Is organic wine better for you?

With plenty of chilly winter nights ahead, it’s hard to resist those comfort dishes at dinnertime – which of course require a robust glass of red with them. That hearty beef and vegetable stew is hopefully loaded with fresh, organic veggies to ensure you get the maximum nutritional benefits from your meal. But would pairing your plate with an organic wine offer you added health benefits too? Or is it all just hype?

Organic wines, says Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA), are made from organically grown grapes - this means without chemical pesticides, fertilisers, herbicides or fungicides. If this is the case, natural forms of pest control and fertilization were part of the life cycle of the grapes in the vineyard that eventually landed up at your table. This certainly makes it healthier for the environment, but what about you?

You’re protecting yourself from a host of chemicals, says Julie Field of Intowine.com. “Typically, as many as 18 different chemicals are used on non-organically grown grape crops during their growing cycle. These chemicals are absorbed through the skins of the fruit and seep into the soil around the vine’s root system, and inevitably these chemical residues make it into your wine,” she says.

We already know that drinking red wine has health benefits (when drunk in moderation, naturally). According to the Organic Consumer Organization organic wines average 32 percent higher resveratrol levels than regular wines. This is an antioxidant that has been shown to protect against cancer, heart disease and is anti-aging. Note that organic wines are not necessarily sulfite free. Sulfites are used to preserve wine and can trigger allergies in sensitive individuals.

Look for the labels USDA Organic or ECOCERT in South Africa if you want to ensure the wine you are purchasing is certified organic. Local labels to look out for include Reyneke, Avondale, Waverley Hills, Laibach, Lazanou, Upland, Stellar, Org de Rac and Bon Cap. Tukulu, Rooiberg and Woolworths have organic, no sulphur-added or sustainable-specific ranges.

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