Wine Talk

Snooth User: Stephanie516

Good Organic and Vegan wines? Offering Restaurants?

Posted by Stephanie516, Aug 27, 2009.

Lately I've been trying to be a more environmentally-friendly consumer, such as buying organic whenever I can. I recently heard that wines can be vegan too. Does anyone have any good recommendations on organic and vegan wines or restaurants that offer them in the New York City area? I travel to most major cities near NYC often (Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, etc.) so if you have hidden treasures there too, that would be great too.


Reply by po54, Aug 27, 2009.

OK, let's go on organic wines !
First of all, wine could not be organic.
It's the vineyards that are organic or biodynamically "driven".
Thus, the grape juice coming from these vineyards is organic.
But to do wine, you need leaven (levures in french). Those could be natural (leaven are everywhere in the air around us) and are on the grapes and then in the grape juice, or industrial leaven. And these industrial leaven could include not natural leaven or GMO (genetically modified organisms) leaven.
So, in France, the official regulation for organic rules the work in vineyards not wine prosessing. But usually, "organic" winemakers do the things in the right way.
Another important thing is the sulphur quantity (SO2) in the wine.
That sulphur is adde to help keeping the wine. Large quantities of sulphur gives you bad headhache.
Wines from organic vineyards usually contains small sulphur quantities. (usually, less than 60 milligrams, in France the authorised max quantity is 450 milligrams per liter).
Pure "organic" wine is without SO2, it's called "natural wine".
Very difficult to do, very difficult to keep (must be refrigerated).
Sorry, as far as I don't live in your area, I can't give you adresses to drink wine from organic vineyards.
Visit my place, Tarn-et-Garonne, and you'll be able to taste very good wines from organic vineyards.
salut ! :-))

Reply by GregT, Aug 27, 2009.

Since wine is not made from animal products, it's generally vegan unless a couple birds, snakes, or mice get into the grapes and get fermented with the juice. And insects. So if the wine has to be insect-free, I'm not sure there is such a thing.

But I think mostly what you're referring to is the way they do the fining before putting the wine in bottles. Normally they filter out particles and then they add some egg whites. Those don't mix in with the wine, but tiny particles stick to them and it helps to clarify the wine. The egg whites are taken out and the juice is then bottled. That's the traditional way. But some people use a kind of clay called bentonite. Almost nobody tells you that on the bottle, and most distributors and importers don't know it either, and some wineries use both, depending on whatever reason they may have. So what you can look for is wine that is noted as "unfined and unfiltered" or at least, "unfined".

As far as organic goes, as posted above, that's got to do with the way the fruit is grown. Generally people look at three things.

First you can fertilze the ground with petro-fertilizer. Very few people actually do that these days for several reasons. A number of these had been created during WWI and II and after WWII, people wanted to recover from the devastation. At the time, France was probably the main wine exporting country and the US wasn't a wine drinking place, but the farmers needed money so they fertilized and increased yields and things looked good.

But the wines weren't always that good and they weren't getting better. Finally they figured out the problem. Adding fertilizer was good for the plant in that it made the plant grow, but it did nothing to the soil. As the organic matter in the soil disappeared, going into the plants, the air, and leaching away, the soil became barren to the point that nothing would grow without fertilizer. Grape vines don't need a lot of nutrition anyway compared to most agricultural plants, so although well-intentioned, the efforts were counterproductive. Today most vineyards of any quality do not fertilize because the idea isn't to get the highest production, it's to get the highest quality and those two things can be in conflict.

Next thing about organic is whether the vines are sprayed with petro chemicals. It's kind of a silly definition because petroleum is of course, very much "organic" so calling the derivatives "artificial" or not organic is mistaken. At any rate, what do you spray for?

You could spray for pests. Some insects eat the grapes, the leaves, or other parts of the plants and some can actually kill the plants. To avoid that, people put chemical on the vineyards or the vines. Depending on the bug, in some cases, you can leave things alone because the bugs won't do that much damage and when the weather cools, or you get some rain, they'll go away. In other cases, you can find natural predators, like ladybugs, and get them to live in your vineyard to eat the smaller bugs. And in some cases, there is no known cure. Things like Pierce's disease for example, will simply destroy the grapevines. I may be wrong but I don't think there's any "natural" solution to that.

