I was recently approached by an eco-friendly marketing agency who, along with the Wine Institute, was thinking about a campaign promoting wine made from organic grapes. At Tablas Creek, we believe strongly that organic farming gives us better grapes that taste more like where they are grown and more like the varietals that they are. [Learn more about our organic vineyard practices, such as our cover crops in the photo to the right]. In addition, we use small amounts of sulfites in the winemaking process to ensure that the wines we produce are suitable for aging (sulfite-free wines are extremely unstable, and likely to oxidize or volatilize within a couple of years).
The request got me thinking about how counterproductive the well-meaning but misguided FDA regulations are. As long as the FDA determines (through its National Organic Program) that any wine that uses sulfites cannot be organic, no serious wine producer will make an organic wine. If wines made from organic grapes but where sulfites are used in winemaking are prohibited from calling themselves organic, the only wines that will call themselves organic are ones that are more concerned with tapping into the organic market than in making fine wines.
And the phrasing allowed to us by the FDA ("made with organic grapes") doesn't help things, as this is the phrasing used for other products when they are 70-95% organic. It implies that there is something in there that is not organic, and possibly not even grapes.
So, I remain convinced that if there is a marketing campaign planned, it should be aimed at revising the laws so that they are in synch with Europe, where wines that are organically farmed, and which are under a certain maximum number of parts per million of sulfur, can call themselves organic.