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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is kosher wine? Is it different from organic wine?

—W. Cheong, Malaysia

Dear W.,

The terms "kosher" and "organic" are different and not interchangeable, but not mutually exclusive. Wines can be kosher, or organic, or neither, or both.

Kosher wines are made following a set of rules consistent with Jewish dietary laws. They must be made under the supervision of a rabbi, contain only kosher yeast and kosher fining agents, and processed using equipment that's certified kosher.

Wine may be considered "organic" in three different ways: it could be made from organically grown grapes (without pesticides); it could be produced organically (with only naturally occurring sulfites, but none added); or it could be both grown organically and produced organically.

A word on sulfites. A small percentage of the population is sensitive to sulfites and looks for sulfite-free wines. Sulfites are natural byproducts of wine production, and many winemakers add additional sulfites to help stabilize and preserve the wine. This is all perfectly legal (and, for most, harmless) stuff. Kosher laws do allow the addition of sulfites, and wines made from organically grown grapes may contain added sulfites. Only organically produced wines have minimal levels of sulfites. They tend to have their own problems, but that's a different topic.

—Dr. Vinny

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