Will the Battle Over Organic Wine Labels Turn Off Consumers?
In a move that will just continue to confuse the wine consumer, new organic wine standards have been introduced both in the US and EU and centers around one tiny component……….sulfites in the amount of 100ppm! But on the label, only the claim of “organic wine” (vs. wine made with organic grapes) can display the easy-to-understand, green USDA Organic seal that helps producers attract customers seeking “green” products. The distinction has sparked a battle between winemakers over what organic wine should be.
The European Union, as of the 2012 harvest, will allow winemakers to use the label “organic wine.” (Previously, only “wine made from organic grapes” was permitted). In early February, an EU committee agreed upon standards for organic winemaking practices—including the allowed addition of some sulfites.
Due to the discrepancy, “organic wine” has been left on unequal footing in a three-year trade agreement, signed Feb. 15, recognizing the U.S. and EU organics programs as equivalent. Most products certified in either the United States or European Union can be marketed as organic in both places starting June 1, eliminating the need to get a second set of certifications. However, American “made with organic grapes” wines can be sold as organic in Europe, but European “organic wine” with added sulfites will still need to carry the “made with organic grapes” label in American markets. The result excludes hundreds of European producers from selling their “organic” wines in the US with the USDA organic seal. The unfortunate spinoff from this controversy, is that it risks both confusing and turning off the wine consumer, most of whom, in the end, simply want to enjoy a quality wine, organic or not. Clarification and simplification is vital to supporting and growing the organic wine industry. Unfortunately, it seems to be politics as usual.