Bio 101: Organic wine | USDA

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Posted by Miles McEvoy, Deputy National Organic Program Administrator in USDA Results Trade

Feb 21 2017

This is the ninth installment in the Organic 101 series which explores different aspects of USDA organic regulations.

According to a 2011 survey by the Organic Trade Association, organic drinks accounted for about 12% of total organic food sales growth. Organic wine has contributed to this growth, at the same rate as purchases of conventional wines. So what is organic wine?

As with other USDA organics, organic wine is made without the use of prohibited substances or genetic engineering (see Permitted and Prohibited Substances). It is subject to the same rigorous USDA organic certification requirements as other products throughout its life cycle (see Five Steps to Organic Certification). And, in addition to being overseen by the USDA’s National Organic Program, it must meet the requirements of the Office of Tax and Trade on Alcohol and Tobacco, especially for sulphite labeling requirements.

Red wine reflects the light of a restaurant. Before wine can be sold as organic, the cultivation of the grape and its processing into wine must be certified. Photo courtesy of Mr. T at DC

Before wine can be sold as organic, the cultivation of the grape and its processing into wine must be certified. This includes making sure the grapes are grown without synthetic fertilizers and in a way that protects the environment and preserves the soil. The other agricultural ingredients used in the composition of the wine, such as yeast, must also be certified organic. Any non-agricultural ingredient must be specifically authorized on the national list of authorized and prohibited substances (see Authorized and prohibited substances) and cannot exceed 5% of the total product. And, although wine naturally produces sulfur dioxide (sulphites), they cannot be added to organic wine. Sulphites are commonly added to wines to stop the fermentation process or preserve the aromatic profile.

Wines sold as “made from organic grapes” have different requirements than organic wine. When a wine is labeled as being made from organic grapes, 100% of the grapes used must be certified organic. Yeast and any other agricultural ingredient are not required to be organic, but must be produced without excluded methods (such as genetic engineering). As for non-agricultural ingredients, they must be specifically authorized on the national list. Finally, sulphites can be added to wines bearing the label “made with organic grapes”, up to 100 parts per million.

Organic wine is produced all over the world. Whether it comes from the European Union, Latin America or South Africa, wine sold as organic in the United States must meet strict standards. Organic wine produced in the United States can currently be exported to Canada, the European Union, Japan and Taiwan. These business partnerships are creating new markets for organic winemakers in the United States. To learn more about organic wine, check out the National Organic Program’s new organic wine fact sheet.

Category / Subject:
USDA Trade Results

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