Organic wine is booming in Australia, but is it worth the hype?
The health benefits, environmental advantages and exceptional taste make many people say yes.
Despite its trendy or hipster connotations, organic farming and organically produced wine isn’t a new craze embraced by only a few. As drinkers become increasingly eco-minded, health concerns and our planet have become priority. Fewer wine headaches, less (or zero) chemicals, and kinder to the environment - it’s no wonder more people are choosing organic.
Finding wine without heavy manipulation can be challenging if you don’t know where to start. With options flooding the market, how do you know what to look for?
If you’re new to organic wine and spreading your vino wings, use this guide to stock your shelves with the best.
What Makes Organic Wine Excellent?
Only 8% of the world’s vineyards are registered as organic. So why does organic wine get talked about so much?
Because it’s quality, authentic vino.
More importantly, it’s good for you in moderate doses.
But to understand why organic wine is good for you, you must first know how organic wine is made. The process is tight-knit and follows strict organic farming practices, and stays clear of synthetic additives such as sulphate. To be labelled organic, the wine must be organically grown and free from nasty toxins.
The best organic wines are:
Naturally fermented - using natural and wild yeast stains over commercial yeast for a fusion of flavour and unique characteristics conventional wines don’t have
Free from chemicals and GMOs - by avoiding synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers and Genetically Modified Organisms, organic vineyards prevent pollution and create a healthier environment for the grapes to grow. Without chemical treatments, we stop harming the beneficial insects, birds and wildlife
Handmade in small batches - small-batch organic winemakers focus on quality over quantity, you get higher quality grapes and artisanal wines that have been given more time and attention
Grown in healthier soil - using compost and natural fertilisers is important for soil fertility and structure, which is crucial for long-term sustainability and a better-tasting wine
Better for people with allergies or prone to wine headaches - when conventional winemakers add synthetic chemicals, they can create an immune reaction causing allergic reactions like asthma, congestion, headaches, rosacea, wheezing or a tight chest
Organically farmed - essential for producing good wine and maximising grape health and quality. Delicious wine, ethically farmed.
Here are some tips to find your perfect pour.
1. Check the Label and Organic Certification
The first step to finding the best organic wine is to make sure it’s certified by an official third-party. Look for the NASAA Certification or ACO Certification Limited (ACOCL) logo in Australia.
Check the ingredients on the label. You want to avoid synthetic sulphates such as preservative 220 and preservative 224, or SO2 and potassium metabisulphite for organic wines. Additives for organic producers are extremely limited, with many, such as copper, banned entirely. Others such as sulphur, only 25% of the conventional addition is allowed.
Organic winemakers are strictly limited to very small additions of sulphur, when possible or if appropriate the wines are made sulphur-free.
2. Choose Full-Bodied Organic Wine
Organic red wines are made from red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz or Malbec. If you’re looking for authentic quality varieties this is a good place to start. However, Pinot Noir is often regarded as the premium red variety because of its subtle yet endearing flavours.
Organic and sustainably-farmed wines naturally have more flavour. Soil quality, zero chemical farming and no additives in the winemaking contribute to a tasteful, healthier difference.
Tip: Consider what you’re drinking with. Full-bodied wines pair best with heavier foods such as pasta, meat, cheese or fortified wine to go with something sweet like chocolate.
3. Experiment and Taste
The best way to find the right wine for your tastebuds is to try - and don’t be afraid to experiment. Visit the bottle shop when they have tastings, and explore your local wineries to sample the finest organic varieties at cellar doors.
Personal taste is subjective - what matters most is finding organic wines that align with your preferences.
Here are some tips:
Choose a conventional wine you’d normally drink, and swap it for the closest organic variety
Ask for recommendations
Keep an open mind
Check online reviews
Chat with someone knowledgeable about organic wine, like the winemaker or store person
Popular Organic Wine Regions in Australia
Because soil quality, climate and nutrients all impact the end result, it absolutely matters where you source your wine. Here are Australia’s top places for the best organic wine.
Margaret River & Pemberton, Western Australia
Great Southern, Western Australia
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Eden Valley, South Australia
Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Orange, New South Wales
Yarra Valley, Victoria