Taking a Sip in The Right Direction

Here’s how to make sense of health-conscious wine labels, so you can find the cleanest bottle of rosé.

By: Karyn Trepanier
Taking a Sip in The Right Direction

If you’ve ever wondered if wine counts as its own food group, you’ve also likely hunted for the healthiest wine to pour a glass of (or two, or three..we’re not judging). The trouble is that the more research you do, the more confusing healthy wine labels seem to be. Natural, organic, biodynamic, sulfite-free. With so many healthy wine labels to make sense of and even more confusion surrounding sulfites, how can you really know you’re taking a sip in the right direction? 

“No Sulfites Added” is a label you’ve likely come across while trying to pick out a health-conscious vino. Sulfites are often blamed for everything from headaches to hangovers. There’s a common misconception that regular wine isn’t a healthy option to drink because of them and some organic wines are also stamped with the dreaded “Contains Sulfites” label, leaving many wine shoppers scratching their heads.

What’s the deal with sulfites? 

“One major myth that needs to be dispelled about sulfites is that all wines made with organic and biodynamic grapes have no sulfites, and are a great product for people who have allergic reactions or digestive problems,” Ann Arnold, founder of The Organic Wine Exchange, explains. “It’s true that all wines made with organic grapes are low in added sulfites, but if you are truly allergic to sulfites, what you should be looking for is a product that says, ‘No Sulfites Added’ or wines that have the USDA organic label.” 

Sulfites are a chemical compound used in the winemaking process to preserve wine. Some people say they have a sensitivity to them and experience migraines, stomachaches, and even rashes when they drink wine. But, Ann Arnold points out that winemakers aren’t required to list every ingredient used. Sensitivities to wine could also be caused by other undisclosed, more harmful additives. “If you find that you can drink white wine and not red, it’s not the sulfites,” she recently explained to rē•spin. Red wine contains far fewer sulfites than white wine, certified organic or not. Raise a glass of cold, sparkling red this summer if you have a mild sulfite sensitivity. 

Sulfites don’t have to be a deal-breaker when it comes to drinking wine though (unless you have a severe allergy). There isn’t a lot of evidence that sulfites affect your health negatively and all wine actually contains some sulfites that occur naturally, most of which dissolve in the aging process. But, if you’re looking for a pure, additive-free drink you’ll want to steer clear of wine with added sulfites. Here’s how to make sense of the many health-conscious wine labels out there, so you can find the perfect summer sip. 

Demystifying Healthy Wine Labels 

Just because the label reads organic, doesn’t mean the wine is sulfite-free. There are two different levels of organic certifications for wine in the US. Wines labeled “Made with Organic Grapes” are produced with organically grown grapes, but sulfites are allowed to be added. The “USDA Certified Organic” label takes things up a notch. This label means organically grown grapes were used and that the wine doesn’t contain any added sulfites. Keep in mind this can still mean there are naturally occurring sulfites in the wine, but you won’t find more than 10 ppm (parts per million). For reference, conventional wine can have upwards of 300 ppm. 

Biodynamic wine is another sustainable option for anyone without a sulfite sensitivity. The term “biodynamic farming” has recently become a trendy buzzword, but the practice has actually been around for thousands of years. This uniquely healthy wine is produced with farming practices that view the vineyard as an interconnected whole. Biodynamic farms grow other produce aside from grapes and even raise livestock. Every plant and animal is believed to play an integral role in the grape’s health. Biodynamic vineyards generally follow organic farming standards but harvest their produce based on a unique astronomic calendar. Unlike certified organic wine, biodynamic wines are allowed to include added sulfites.

Natural wine is sometimes referred to as “low-intervention” wine because it’s generally left unfiltered and native yeast is usually used instead of sulfites during the fermentation process. This might make the wine look cloudy, but it also means it has very low if any, sulfites or other additives. Low intervention wine is often considered the purest wine you can drink, but it isn’t sulfite-free unless the label says so. When buying a natural wine it’s best to stick to local brands because the low level of additives also means it’s less shelf-stable and doesn’t travel as well over long distances. 

Raise a glass of these clean wines

Whether you go organic, natural, or biodynamic, one thing is for sure- if you’re going to have a drink, wine is one of the healthiest options you can reach for. Drinking wine in moderation has a host of proven health benefits. Have you ever heard of The French Paradox? It’s the paradoxical observation that French people have lower rates of heart disease and generally live longer even though their traditional diet is high in saturated fats. The connection between French culture’s love for wine and the population’s longer life span is backed up by many studies. Wine, in moderation, is good for you. 

Here are our top picks for organic, low sulfite red, white, and rosé to enjoy this summer. Cheers!

Made by America’s first organic and biodynamic winery, this Frey Vineyard Pinot Noir is light and crisp with notes of cinnamon and blackberry. 

Produced in an organic-certified winery that also implements sustainable winemaking practices, this crisp, white wine has fruity notes of peach and apple with hints of white pepper and subtle spices. 

This rosé is made by implementing both organic and biodynamic farming practices and has bright, sparkling notes of sweet raspberry. 


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