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100% Organic Wines that are good wine??

This is a tangent from the topic I began on Wine and Headaches @[http://www.chowhound.com/topics/352833]

My original question was about the causes of wine heaches and why people say they get headaches from wine at home in the US, but not when travelling in Europe. The responses, especially the one with the link the a group of articles on exactly that subject really put this into perfect perspective.

To whatever extent people really do get headaches specifically from sulfites in wine, a possible answer for them could be 100% organic wines (no sulfites added, and from what I've learned also almost no measurable sulfites present because natural levels dissipate when no more are added).

BUT..... have you tasted 100% organic wine? The few I've tried have been badly oxidized, with substantially degraded color and aromas that approach medicinal. They are NOT enjoyable in the context of the wines I've grown to love or even the ones I've learned to tolerate.

Anyone have experience with 100% organic wine? Can you name some that you would say taste good? Maybe not great, but at least good?

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  1. you might be interested in this thread from a few months ago

    I posted my French biodynamic list there . . . it's a pretty long thread

    1. I know that the wines from the Wachau region of Austria have to follow what they call the "Codex Wachau" (no additives, etc. etc.), and they are considered to be world-class white wines. On a more personal level, I have tried quite a few and have found them to be great (I am a bit of an Austrian wine fan, as you could see from my previous posts!)
      You can read more at http://www.vinea-wachau.at

      1. Keep in mind that all "organic" wines are not equal. Wines from the EU which are "organic" may not qualify as "organic" under U.S. standards, and vice-versa. IIRC, each permits some thing(s) the other does not.

        A lot of people say "organic" when they mean "no sulfites," and sulfites are present in all wine. (See my post in the original "Wine and Headaches" thread re: sulfite levels.)

        I've had some decent *purely organic* wines, but only soon after they are bottled. Far too many oxydize soon after bottling -- as you've already discovered -- and can be EXTREMELY disappointing.

        I have never had a wine labeled "organic" (look for the "COOF" seal" on California=made wines, for example) that I thought was exceptional, or even great. Sorry.

        1. Beaucastel is certified organic, and a lot more than good.

          3 Replies
          1. re: tdo ca

            I may be wrong, but I believe Chateau de Beaucastel is biodynamic, not organic. They are two different things.

            1. re: zin1953

              I thought it was the reverse of that! - anyway, here's an interesting link to their vineyard practices for those interested.


              1. re: zin1953

                Beaucastel isn't mentioned in Waldin's *Biodynamic Wines*. And the Perrins refer to themselves as organic:

                Also: "Thomas Perrin said it’s easy to be organic in the Rhône: 'it’s easier than in Alsace!' But he stressed they’re definitely not biodynamic: 'it’s too much,' he said, before ridiculing some biodynamic practices."

            2. Many french wines are organic and don't advertise it. Even though the organic movement is a really good thing its treated as a marketing tool here. A lot of french winemakers dont feel the need to asvertise being organic or biodynamic for that matter, but I cant tell you how to figure out which ones are and aren't. Maybe someone's out there with a little more info?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Carmelizedbunions

                I do not know how to cut-and-paste an image into Chowhound, but the French use a symbol that looks a bit like a yin-and-yang -- that's the symbol for "biodynamie."

              2. If it will serve to re-focus this topic, what I am looking for are wines with NO SULFITES ADDED. In the US they would be labeled "100% Organic""No Sulfites Added".

                While there is certainly other value to organic and biodynamic product, I am looking for reasonably good wine for people with either allergy to sulfites or who feel sulfites give them headaches.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Midlife

                  Before you seek out only Sulfite Free wines, which in my experience are horrendous, try eating some dried fruits like apricots, berries and such. They are treated with WAY more sulfites than wine. If you have no reactions from the dried fruits then you don't have an allergy to sulfites. It's possible that the histimines are what's bothering you. That's also very rare, but another possibility. Keep in mind too that white wines are generally treated with more sulfites than reds.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    As I posted below, you may want to check out:


                    One of the important parts of that webpage is the following paragraph: "To be labeled 'Organic' and bear the USDA organic seal, the wine must be made from at least 95% organic ingredients, have an ingredient statement on the label where organic ingredients are identified as being organic, and give information about who the certifying agency is. Again, a wine in this category cannot have any added sulfites, but it is allowed to have naturally occurring sulfites below100 parts per million. The nonorganic 5% must either be a nonorganically produced agricultural ingredient that is not organically available or another substance like added yeast."

