Organic, Bio-Dynamic, Estate, Low Sulfite….so many choices, what do they all mean?

by Elizabeth Cooper in Wine & Beer

This is, of course, a vast subject that could literally span volumes; but in the interest of expediency and keeping this blog somewhat short and readable, I plan to just cover the highlights. I have, over the past months, had several inquiries regarding the questions, so I will do my best to answer them. Let me start by stating with absolute clarity: I am not a medical professional, I hold no degrees in science/chemistry, etc. I can simply reiterate what I have heard, detail my experiences and convey the science that I have read. OK, so let’s cover the basics: what exactly is wine? Silly questions, not really…At its most basic level, it is fermented grapes (with or without skin exposure) from indigenous (native) yeast; but that’s just the beginning: single fermentation, secondary fermentations, cold maceration, warm maceration, cold stabilizing, yeast inoculations, bacterial inoculations, coloring agents, chemical additive (just Google “allowable chemical additives in wine and beer” it may blow your mind), acidulate, reverse osmosis, micro oxygenate and the list goes on and on. I bring all of this up to make the point that all of the aforementioned decisions and processes occur across large production, small production, organic, bio dynamic, sustainable, estate-bottled, low sulfite (this is a blog all unto it’s self – suffice to say, if you are one of the 5 percent of afflicted asthmatics, you may have this allergy – stay away from most fruits, especially dried ones) wines.

So, how do we know what we are getting? Well, in many instances, we just don’t; but your best option is to pick smaller production, hands-on winemakers (not always just the wineries). Again, this does not mean that you may not have sensitivities to any of the hundreds of organic (and inorganic) chemicals that occur in wine. For many, headaches are derived from the amount consumed (classic aftermath of alcohol); but could be tannins, residual sugar, etc. Also, and I think this is as important as knowing your winemaker (and as I mentioned in last week’s tip, your importer) – know your wine merchant. We are here to help guide you in your purchases. We take personal pride in the choices we help you make and the advice we give. Of course it is about sales on one level; but more importantly it’s about customer satisfaction to build repeat, loyal business – if we continually steer you wrong, why shop with us? We take great pride in listening, learning, educating and being educated. So please, tell us what you like! Ask any questions you think pertinent; and if you find yourself unhappy with your purchase – bring it back and let us know. We will gladly accept your return and use the information to make a better selection in the future.

A couple staff favorites, from some of our preferred winemakers:

Hillinger First Hill White, Burgundland, Austria
Setting aside that Leo Hillinger is a stunningly handsome man (former Hugo Boss model) – difficult to set aside; but OK…. His methods are marked by a deep respect for the grape, the particularities of the terroir and its climatic conditions. His wines are convincing through their fullness and gentleness, which mirror the characteristic nature of the land from which they originate. “I do not want an interchangeable, fashionable wine, rather I want to produce a truly Austrian, if not Burgenlandian, top-quality wine,” says Hillinger. Moreover, “Making wine is for me a source of happiness. It combines hobby with vocation. I cannot imagine anything more beautiful.” The 70% Sauvignon Blanc ensures liveliness on the palate, the 20% Welschriesling adds floral/herbal notes and the 10% Grüner Veltliner provides the Austrian signature with a subtle peppery quality that makes its appearance on the lengthy, fruit-driven finish. This is very, very drinkable and shouldn’t be missed! Perfect with fresh asparagus, fin or shellfish and spicy Asian cuisine. It’s delicious with fresh spring salads with goat cheese and perfect as an apéritif with friends.
Retail: $14.99

Domaine des Soulié Pinot Noir, France
Remy Soulié is a passionate man; humble and simple at heart, he loves his job and performs it with great vigor. His estate is 100% organic and has been so from its inception, although the family has cultivated the earth since the early 1600s; they were recognized in 1960 as organic – true pioneers in the field. Their Pinot Noir heaves with ripe red cherry, high-toned plum, cranberry and notes of huckleberry. Aromas of violet and fresh herbs waft from the glass and the wine dances a long, silky finish across the tongue. It’s a wonderful match for most any meal or delightful on its own.
Retail: $13.99

There are so many more to choose from, so please stop by and see us: Elizabeth, Kathlene, Trent, Joshua, Darrin, Bryan, Pam and Rick. We are happy to help you with your selections or answer any questions. Email us at or call (919) 912-1205. We look forward to helping you!