Wine Down and Chill: is Organic Better?

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on August 2, 2019

Ready to wine down and chill? Do you want to see your photo featured in our column? If yes, then send it to me! While you’re at it, send me your favorite wine, recipe or suggest a theme for a future article. Did you like those icy grapes last week?!

If you’re ready to wine down and chill, then you’ve come to the right place. Return here each Friday to find a food & wine column that’s fun to read and suggests terrific wine-movie pairings that go with the theme. You never know what’s next for our  “Wine Down for the Weekend” column. Read on for an easy-to-prepare-at-home no-need-for-a-recipe fabulous dinner paired with an affordable wine and a viewing suggestion. We’re here to help you sit back, wine down and chill. 

Once you go organic …

You never go back. Or so the saying goes. But is it justified?

Yes and no. Organic farming offers improvement with regards to pesticide use: only 25 synthetic compounds are FDA-approved for crop control in organic farming whereas over 900 have been approved for traditional farming. So yes, that means that your organic produce may contain pesticides. However, organic farmers do work diligently to minimize exposure to toxins and make efforts to overturn some crops then let the land lay fallow every few years to replenish nutrients lost in the soils.

Last year, a provocative study was published in Nature (perhaps the most highly revered scientific journal on the planet) which revealed that organic farming is not sustainable. Specifically, larger amounts of land are needed to yield the same crop load, greenhouse gas emissions are greater and hence, have a greater negative effect on climate change. And, cross-pollination by our dwindling bee population is wreaking havoc on corn and other crops which are being routinely contaminated by GMO plants.

We’ve just covered organic farming, but you may also be curious about biodynamic and sustainable farming. With biodynamic farming, moon phases, weather patterns, and other natural phenomenon drive the timing of farming practices including fertilizing to watering. Sustainable farming is sort of like organic-plus farming where practices that minimize environmental impact and stress, reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and the disruption of the ecosystem.

What about sulfites?

Next, let’s debunk that sulfites myth. Contrary to popular belief, sulfites do not cause hangovers, the evidence simply doesn’t support this theory. Ironically, this the primary reasons people cite for the reason why they select organic wines. Consumers are increasingly buying organic wines although winemakers are no longer emphasizing the use of organic grapes as the primary growing regions already practice more natural and sustainable farming practices.

One thing to note is that reduced or no sulfites in organic wines reduces their shelf life. Sulfites are actually a natural by-product of fermentation and exist in dried fruits, frozen potatoes, jams, soups and many other foods we consume daily. True, some people are allergic or sensitive to sulfites (fewer than 1 in 100). Thankfully, allergic though I am to just about everything, wine is still on the safe list for me – whew!

An organic wine down and chill

Sooooo, based on everything I just wrote, organics are not all that.

That said, for any night to wine down and chill, I really like this organic Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc. The Bonterra Winery practices both organic and biodynamic farming and is deeply committed to the environment. They even use natural materials like soil, lavender, beets, and other materials to dye their pretty labels and logo-garments.

Plus, at $14/bottle, this wine tastes wonderfully refreshing with its citrus (grapefruit) notes and clean palette. It has fairly high acidity which makes it taste fresh and crisp. And the notes of just-cut-grass make it reminiscent of all things summer which we need to celebrate – because we’re only 16 weeks away from the risk of snowfall! Insert head-exploding emoji…

Organic wines have actually been around for a while. Over 30 years ago, The Organic Wine Company opened its doors outside San Francisco. The Europeans were a little ahead of the game (aren’t they always?!) and began cultivating grapes for wine organically in the 1960s era of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Today, fewer than 5% of all vineyards have organic farming and less than 1% of all wines produced carry an organic label. Surprisingly, it really hasn’t caught on.

Another interesting tidbit: the Europeans and Canadians have different standards than the USA when it comes to sulfites. First, they spell it sulphites, secondly, their wines *may* carry sulfites. In the USA, organic wines cannot have sulfites in order to be labeled as such. So, if you do have allergies or sensitivities, take note! 

A refreshing summer salad

This is one of my favorite summer dishes. It’s easy, fabulous and even the pickiest eaters like it. Plus, it transports well as picnic and tailgate fare and it’s a nice alternative to the standard spinach and artichoke dip or pasta salad that is just. So. Overdone. Today’s summer salad is a meal in of itself or you can offer it as a side dish paired with whatever meaty-thing you want to cook up on the grill. And, it’s bright and colorful!

Five-plus ingredients and five steps

One, if you can’t get your hands on fresh, organic edamame shelled from their pods, then boil some water. Toss in a bag of frozen edamame. I like the products offered by Trader Joe’s.

Two, ditto if you don’t feel like boiling a corn cob and scraping off the kernels. Reach for your freezer option! Toss in the corn with the edamame. Boil both for 2-3 min max.

Three, dice a few ribs of celery and slice up a container of organic grape tomatoes.

Four, open an XL can of black beans and dump them into a strainer. Pour the boiling water, corn, and edamame right over the beans to drain the “bean juice” out.

Five, toss in some crushed garlic, paper-thin sliced red onion, the juice of one lime, sea salt and olive oil to taste. Chop up about half of a bunch of cilantro. Stir everything together.

Pour yourself a glass of that refreshing Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc. Now you can wine down and chill.

For the long haul

Last week, I got on a bit of a documentary kick. Shark Week always bring it out in me, haha! The movie, Sustainable, is all about reconnecting with the farmers and all those who produce the foods that we consume. It brings the perspective of responsibility around the concept that we are indebted to our ancestors and we need to pay that debt forward by practicing sustainable farming so that future generations will have food to eat. Blending science, psychology and agriculture, the movie presents an interesting perspective on mindful eating.

Ok, while summer is still here, relax, raise your glass then wine down and chill.


By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Dr. Loralyn Mears is a Columnist at Grit Daily and a podcast host (The Grit Files, which aims to shine the spotlight on female founders). She is a content marketer, founder of the WORKtech startup, STEERus, specializing in personal and professional development to address gaps in soft skills - communication in particular. In her consultancy practice, she helps clients with content and strategy. Loralyn spent over a decade playing with mosquito DNA, got her PhD, decided she would rather market science than be at the bench and has never looked back. Along the way, she’s wined and dined her way around the globe. She's authored two books, including the 2018 Gold Medal Indie Book award-winning, One Sip At a Time: a Memoir and the hard science thriller, "The Battle for Humanity: How Science Saved Us." 

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