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Wine should not be an afterthought when making healthier choices for ourselves and for the planet.

The same principle of sustainability and reducing our footprint on the planet regarding shopping for food applies to drinks. Part of the sustainability solution is to choose local.

For the Okanagan Valley, we are fortunate to have a multitude of organic wine options available locally. In other parts of Canada this means choosing a Canadian wine. Many provinces in Canada have a few organic and sustainable viticulture enterprises. Choosing a British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec or Nova Scotia option is a much lighter carbon load than an imported wine.

Simply put, organic farming plus organic winemaking equals organic wine. Let’s explore why the trend toward organic drinks is becoming increasingly popular. As you may have heard, organic wine means it is more natural, that no pesticides, herbicides, vineyard or cellar additives, chemicals, flavouring agents or caramel colouring are going into your wine. In general, this means organic wine grapes are much healthier.

Many professionals in the wine industry say it is a more true expression of the grape and the terroir, or the land and environment in which it is grown. Certified organic wines have less sugar on average. In fact, organic grapes produce heartier skins and higher concentrations of anthocyanins and antioxidants, including polyphenols and cardio-friendly resveratrol.  Additives combined with higher sugar levels often leads to nasty headaches.

Non-organic wines can use chemicals like herbicides and fungicides in the vineyards, and other additives like sulphur or Mega Purple in a wine. Studies have shown that some non-organic vineyards are using more than 30 different chemicals of varying toxicity. It is common to see pesticides and fungicides used in areas that have low wind and moisture in the air as there is a greater risk of fungal infections. Often this is in proximity to a river, pond or lake. Fungicides and pesticides are used to kill invasive species, yet the larger concern is around vineyard workers becoming ill. This is especially true in developing wine countries that have a lack of regulation in farming practices.

A major bonus is that organic wine is also better for the environment. Organic farming practices means vineyards do not add tainted water with chemicals such as Round-Up and require significantly less water. Soil with more organic matter such as compost hold water far better. Organic grapes are more resilient and protected against temperature spikes and droughts. This supports a balance with the local ecosystems, and preserves local flora and fauna.

Further, by drinking organic wines, you’re supporting environmentally responsible and sustainable Canadian businesses, their communities, employees and families. To drink organic and more ‘green’ wine it is quite simple. Look for the Canada Organic logo on the wine label.

Shannan Schimmelmann first fell in love with B.C. wine and spirits while studying hospitality at Camosun College in Victoria, and she has spent the past two decades exploring more than 100 wineries and distilleries in B.C. and beyond. She is a business leader and consultant skilled at partnership development, export strategy and supply chain management. She has an MBA from Royal Roads University, a wine business management certificate from Sonoma State University, a restaurant management diploma from Camosun College and Canadian Wine Scholar WSET-1 accreditation.