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Sulfites and Organic Wine

Can wine be labeled as ‘organic’ if sulfites are added, but there are also naturally occurring sulfites in it?

By Brian Baker

Wine labeling laws are governed by the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) (Formerly the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). There is a web page that clarifies the requirements for labeling alcoholic beverages with organic claims: https://www.ttb.gov/alfd/alfd_organic.shtml. Wines that have organic claims on the label are required to follow the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations for organic production and handling, as well as comply with TTB regulations for alcoholic beverages.

To be labeled as "organic,” added sulfites are prohibited. Naturally occurring sulfites are permitted at levels below 10 ppm (mg/l). Any statement that indicates a wine contains only naturally occurring sulfites requires a lab analysis.

If instead the wine was labeled only as “made with organic grapes,” sulfur dioxide may be used as a sulfiting agent, as long as the total sulfite levels in the wine do not exceed 100 ppm (mg/l). Added sulfites must be disclosed on the label, and use of the USDA organic seal is prohibited.

References: - NOP Policy Memo 11-3: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NOP-PM-11-3-LabelingofAlcoholicBeverages.pdf

Organic Wine Labeling Guide: https://www.ttb.gov/pdf/wine-labeling-guide.pdf

Revised and updated in September 2017 by OMRI Technical Director Johanna Mirenda. This article was originally published in the Summer 2005 edition of the OMRI Materials Review newsletter.