The other thing you spray for, and this is probably the most common, is disease A disease like mildew or fungus can cause serious damage to the crop as well, and there really aren't that many "natural" solutions. Ladybugs don't eat fungus as far as I know. So you spray to kill the fungus, mildew, or whatever.

But think about it for a minute. Where does fungus grow? Usually in damp places like your shower curtain, the basement floor where you threw some damp papers, or on vines that are in damp places. The most famous grape area in the world is Bordeaux and guess what? They're on the ocean and they are damp and they have fungal problems. Years ago they came up with a blend of copper and sulfur called the "Bordeaux mix" which is dusted on the grapevines. It's a turquoise colored powder and it's also use for roses and other flowers and crops that can be attacked by some fungal strains. It actually doesn't work very well and better products have been created. But the newer products aren't considered "natural". So if you don't mind eating copper sulfate, the wines made with that are generally OK to be labeled organic. Regardless of the law, there is some debate about that in the "organic" community, so you need to make your own decision.

So what to do. Bordeaux is cloudy, damp, and miserable. That's why everyone gets excited every five or six years when they have lots of sun. Those vintages are called "the vintage of the century" and usually result in ratcheting the prices up where they'll stay until five, six, or seven years later when you get the next "vintage of the century" and they go up again.

But if you look at the south of France, Greece, Italy, most of Spain, much of California, Australia, Argentina, what do you see? Mostly desert. Because they're so dry, those places don't have as much pressure from disease and consequently, whether they label their wines as such or not, many of them would easily pass any definition of "organic". If you're a farmer, you'd rather grow your grapes like that because spraying is just one more chore that you don't have to do. However, you also want to hedge your bets and if you happen to get a freak year with clouds and rain, you may need to spray or you go bankrupt, so many growers don't apply for any certification, in spite of the fact that they've practiced "organic" farming for years. In addition, due to some EU rules, some of them can't apply anyway.

So you can look for bottles that are labeled as organic. Lacking labels, you can also look for wines that are produced in hot, sunny dry areas, and if you're nervous, if you know that a vintage was particularly and unusually wet, don't buy from that vintage.

Regarding the "leaven" mentioned above, that is of course what we call yeast. It is in fact all around. You can leave some grape juice out and it may start fermenting spontaneously. That's in fact how they made wine until they learned what was really happening. I make bread like that sometimes.

Or you can use a strain of yeast that you've saved or purchased. Some people call those "artificial" or "Industrial" yeasts, but again, those are terms that assign value, not fact. They may simply be yeast strains that were captured in your vineyard and nurtured, just as you'd nurture a sourdough starter if it has a flavor or other characteristic you like. Maybe it came from your neighbor's vines, or his uncle's on the other side of the river or mountain range. Maybe someone took two yeasts and let them mix and produced a cake of yeast that seemed to work better than either separately. It's kind of like crossing vines to get a grape you like, no? So I'm not sure any of those are no longer natural. It's interesting that people don't object to planting specific clones of a grape but they have an issue with using a specific strain of yeast. Like many things with wine evaluation, it's rather arbitrary.

Moreover, even if your grapes start fermenting "spontaneously", unless you plate the yeast and examine it, you never know whether it's because of a yeast that blew in from the big co-op down the road or from something your neighbor was experimenting with that he picked up from a laboratory.

And then there are the biodynamic producers. They try to be as "organic" as possible and have concocted a brainless rationale to give their behavior a "spiritual" or "cosmic" gloss.

As mentioned above, sulfur is usually added to wine to help it keep - it's an anti-oxidant and without it, you run the risk of spoiling the wine. But some people still bottle "sans soufre" or without sulfur. That's usually considered OK by organic people because it's an element you find naturally in the ground, although clearly there is nothing whatsoever "organic" about sulfur. Too much sulfur can affect the taste of the wine but very little is usually added. As far as I know, there is no scientific evidence anywhere that demonstrates a correlation between sulfur or sulfites and headaches, notwithstanding the fact that many people make the claim.

So that's that. As far as NYC, you can try Chambers Street, Astor, and Frankly WInes in Manhattan, Sip in Brooklyn, Court Square Wines in Queens. All of them look for organic producers.

Reply by po54, Aug 28, 2009.

