Revive Organic Wine Club FAQ

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What is organic wine?

Organic wines are made from grapes that have been organically farmed.  Organic farming only utilizes substances that are naturally occurring.  Thus, organic grapes are grown without the use of industrial man-made compounds, such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and materials that have been genetically modified.

Does the Revive Wine Club only feature wines that are certified organic?

The Revive Wine Club features both wines that have certifications evidencing organic farming and winemaking, as well as wines that are produced using organic practices but that do not have any formal certifications.  We research each wine in the Revive Wine Club thoroughly before selecting it to ensure that the winery’s practices are truly organic.

Why don’t all producers who follow organic practices obtain organic certification?

There are many producers in the world who farm organically, but who have not obtained a formal certification from their government or an independent organization.  Without a formal certification, these producers are not allowed to state on the label that the wines are organic or that they are farmed using organic practices.  Despite this labelling limitation, there are several reasons an organic grower would choose not to obtain certification.  First, many small wine producers simply do not have the resources to obtain certification.  Obtaining the certification can be very expensive, and also the procedure to obtain certification is extremely time consuming.   Second, many producers who have farmed organically for centuries, do not see the value in obtaining certification or see it as a new marketing fad.

What are biodynamic wines?  

Biodynamic viticulture shares the principles of organic viticulture that eschew the use of industrial chemicals; however, biodynamic viticulture involves additional practices and philosophies that are above and beyond the requirements of organic viticulture.  Biodynamic agriculture was outlined during a series of lectures in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner.  Biodynamics promotes a holistic view of farming, and aims to promote the health and sustainability of the land as a whole through the application of special organic composts and the integration of farm animals and beneficial wildlife and insects.  Biodynamic farming also observes a calendar that integrates lunar, solar, and planetary cycles that indicate the best times for particular vineyard work.

What are natural wines?

Unfortunately, the term “natural” in relation to wine does not have a universal definition or set regulations.  The ultimate ideal of a natural wine is a wine composed of only fermented grape juice – no chemicals or irrigation used in farming, no added sulfites, no chaptalization, no cultured yeasts, no acidification, no additives of any kind, no manipulation, and preferably hand-harvested and vinified using traditional equipment.  Needless to say, by these methods it is very difficult to produce a sound wine able to be stored and shipped successfully; only the most methodical, clean, fortunate, and experienced winemakers are able to accomplish it.  Thus, for many people, making wine “naturally” is an aspiration, and not every goal is able to be accomplished every vintage.

There are several winemakers out there attempting to make wine naturally, and they take their endeavor very seriously.  They are not likely, however, to use the term “natural” on the wine label.  They generally prefer their “natural” goals to be between themselves and the wine.  Thus, when you see “natural” on the label of a wine, it might be an attempt to get you to buy the wine by using a newly-fashionable marketing term.  And with no regulation over the term “natural,” these producers are unfortunately perfectly free to do so.

What are sustainable wines?

The goal of sustainable wineries is to avoid harm to the environment, while also maintaining an economically viable operation.  A truly sustainable winery will take into account all varieties of environmental and community factors, not just those that impact the winery’s vineyards or the wines.  For example, the winery will consider from where they purchase any outside materials and the oil that would be used to ship those materials to the winery.  Also, a sustainable winery will consider the overall safety, health, and living conditions of employees.  This consideration is why a sustainable winery is permitted to consider economic viability when evaluating farming and winemaking decisions – a winery with no wine to sell cannot maintain stable employment for its community of workers.  In short, a sustainable winery seeks to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”#

As with natural wines, sustainability does not have a regulated meaning.  There are independent organizations that certify “sustainability,” but these organizations do not all have the same qualifications.  Also, governments do not regulate wineries’ use of the term “sustainable” on wine labels, and thus the term on a label has very little meaning.

Are biodynamic, natural, and sustainable wines also organic?

The interrelation of these terms can be complicated, as there is frequent overlap between the requirements for each one.  A biodynamic wine is also organic, but an organic wine is not always biodynamic.  In theory, a natural wine should also be organic, but as discussed above, “natural” has no regulated meaning, and also not every goal is able to be attained every vintage.  Sustainable wines are sometimes also organic, and organic wines are sometimes sustainable, but the terms are not sufficiently similar in meaning to provide any hard and fast rule.

Are all of the Revive Wine Club organic wine selections also biodynamic, natural, and sustainable?

Some of the wines featured in the Revive Wine Club are biodynamic, natural, or sustainable, but not all of them.  Each month, when you receive your wines, the wine information included with your package will tell you more about the winemaking and farming practices, and will indicate if the wine is also biodynamic, natural, or sustainable.

What are sulfites?  Why are they used in wine?  Are they permitted in organic wines?

In wine, the term “sulfite” refers to sulphur dioxide, or SO2.  A very small quantity of sulfur dioxide is found naturally in all wines, as it is a byproduct of the fermentation of grape juice.  However, sulfur dioxide is also widely used in winemaking as a method of preserving and storing wines.  Sulfur dioxide has many valuable uses that enable wine to be stored and shipped successfully, as the addition of sulfur dioxide prevents oxidation and also kills bacteria and yeasts to keep the wine clean and prevent refermentation.

To some degree, sulfites can be found in all wine – organic or otherwise.  However, in the United States, wines labeled “organic” under the USDA are not allowed to have added sulfites.  Please note that U.S. wines labeled as made with “organically grown grapes” are not subject to the same regulations, and these producers are allowed to add sulfites so long as the total sulfites do not exceed 100 parts per million.

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