Go Green with Organic Wines

By Maureen Sangiorgio

I am sitting on my deck with my feet propped up on the railing, holding a glass of wine. The sun warms my face and rolls over me like a loving embrace–life, my friends, is good. New research suggests that wine has been a source of relaxation and enjoyment for man since the start of the earliest civilizations in 8,500 B.C.  While much has changed from the days when wine was fermented in animal skin pouches, viniculture–or the study of wine cultivation–is still evolving. One of the more recent developments in the market has been the introduction of organically produced wines.

Located on Seneca Lake in New York, Four Chimneys was the first certified organic winery in North America, having produced their first bottle in 1980.Today, there are upwards of 2000 organic wineries across the globe, meeting the demand of consumers looking to purchase a more natural alternative to traditional wines.  Organic wines are produced using organically grown grapes. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, synthetic chemicals, or preservatives of any kind are allowed on the vines or in the soil.


“Anytime you buy an organic product, you’re going green because you’re supporting practices that keep toxic chemicals out of our soil, air, and water,” says Maya Rodale, Director of Communications and Outreach, Rodale Institute. “Toxic residues in our environment are costly to clean up. Wine is no exception. Purchasing organic wine is another opportunity to be Earth-friendly.”

Another reason to buy organic wine is the health aspect. “These chemicals can cause numerous health problems, from ADHD to cancer,” notes Maya. “Going organic reduces your intake of pesticide residue. The President’s Cancer Panel recently suggested Americans try to reduce their intake of pesticides to reduce their cancer risk. Grapes are one of the Environmental Working Group’s ‘dirty dozen,’ which means they are among the most contaminated. I’ve read that grapes contain up to 34 different pesticide residues. These chemicals get in to the fruit, not just on the surface of the fruit, so washing the grapes doesn’t remove it all.”

Another health benefit of consuming organic wine is that it does not contain added preservatives, such as sulfites. While sulfites are present in all wines and are formed as a natural product of the fermentation process, it is important to note that many non-organic wine producers add the sulfur dioxide in order to help preserve wine. Sulfites in wine can cause some people, particularly those with food allergies and asthma, to have adverse reactions. If you suspect you may be allergic or intolerant to the preservatives
in wine, contact your physician. He may suggest

you keep a food diary where you can write down everything you ate or drank. You may notice a pattern of symptoms, such as rosy cheeks, headache, sinus trouble, or asthma attacks, following consuming foods or beverages that contain added preservatives such as sulfites.


Wine is big business in Pennsylvania. We are the fifth-largest wine grape producer in the country, according to the Pennsylvania Winery Association. There are 104 licensed wineries in Pennsylvania, up 24% from 84 in 2003.

While there are no certified organic wineries in the Lehigh Valley, there are plenty of places to buy organic wine. “Organic wine is more available than ever before with new varieties in many locations across the state,” says Stacy Kriedeman, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. “As a result, sales of organic wine have almost doubled in the past year.” Organic labels to look for in local stores include Bonterra, Frey Vineyard, and Organic Wine Works.

According to Kriedeman, organic wine is available at most Pennsylvania liquor stores, but the largest collections are available in Pennsylvania at all Premium Collection stores. In the Lehigh Valley, that includes the following locations:  Crest Plaza Shopping Center, Allentown; 2303 Mickley Avenue, Whitehall; The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, Center Valley; and Northampton Crossings, Easton, PA. Our closest certified organic winery is Pocono Limited Winery in Stroudsburg.


According to Rebecca Pichetto, sommelier and owner, Vintage Restaurant and Bar, The Club at Morgan Hill in Easton, which organic wine you choose depends on what kind of wine you like best. “It really doesn’t matter if the wine is organic or not, most people know what they like as a starting point. Wines are categorized as more fruit-forward, which are the sweeter wines, or less fruit-forward, which are the drier wines. A more fruit-forward wine will have sweet, berry notes. A less fruit-forward wine will have drier, oaky notes. Regarding white wines, if you like a crisper, acidic wine, you’ll probably like a Pinot Grigio. But if you prefer a white that’s more rounded and buttery, your taste leans toward a California Chardonnay.”

As for pairings, Pichetto suggests abandoning the strict rules of white wine with white meat, such as chicken, pork, and fish, and red wine with red meat such as steaks and spicy dishes. “I recommend pairing food body to wine body. Lighter body foods pair well with lighter body wines. Pinot Noir is a light-bodied wine which pairs well with salmon. Chianti is a full-bodied red which pairs well with spicy Italian dishes.”

Whether you’re buying organic or non-organic wine, Pichetto does have some advice to wine drinkers. “Choosing wine should be fun. So many people get in a rut of drinking the same kind of wine all the time. Be adventurous. Discover a new label. For example, if your favorite wine is a French Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a dry red imported from France, ask the server, sommelier, or even the clerk at your local wine and spirits shop to suggest an Italian dry red, such as Chianti. Or an Australian blended dry red such as a Shiraz Cabernet. You can even ask the staff what is popular right now, and discover a new wine.”

While buying organic wines can be more expensive than non-organic wines because the wines cost more to produce (due to lower fruit yields per season), Pichetto encourages their purchase as often as you can swing it. “By buying organic wines you are supporting the smaller wineries, which are often individual or family-run operations. For the most part, organic wineries are not large corporations.  It’s a great idea to help you go green, and you are directly supporting small wineries that are environmentally conscious.”

Editorial Intern Carli S. Timpson also contributed to this article.

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