Reliable indication for european and french organic wines.
These logos must be on the label :

left : the new european "organic certified" logo
right : the french "organic certified" logo (would not exist anymore next year)

Reply by Stephanie516, Aug 28, 2009.

Thanks this is really helpful!

Reply by jtutor, Sep 14, 2009.

stephanie... there are wines that go far beyond the "organically" grown principle, if you are truly interested in a healthy, organic, natural wine, then you might want to try exactly that, "Natural WInes". Natural Wines are from small low tech producers that don't use chemicals in the vineyards but unlike 99.99% of the wine you see in the markets, do not use chemicals in the winery either. New York and Paris are the only two notable natural wine markets in the world as of now so you lucked out. For wine shops I would recommend going to West Side Wine on Columbus @ 83rd, or Nancy's Wines, also on Columbus somewhere in the high seventies I believe.. In brooklyn go to Slope Street Cellars or Scotto's... I would recommend going to eat at Ten Bells, great tapas and all there wine is natural, or very close to it.

try these links...

Reply by Zobie, Jan 14, 2010.

Going back to vegan wines, does anyone know if Chalk Hill is vegan? I contacted them and never got a response. Isinglass is used in a lot of wineries during the refinery process. Isinglass is a collagen obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish. I am not a vegan but my husband is, and I'd like to be able to purchase wines that we can both enjoy. Thanks for any feedback you may have.

Reply by amour, Jan 19, 2010.

D.O NAVARRA in Northern Central Spain recently showcased three
certified ORGANIC WINES.
NAVARRA is located between BORDEAUX and RIOJA.

NAVARRA's owner, ERIC MILLER, also launched the EARTH 3.0 (TIERRA) 2008 vintage.
Recently, a 2005 RESERVA was also released.

Both CHILE and ARGENTINA also have organic wineries.

Reply by amour, Jan 19, 2010.


WINE MADE FROM GRAPES that have been grown without the
use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides.

At the winery, the wine-making techniques should be organic....
no manipulation or very little if any,
no additives, no flavouring, no excessive filtration,
and they should use wild yeasts.

In the USA, wines labelled ORGANIC, should not
contain sulfites.

Some wines actually have sulfites but are otherwise organic.....
in those cases they are labelled..."WINES MADE FROM ORGANIC GRAPES".

do have organic vineyards and grow 8 BORDEAUX grapes, each as a varietal wine.

I went to an ORGANIC WINE SEMINAR and learnt a thing or two.

Reply by elleystar, Jan 19, 2010.

I just came across this organic winery today:
They also have a no-sulphur-added line. Their 'live a little' line of wines are supposed to be around $9 a bottle too. I have little hope of finding it around here but in a bigger city you might have some luck. I have tried a wine by Badger Mountain a few years ago that was organic, but I don't remember it being too great. I may have to buy some again now that I know more.
One of our liquor stores sells wine by Greener Planet that is organic and around $15 a bottle. I have tried this one
and I really liked it.

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 20, 2010.

A great read, btw, is At Home in the Vineyard: Cultivating a Winery, an Industry, and a Life, by Susan Sokol Blosser. She began one of the first wineries in the Willamette valley of Oregon. In her book, amongst other things, she talks about her desire to go fully sustainable and organic, AND of the difficulties of doing so...

A couple of Napa wineries I personally know of that have gone at least MOSTLY organic, and also practice sustainability, are Casa Nuestra Winery and Robert Sinskey Vineyards. Do an internet search to find out more, but I do know that Sinskey has done a LOT to go green. Here are some links: (list of CA wineries that are organic)

Sorry, but CA wines are my favs and my knowledge base. Most you can order online... try the individual sites or

Reply by amour, Jan 20, 2010.

Apparently there are more wineries that are ORGANIC than meets the eye.

I was told that some ORGANIC WINERIES are escaping costs of CERTIFICATION
and therefore do not carry ORGANIC or any indication that they are, on their bottles,
but nevertheless, they are loyally following organic practices.

Many wineries also follow BIODYNAMIC wine-making practices according to the guidelines laid down by the AUSTRIAN anthropologist RUDOLPH STEINER 1861-1925.
These teachings of STEINER incorporate HOMEOPATHIC treatments,
astronomical and astrological considerations, into the organic process.

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