                    Most "commercial" wines have LESS than 100ppm of sulfites -- indeed, often less than 30ppm. So if sulfites are the concern . . . .

                  2. In response to your question: try Couturri wines. Phil Couturri who makes the wines is also the vineyard manager for several Sonoma County wineries. He makes his own wines and they all have no sulfites added.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chickstein

                      Once upon a time, I used to be a professional wine writer. I did an article on "organic wine" back in the 1980s, when very few wineries were even thinking this way , and there were no "certifications."

                      The two wineries that were the then-leading producers were Frey Vineyards and H. Coturri & Sons. Johnathan Frey proudly told me that all their grapes were grown organically. But they used commercially available yeast, innoculated for malo and made wine the "regular" way. Tony Coturri proudly told me they made their wines in a completely organic way -- no added yeast, no SO2, no "nothing" in the winery. I asked him about the grapes, and he replied, "Oh, I don't know -- we buy those." (Now, today, Coturri has organic vineayrds, but . . . )

                      Who knows?

                      For the record, some of the WORST wines I've ever had from California have come from Coturri . . . and while some of their wines have been quite good, the memories of the "bad" ones a) outnumber the good ones, and b) always make me hesitate recommending them. But I know others who recommend them highly, so . . . try some for yourself and see!

                      1. re: zin1953

                        I agree 100% with you. I am not a fan of wines without sulfites personally. As you stated, the number of bad ones far outweigh the number of good ones. I have had Coutorri wines and they are generally very good. Phil Couturri was at one time, I am not sure about now, the vineyard manager for Richard Arrowood and Tom Smother's. Both make incredible wines. His vineyard practices are 100% organic, as are a lot of California vineyards, they just chose NOT to put it on the label, for a number of reasons.

                    2. For more information as to what constitutes "organic wine," check out:


                      1. I was the one who started the organic/biodynamic thread cited above. We liked all the wines we tried at our recent tasting, but we didn't pay much attention to the sulfite levels, partly because we're lucky (no sulfite-sensitive people in our group), but mostly because low-sulfite wines are very hard to find.


                        The sulfite issue is really complicated, especially since standards vary between the US and other countries. I believe that if a US wine is labeled "100% Organic", it does not contain any added sulfites. Note that biodynamic standards allow wine to have added sulfites, so biodynamic wines aren't necessarily the answer (although we loved the Patianna bd Sauvignon Blanc from our tasting).

                        I found these sulfite-related web sites in my research:




                        I really liked Coturri Red back when I could find it locally (5 or 6 years ago). It doesn't have added sulfites, and is (or was) a really gutsy, powerful, interesting wine. But no-one in town carries it - they say the quality is too variable and they've been burned by bad wine.

                        According to my local wine store, other organic wines with no added sulfur include Our Daily Red and Organic Wine Works Radical Red. My store carries these wines because there's a customer demand, but say they're not very good.

                        If you do go for low-sulfite wines, drink them young - within 6 months of bottling for whites, and 1 year (or less) for reds.

                        Good luck in your quest for a headache-free wine! Here's an older chowhound thread on this topic - perhaps there are some useful hints therein.



                        1 Reply
                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Keep in mind that the average sulfite content in California wines today is somewhere around 30-40ppm. And while Federal regulations mandate the words, "Contains Sulfites" or the more romantic sounding, "Contains Sulfiting Agent" (?!?!?) is the wine contains more than 10ppm, accoring to the lab director, they've never tested a sample that was below 30ppm. (When I asked him what they do about wines proclaiming to be under, he replied, "We take their word for it.")

                          Back in the 1950s and 1960s, it was quite a different story -- most American wines contained significantly higher levels. The legal maximum was 300 -- with TWO ZEROS after the three -- parts per million. In the 1970s, the Germans began doing research on lowering sulfite levels in wine, and found that wines would be fine with far less. As I said, most wineries shoot for a level of approximately 30-40ppm.

                          One word of warning: larger bottles -- think low-end jug wines -- will often have a higher level of sulfites than the same wine placed in "regular sized" (750ml) bottles. The whole purpose of sulfite addition is to inhibit oxidation and have that last glass out of the gallon (sorry, 3.0L or 4.0L) jug be as "fresh-tasting" as the first. Bag-in-the-box wines were supposed to reduce the need for additional sulfites between the "regular" bottle and the larger container.