Finally the EU has approved new legislation which may go some way to clearing up the confusion over EU organic wine labelling. EU certified organic wines will still be significantly different to non EU certified organic wines, with much higher permitted sulphite levels and therefore still potentially very dangerous for anybody with a sulphite allergy.

At present EU “organic” wines are only permitted to use the term “wine made from organically grown grapes”. At the vinification process various forms of manipulation are permitted including the addition of chemicals including large amounts of sulphites.

From August 1st 2012 there will be a new term permitted “Organic Wine”. They have tightened up the regulations and reduced slightly the sulphite content and even reduced the permitted additives to only 44!

Here are the additives permitted in the new EU Organic wines:

Diatomeceous earth

Carbon dioxide
Di-ammonium phosphate

Thiamine hydrochloride
Sulphur dioxide – SULPHITES
Potassium bisulphite – SULPHITES
potassium metabisulphite – SULPHITES

Edible gelatine
Plant proteins from wheat or peas

Egg white albumin
Potassium caseinate

Air — Gaseous oxygen
Silicon dioxide
Pectolytic enzymes

Lactic acid
Tartaric acid
Calcium carbonate
Neutral potassium tartrate

Potassium bicarbonate
Aleppo pine resin
Lactic bacteria
Ascorbic acid

Carbon dioxide
Citric acid

Meta-tartaric acid
Acacia gum
Potassium bitartrate
Cupric citrate

Copper sulphate
Oak chips
Potassium alginate
Calcium sulphate

Remember – these will be legally labelled “EU Organic Wine” and carry the new EU Organic logo!

Sulphite levels have been reduced slightly so now the permitted levels are:

Red Wine – 100 mg/l

White & Rose Wine – 150 mg/l

Dessert Wines – 370 mg/l

In my opinion this is still way too high. Organic wine is supposed to be healthy and natural, and this isn’t. In fact the World Health Organisation recommends men should consume daily no more than 0.7 mg/l sulphites per kg of body weight, which for a strapping rugby player at 100 kg would amount to half a bottle of the new EU organic white wine, or less than 2 small glasses for a size 10 woman.

But this is assuming that is all the sulphites in your diet! Sulphites are in virtually every processed food and drink in the UK. In fact the vast majority of us will be consuming way above the recommended daily intake before we even have a glass of wine, hence the rapid increase in UK cancer rates. (We have just about the highest skin cancer rates in Europe but the lowest amount of sunshine! Anybody in treatment for cancer is told to avoid all sulphites in their diet!)

But it doesn’t end there! There is also a subtle footnote stating that producers may exceed this level if they feel there is sufficient need, say from bad weather or disease! So not only are these levels already very high, they also don’t have to be adhered to!

As for other artificial vinification practices, one or two have been restricted but plenty more are still permitted such as heat treatments, filtration, reverse osmosis and the use of ion exchange resins. Doesn’t it just make you fancy a glass right now?

So has this gone any way to improving the standing of “organic wines” in the EU?

In my opinion this isn’t much help at all for people looking for healthy wines. I’m sure it’s very helpful to EU producers looking to market their wines as organic to compete with the genuine healthy natural wines from outside the EU though, and let’s face it that’s who this is for. It’s all about economics for the EU and has nothing at all to do with genuine organics or health. At present in the USA organic certified wines aren’t permitted to add any sulphites whatsoever – why couldn’t the EU bring in something like that?

The good news though is that there are good, natural healthy wines available to buy in the EU. You just have to know where to find them. Don’t rely on the new EU Organic logo, clearly it doesn’t mean the wine is healthy or even remotely as organic as most of us would like. Visit a genuine site like who specialise in quality natural wines and you’ll find decent wines with no additives.