Michael Bray

Wine Columnist Michael Bray

I love questions, especially in a retail setting such as Passion Vines. If you listen closely enough, you understand not only what the customer wants, but more importantly, what they value. What I can tell you, first hand, is that customers today want organic. Why? Because they value health and source integrity.

For those new to organic wines, here’s what you need to know:

Wines labeled “made from organically grown grapes” consist of grapes that are harvested using sustainable agricultural practices. Simply put, these are grapes grown without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides or chemicals in the vineyards.

Wines labeled as “organic” consist of grapes that are harvested without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides or chemicals — in the vineyards AND in the winery. This includes the winery’s fermentation tanks, aging barrels and even the bottles themselves. Lastly, organic wines cannot contain sulfur dioxide, generally added during winemaking.

Sulfur dioxide is a natural element that is a by-product of fermentation and is also present in soil. All wines have some degree of naturally occurring sulfites. Wines that are organic do not have additional sulfites used as a preservative. Unfortunately, our labeling laws require just the words “contains sulfites” on the label and do not differentiate between the naturally occurring and the additional.(tncms-asset)1596fd92-b73d-11e6-bd18-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)

Here’s why it may be confusing:

The overwhelming majority of organic wines have no indication of such on the label. In some countries the certification process can be expensive, ridiculously strict or even incongruous to making quality wine. In turn, incredibly passionate producers that practice the most intense sustainable, organic methods do not get certified. Yet the wines they produce may be more pure, natural and tasty than some winemakers that promote their “organic” qualities.

Here’s a trick if you don’t have someone to help:

A great indication of purity comes from the back label of the wine, where the wine importer is noted. Passion Vines represents importers that deal exclusively with natural and traditional producers, which invariably means organic. Some of these importers are Fleet Street (the famous Shipped at 56 degrees label), Vinifera Imports, Vias Imports and Marc di Grazie (all Italian importers), Jorge Ordonez (Spain), Louis Dressner (France), Jenny & Francois (France), Polaner Imports (France, Italy, California) and others.

In an effort to nudge you to “turn to the back label,” I will not provide you with specific wines, but rather highlight a few of our local shops that take an interest in the aforementioned importers: Circle Liquor Store in Somers Point, the Atlantic City Bottle Company in A.C. and Canals in Egg Harbor Township.(tncms-asset)93036f68-aa86-11e6-8049-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)

Lastly, know this: there are wines made in a “board room” and wines made in a vineyard. I will never deny the need to make a profit; that’s a critical piece to sustainability. However, I will always defend and fight for integrity, and by the questions I get, it sounds like a lot of people feel the same way.

Drink different.

Get our Best Bets at the Jersey shore delivered to your inbox every Wednesday, just in time to plan your weekend!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Soon we will no longer integrate with Facebook for story comments. The commenting option is not going away, however, readers will need to register for a FREE site account to continue sharing their thoughts and feedback on stories. If you already have an account (i.e. current subscribers, posting in obituary guestbooks, for submitting community events), you may use that login, otherwise, you will be prompted to create a new account.

Load comments