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What are the health benefits of organic wine?

Esther Mobley
Posted: March 5, 2014

Q: What are the health benefits of organic wine? —Greg M., Boston

A: When it comes to wines that are labeled as "organic," there are two tiers. If a bottle carries the USDA seal, its grapes must be farmed organically, its other agricultural ingredients (such as yeast) must also be organic, and no sulfites may be added to it. On the other hand, wines labeled as "made with organic grapes" are just that: These wines are vinified from organically farmed fruit, but sulfites may be added, and there are looser requirements for its other ingredients.

It's not clear that such wine has any special health benefits that regular wine doesn't have. For one thing, sulfites are a problem for only a very small portion of the population. Second, some wine lovers worry about the use of pesticides, but the presence of certain chemicals in the vineyard hardly guarantees their presence at problematic levels in your glass. In fact, a 2013 French study found that its sample wines did not have detectable levels of pesticides or other chemical residues.

Whether you are comfortable buying food products that were farmed with pesticides is a matter of personal choice, and health is not the only variable involved. Some people prefer organic wines because they believe they are environmentally responsible choices.

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