The Truth About 'Organic' Wine, Sulphites And Hangovers

We decode the fact from the fiction!

When it comes to wine and wellness, it’s an endless debate… can the two ever go hand-in-hand? Whether you’re in winter cosying up with a full bodied red or festival going with a frosé in hand, the question on everyone’s lips is… is organic (or biodynamic) better? And more importantly, can we save ourselves a hangover and be back at the gym the next morning? 
To get to the bottom of it, Amodrn decided to do some investigating (all in the name of wellness of course!), to settle the fact from fiction once and for all, by looking at the science!

Fact or fiction: Organic wine tastes better than non-organic?

FACT: In an analysis of over 74,000 wines, the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability found that when the two were compared, wine experts rated certified organic grapes a higher rating than the ‘conventionally processed’ wine.

Fact or fiction: A wine labelled ‘organic’ is naturally the preferred go-to!

FICTION: In a University of California study, consumers were asked to select a wine based on label alone. The seasoned wine connoisseurs turned out to only opt for organic wine when the mainstream wines were from a region believed to produce low-quality wine. 
However, if the wine was produced in an area acclaimed for its wine making skills, then consumers would rather choose the wine based on the area they know to be good, rather than whether it has an ‘organic’ label.
As a result of this, interestingly, most certified organic wineries in California are said to choose not to display ‘organic’ on their wine labels just to avoid the risk of not being chosen.

organic wine
Image: iStock

Fact or fiction: ‘Organic’ means no preservatives or sulphites

FACT AND FICTION: If you buy organic, you can be assured that no additional preservatives or sulphites have been added (look out for ‘contains sulphites’ and ‘preservative 220’ to be sure!). The idea of organic is that it is free of additional preservatives that often get added in the winemaking process, while also assuring the grapes are free of chemical fertilizer and pesticide contamination.
However, in saying that, while you can be assured you aren’t purchasing wine with additional suphites, it’s not to say no sulphur will show up in the wine, as technically, sulphur dioxide can be a natural product of fermentation, but it is in a form that is very much bound up in the wine, rather than in a free and active state, according to Organic Wine. Translation; while you can buy organic it doesn’t necessarily mean completely sulphite free. 

Fact or fiction: ‘Natural’ is the same as ‘organic’

FICTION: For a wine to be organic it has to be certified by the country of origin’s guidelines. In Australia, the two peak bodies for ‘organic’ wine certification are Australian Certified Organic (ACO) and the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA). 
In the US, it’s slightly different, they fall in one of two categories—‘Made with Organically Grown Grapes’ or ‘Organic.’ While both are approved as 100% USDA Certified Organically Grown Grapes, if you want no sulfites added, then you need to check for the USDA organic seal on the label, whereas those organic but with sulfites are usually approved under the Demeter certified Biodynamic guidelines. 
Whether you’re in Aus or the US, keep your eye out for one of the above’s organisational logos to be on the safe side!

organic wine
Image: iStock

Fact or fiction: ‘Organic’ equals no hangover

FICTION: It’s safe to say, if we’re being completely real about it, consuming any amount of alcohol in excess no matter how ‘organic’ it is, will still tend to result in a hangover. 
However, in saying this, part of organic wine certification in Australia means it contains A LOT less sulphur dioxide (220) than conventional non-organic wine. In fact, organic only has up to 150 parts per million (ppm) while non-organic can have up to 300 per million in Australia. 
So theory has it, if you are sensitive to sulphites then sure, drinking organic wine will make you less susceptible to a reaction, but there’s no direct link to say sulphite-free equals no hangover. 
However, a study has found that sulphite sensitivity can show up as a myriad of symptoms including wheezing, dyspnea, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, hives, generalised itching and swelling, tingling sensations, flushing, hypotension, shock and loss of consciousness. So, suffice to say, if you’re worried about about any kind of sensitivity, stick to organic!

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