How can you tell if a wine is organic?
Wine labels can be tricky to decipher at the best of times. While the new world has long led the charge for simplified terminology, there are still plenty of obscure or overly complex labelling terms. French and German labels can get pretty wordy, denoting everything from the wine’s origin to its level of residual sugar, its classification and beyond. One labelling aspect that is deceptively easy to understand, however, relates to organic wine.
How do you know if a wine is organic?
Organic wines – that is, those that have sought and achieved official certification from a recognised body – are actually very easy to spot. Between labelling terms and official logos, there should be no doubt as to whether any given wine is certified as organic.
Things get more tricky for those producers that do things organically but, for one reason or another, opt not to become certified. For the most part, however, organic producers are proud of their certification and will communicate it at every available opportunity.
Spotting an organic wine: Label terms
There are a couple of different phrases to watch out for when shopping for organic wine. These are legally protected terms, so you can be sure that what’s in the bottle is genuine. You’ll generally see one of the following two terms:
- “Organic wine”, which tells you that the wine comes from grapes that have been grown organically. If you’re in the EU, this wine may contain some added sulphur dioxide (SO2), but if you’re in the US it absolutely may not.
- “Made with organic grapes” is a US term that tells you the wine is made from organic grapes and contains some added SO2.
Spotting an organic wine: Certification
For a wine to achieve organic certification, the producer must undertake a time-consuming and expensive process of organic conversion under the observation of an approved certifying organisation. Such organisations are usually non-governmental organisations that have been endorsed by their country’s ministry of agriculture.
Each certifying body must adhere to set international guidelines, and each will have its own way of indicating certification on the bottle. This will usually take the form of a sticker, logo or other emblem that proudly sits on the label. To spot a certified organic wine, look out for the following:
- The initials “AB” indicates that the wine has been certified by Agence Bio, a prominent certifying organisation in France. Its logo features the initials and phrase “agriculture biologique” upon a green background. The French refer to organic wine as “vin biologique” or “vin bio”, so you may see these terms, too.
- AIAB is an Italian organisation whose logo bears a heart sprouting a leaf.
- BIOGRO is a New Zealand organisation, and its logo states its name and the phrase “Certified Organic”.
- ECOCERT is another French organisation and its logo very clearly states its name.
- The Soil Association is the UK’s organic leading certifying organisation. Its logo bears the words “Soil Association Organic”.
- USDA oversees organic farming in the USA. Its seal of approval simply states “USDA Organic”.