Organically Grown Grapes and What Else?

This entry is not intended to be an attack on the vineyard or winery practices of a particular winery, but instead an open question into the short-comings associated with listing ingredients of wine on the label.  I support putting wine ingredients on the label.  In my opinion, consumers should be able to know when acid, sugar, oak chips, coloring, fining and filtering agents have been used in the production of their wine.  As of this morning, the only ingredient that wineries are obligated to list on their label is sulfites.  No matter the amount of sulfites added to a wine, wineries must print “contains sulfites” on the label.

While walking through a retail store earlier this week, I came across this label from a fairly well known Napa, California winemaker.  I’ve blacked out the name of the winery not because I am afraid of offending them, but I wish not to pick on them in particular – listing only grapes as the ingredient on the back label of a bottle is a fairly common practice.

The winery produces a number of wines – all of them sound and proper examples of Bordeaux blends coming from California.  Their label alludes to their use of organically grown grapes.  And the winery’s website goes further and proudly explains that their organic practices are certified.  I applaud both their efforts – more wineries should follow suit.

Organically Grown Grapes and...?

Plenty is added and taken away during the wine making process – even when a wine is produced in an organic and/or biodynamic manner.  However, when a winery (and I am sure this winery isn’t the only winery who does this) lists organically grown grapes as the only ingredient, is this effort more self serving than an attempt to be honest with the consumer?

Listed below are a few processes that add ingredients to wine as it is finished in the winery.



Use of oak chips or oak staves

Fining and/or filtering agents such as bentonite, egg whites, etc…

Addition of sulfur (listed, but how much?)

Yeast (especially certain types of cultured yeasts used to add or guide flavor enhancement)

I didn’t make the wine above, but chances are there is more than organically grown grapes and sulfites in the bottle.