Friday, November 19, 2010

NEWSFLASH - we are all organic. Feeling better?

Organic is one of those very modern and ancient words that at once brings a vaguely warm and fuzzy feeling with a sprinkling of confusion, but what does organic actually mean? Will you easily become a vital octogenarian if not a dodgy vegetarian if you go organic?

You are already part of one definition as a carbon-based life form, although this could be a good time to check if your mate is also an earthling as I have recently come across growing numbers of Zoglodytes.

Like it or not, you will also become part of another definition - matter that has come from a once-living organism, is capable of decay or the product of decay, or is composed of an organic compound, i.e. contains carbon.

The shortest and strictest definition of organic viticulture is that it excludes all industrially synthesized compounds such as fertilizers, fungicides and herbicides as well as anything that has been genetically modified. But more widely would also mean excluding any practice that is harmful to the environment or unsustainable.


Avondale's duckmobile and snail control squad


Now what about sulphur? Around 8% of world population suffer from wine-related allergies but only about 1% of allergies relate to sulphur. Symptoms of wine allergy can range from headaches and stuffy nose to skin rash and a tight chest. But what  triggers the remaining 7% of wine allergies remain a mystery.

However,  the Journal of Proteome Research reveals a new study showing that glycoproteins might be the cause of wine allergies finding that as many as 28 of the glycoproteins found in an Italian chardonnay had a similar cellular structure to known allergens, including the proteins that cause reactions to ragweed and latex.

Molecular biologist Giuseppe Palmisano and his team are hoping that their work on the glycoproteins — many of which were identified for the first time — will help lead to the development of a glycoprotein-free wine.

Reyneke Wines Biodynamic Vineyards

Sulphur is natural and one of the planets most important and abundant elements. Copper Sulphate (mixed with lime to make so-called Bordeaux mixture) is a permitted vineyard fungicide in some organic certifications.

There is no such thing as sulphur (SO2) free wine as yeasts produce nominal amounts during fermentation, and you, as you sit and ponder my writing are also producing SO2 which has got nothing to do with how you may be disliking this drivel and nor would you necessarily have been afflicted by Sodom and Gomorra’s brimstone – another chance to check your mate.

You can add SO2 to wine (roughly up to half of the usual permitted maximum) and – if the grapes are organically grown – you can label your wine organic. That’s for here and the EU – if you added more than would be produced by the yeast (around 10-15mg/lt) in the US or Canada you can only claim wine from organically grown grapes.

There have been attempts to produce wines without any addition of SO2 but they are prone to oxidation and the off-flavours generated by yeast and bacteria and will not mature without spoiling. They need very careful handling and where possible for example UV light treatment.

 However, there is no substitute for SO2 as testified by a reward for anybody finding one remaining unclaimed.  SO2 reacts in the best possible way - at it acts as a preservative and disinfectant – and is easily metabolised by 99% of earthlings.

Less than 1% of wines produced from organically grown grapes are made and labelled as ‘organic wine’ due to concerns that the wine risks rapid bacterial spoilage. (Jancis Robinson).


Those organic producers charging a premium for their products recently learned a harsh lesson – in tough times people stop paying a premium for organic while the UK’s food standards authority (FSA) recently announced that organic food is no healthier than other produce after studying data collected over 50 years.

In the largest ever review (UK) into the science behind organic food, they found that it contained no more nutritional value than factory-farmed meat or fruit and vegetables grown using chemical fertilisers.

The findings challenge popular assumptions about the organic industry, worth £2 billion in the UK. Consumer groups said that shoppers may now think twice before buying organic.

Organic groups were incensed by the findings. The Soil Association accused the FSA of ignoring up-to-date evidence and pre-empting EU research for political reasons. Lord Melchett, its policy director, said that he had urged the FSA to delay its report. “They have jumped the gun,” he said.

The FSA researchers were led by a public health nutritionist, Dr Alan Dangour. They found that there was no significant benefit from drinking milk or eating meat, vegetables, fruit, poultry and eggs from organic sources, as opposed to the products of conventional farm systems.

Pro-organic groups criticised the findings of the year-long review. They said that the conclusions, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, failed to take into account the impact of pesticides and herbicides. Organic farming bans artificial chemical fertilisers and has stricter animal welfare rules than conventional farming.

For this writer organic is better and best practice. Sadly, I doubt organic will ever be mainstream, simply because there are too many people too feed – which is also a political problem - but I was totally enthralled with Johan Renyeke’s wines at yesterday’s Nedbank Green awards at Rueben’s (One & Only Hotel) where he and fellow winemaker Rudiger Gretschel walked off with best overall, best dry white and best red and Stellar for best natural sweet from organically grown grapes. Graham Beck received Best Environmental Practice Award. See Nedbank Green Awards Post.

Yes Rueben’s food was good, very good, silly question.


Stellar Organics 

1 comment:

  1. Do you think its a sign that my mate is alien if he constantly wants to phone home?

    ReplyDelete