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6 Terms to be Aware of on Your Wine Label

If wine is your thing, you may want to take these labels into consideration the next time you buy to make sure you have only the highest quality.

If you’re a hard-core “I-avoid-all-toxins-at-all-costs” kind of person, you might want to skip this article. But if you like to pair your healthful meals with an occasional glass of fermented grape juice, we’ve got some information for you to roll around on your tongue. Cheers!

wine_vineyard_grapes_green_red_alchohol_labels_picMany of us embrace the concept of eating organically whenever possible, and a few have even committed the “Dirty Dozen” (twelve of the most heavily sprayed conventional crops) to memory and work to avoid them. One of the unclean twelve is the grape. Because grapes have so many insect predators, most vineyards in the United States—like their vegetable growing counterparts—use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. The thin skin of the grape does not offer much protection from the 35 different pesticides used as a standard in conventional vineyards, a number of which are suspected carcinogens.

Label Terms to be Familiar With


Many wineries grow grapes without added chemicals, and yet choose not to be certified as organic. The reason for such a decision may be cost-driven, or it could be that the winery does not agree with the established principles for certification. Whatever the reasoning, these wineries cannot use organic on their labels. When a wine label says organic, that wine has met the standards set by a government agency, and different countries have different standards for certification.

100% Organic

In the United States, 100% Organic carries the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) seal, which indicates that the wine has been monitored throughout the production process, and is made from 100% organically grown ingredients. No pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers are allowed on the vines or in the soil.


Organicwine can also bear the USDA organic seal and indicates the wine has 95% organically grown ingredients. Both 100% Organic and Organic can contain only naturally occurring sulfites, in less than 100 parts per million. (This restriction makes stability a challenge in wine production, and is probably wine_vineyards_grapes_colorful_sun_healthy_picwhy American organic wines are considered by some to be inferior.)

Made with Organic Grapes

This onemeans the wine contains at least 70% organic ingredients. It may also contain artificial sulfites. It does not qualify for the USDA organic seal.


Biodynamicis a term that refers to the teachings of Rudolph Steiner, a 20th century Austrian philosopher. Biodynamic is based on the observation and balance of nature: not only is it 100% organic, the grower may make their own compost and take astrological considerations into the growing process.


Vegan wines are those that contain no animal products. Bear in mind that winemakers—whether organic or conventional—are not required to indicate on the label that they use animal by-products as refining agents to clarify wine. For example, casein—a milk protein—is sometimes used to make wine taste softer, gelatin may be added to remove bitterness, and red wine may contain egg whites, which is used as a brightening agent.

Should I Drink It?

wine_grapes_red_vineyard_organic_pesticides_picPerhaps you believe—as Ernest Hemingway once said—that “wine is the most civilized thing in the world,” or you may agree with Thomas Becon that “when wine is in, the wit is out.” Either way, whether you choose to imbibe or not is up to you. If you do decide to tipple, organic, biodynamic, or vegan are good things to look for on the label.

Check out three more reasons to choose organic.

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