If you opt for organic makeup, organic fruits and veggies, or even organic tampons (oh, hey!), then you’ve probably noticed the uptick in organic wine bottles on the shelves at your local wine shop. Organic beverages have been growing in popularity, and wine is no exception — organic wine production grew by 280 percent between 2004 and 2015. It’s definitely trendy, but is it any healthier for you than non-organic wine?
To compare the health benefits, first we need to look at the difference between the two. When it comes to wine from the United States, “organic” refers to wine made from organically grown grapes without added sulfites (in Europe and Canada, organic wine may contain added sulfites). As for what “organically grown” means, think no artificial or synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides.
Pesticide-free grapes do make for healthier wine, some experts say. “Grapes are one of the most pesticide-laden fruits and those pesticides end up in wine made from them,” says Jennie Ann Freiman, MD, the founder of wellness company Oobroo Inc. “The Environmental Working Group 2017 Dirty Dozen lists grapes as #8 for all produce (fruits and vegetables) and #7 of all fruit.”
Pesticide-free grapes do make for healthier wine, some experts say.
The aforementioned sulfites are worth considering too. Although added sulfites extend the shelf life of wine, they can also make those with sulfite sensitivity miserable, causing asthma attacks, hives, rashes, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. (Just keep in mind, only about 1 percent of the population and up to 5 percent of asthma sufferers are thought to have sulfite sensitivity). Added sulfites also keeps microbes from turning your wine into vinegar, so a bottle of organic wine is more likely to be “off” than regular bottle of wine.
It also depends on how you define healthy. “For instance, organic wine isn’t necessarily vegetarian,” says Keith Wallace, president and founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia and author of Corked & Forked: Four Seasons of Eats and Drinks. (Fining agents used to clarify the wine and remove cloudiness can include animal products like fish bladders, casein, and egg whites.) If you’re not concerned about the vegetarian aspect but are looking to cut your sugar intake, an organic bottle may not help you either. “There [are] no controls over the sugar content, which is often the least healthy aspect of wine,” Wallace says. “For people seeking to find healthy wines, I suggest seeking wines that come from a healthy ecosystem. Those are usually biodynamic or natural wines, not organic.”
Still, if you otherwise stick to eating organic, drinking organic may be a natural move. “If you eat organic fruits and vegetables, you want to drink organic wine for the same reasons,” says Wendy Cohen, RDN. “Organic produce contains far higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds, so as an added bonus, drinking organic wine can provide far more of the heart-healthy benefits we have read so much about,” adds Janice Rosenthal, the owner of Garden of Essences. Just make sure you’re buying wisely — the label should say the wine is made from 100% certified organically grown grapes, says Cohen (wine that is simply “made with organic grapes” means that only 70 percent or more of the ingredients are organic and may contain added sulfites).
Bottom line: It depends on who you ask and what you’re looking for from your wine — but organic wine can certainly be healthier (both for you and the environment). And thanks to its growing popularity, you’ll have plenty of tasty options to choose from.