’s discuss just a few:
Environmental stability – Organic growing practices promote biodiversity. Chemical application can kill of entire populations of insects and other pests, causing huge disruptions to local ecosystems. Organic growing might result in lower crop yields, but it minimizes the impact on the environment.
Water and Soil Purity – Runoff from pesticides and other contaminants can instantly affect local water supplies. Especially in rural agricultural areas without advanced water purification systems, this toxic waste can end up in a home’s drinking water. Furthermore, chemical overuse can change the pH balance of soil, making entire acres of land infertile for future agriculture. Organic practices ensure that toxic waste is eliminated and long-term sustainability is at the forefront of growing operations.
Purer Taste – We pointed out earlier that grapevines actually absorb artificial compounds, which can permanently alter the flavor and aroma of the fruit. Organic means that you are sipping on wine the way it was meant to be experienced, imparting an all-natural flavor. Notes of acidity and freshness are often enhanced without artificial flavors getting in the way.
Freshness & Quality – The shelf life of wine made from organically-grown grapes is usually shorter than its commercially produced counterpart. Unlike regular wine, organic grapes will retain their freshness for only a few years at a time, not decades. This means that when the bottle is finally uncorked, wine made from organically-grown grapes unleashes a wave of crispness across the palate.
Enhanced Terrior – The term “terrior” is one of the most wine-savvy words that drinkers can use to describe specific tasting notes. This refers to natural phenomena like climate, soil, and terrain that give the wine a unique flavor. Was it a rainy summer when this wine was produced? A professional sommelier can probably tell the difference when artificial flavors aren’t getting in the way.
Health Benefits – There isn’t any evidence to suggest that organic grapes will get rid of your hangover faster (like some claim), but there could be some real health benefits related to grapes that are grown organically. While our wines contain added sulfites to preserve the freshness, you won’t find chemicals like acetaldehyde, dimethyl carbonate, calcium carbonate, potassium salt, or other stabilizers that are often found in bottles.
Saying NO to Chemicals – Principled eaters and drinkers around the world are emphatically determined to keep chemicals away from their families. From avoiding genetically modified crops to resisting pesticide-rich farming practices, there is a growing movement to keep artificial ingredients off the table. Switching to wine made from organically-grown grapes is simply part of this broader trend.
Finding the Perfect Bottle
Now that we know more about the basics of organic wine, which one should you select for this evening’s dinner? We’ve put together a list of our favorite Candoni wines that are certified as made from organically-grown grapes. Choose from the list of top-rated varieties below and find a complementary meal to match it.
Buongiorno Organic Red Blend (Primitivo/Syrah)
Produced from an organic blend of 66% Primitivo grapes and 34% Syrah grapes, this wine is perfect for a wide variety of meals because of its characteristic full-bodied flavor and robust finish. Primitivo grapes (also known as Zinfandel) were some of the earliest grapes used in wine production, filled with a smoky, dry, and earthy flavor. These grapes are combined with the heavy, dark profile of Syrah grapes, which are often even more full-bodied that Cabernet Sauvignon. This final Buongiorno Red Blend is a unique, rich wine that is the perfect match for meaty meals like barbecue, roasted duck, and charcoal-grilled steak. This bottle comes from organic-certified vineyards in the Southern Italian region of Apulia, where mild Mediterranean weather is perfect for grape cultivation.
This aromatic and fruity wine is the perfect red for “beginners” and seasoned critics. Because Merlot grapes are medium-bodied without being overly acidic or tannic, this organically-grown bottle is extremely popular among wine enthusiasts. During the fermentation process, the wine is also blended with organically-grown blackberries, cherries, and blackcurrants to give the wine a complex, fruity flavor. For the perfect pairing, match this bottle with meals like Italian sausage pasta, grilled hamburgers or cheeseburgers, braised short ribs, and charcuterie. This wine is made from organically-grown grapes in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy, the largest producer of DOC wine in the country.
TOP PICK: Organic Pinot Grigio
Our favorite organic pick of 2016 is the Candoni Pinot Grigio, which has the characteristic crispness of vitis vinifera grapes, combined with fruity notes of melon, pear and fig. Like most whites, this wine is best served lightly-chilled and can be matched with a wide variety of foods. Because of the wine’s dry finish, it can be used as a light aperitif or the perfect pairing for cheese and cracker appetizers. We recommend pairing the Organic Pinot Grigio with our signature Asiago Broccoli Soup Recipe, which has passed through the kitchens of the Candoni family for decades. This wine is made from organically-grown grapes in the Province of Pavia in the Lombardy region of Italy, which borders the Southern Alps.
These healthy, organically-grown wine options are more than just a fad. Organic grape production is encouraging winemakers around the world to use sustainable growing practices and promoting healthful lifestyle choices to thousands of consumers. For more information about our great wines made from organically-grown grapes, use our online Store Locator to pick up a bottle near you!