“If wine does have added sulfur dioxide, it can be called ‘made with organic grapes.’ And this is the crux of the problem,” says Paolo Mario Bonetti, president of Organic Vintners, an importer of organic wines which led a petition to change organic wine standards. “99% of the wineries in the world use sulfur dioxide, but when they export it to America or when they sell domestic wine here, they can’t call it ‘organic’ – even if it’s made with all organic grapes. They can only call it ‘made with organic grapes,’ which suggests that the wine is made with only 70% organic grapes. So, consumers don’t know the product is actually closer to 100% organic.” In 2009, Canada passed its own organic standards regulations and soon after the US signed an equivalency agreement allowing all products certified organic in Canada to be sold as such in the US. And vice versa with USDA organic products sold in Canada. The agreement applies to all products except wine. A wine sold as “organic” in Canada may have to be sold as “made with organic grapes” in the US. The EU passed its organic regulations last year and the USDA signed the same equivalency agreement with the EU that it has with Canada. Again, wine is the exception to the rule. SO2 is permitted in organic wine production in the 17 countries of the EU. And so these wines from Europe cannot necessarily be sold as organic in the US. Bonetti’s company spent some $50,000 of its own money on the first petition and he’s considering raising money to fund it again in five years when the organic standards board installs new members. He believes that with the new EU regulations, he’ll have more fodder to prove that relaxing the organic wine standards is better for the industry and for international trade.
Food Republic interviewed Paolo Bonetti, President of Organic Vintners, on whether organic wine standards should be changed: