Reds, Whites, and Sulfites: Examining Different Organic Wine Regulation Practices in the United States and the European Union

Puszka, Ryan | January 1, 2020

Abstract: This note examines the history of regulation within the organic wine industry in the U.S. and the E.U. and explores the motivations behind the production of organic wine in these two regions. The variance in the historical significance of wine between these two regions is reflected in the contemporary differences between the two regions’ rules for organic wine certification. In 2012, the U.S. and the E.U. entered into a comprehensive organic equivalency agreement that covered nearly all organic agricultural products but due to significant differences in the two regions’ regulatory schemes concerning the inclusion of added sulfites in wine, the equivalency agreement did not extend to wine. This lack of organic equivalency between two of the world’s largest producers and consumers of wine has resulted in a number of labeling difficulties in the international wine market and consequentially, has resulted in economic inequities, which disincentivize organic viticulture. These difficulties have trickled down to the consumer and resulted in both confusion and a general distrust for organically certified wines, further harming the reputation of organic wines. This article proposes the creation of a private international agency for certifying organic wine, mirroring the Demeter Standard for biodynamic products. This private certifying agency would provide greater transparency to consumers and a more economically attractive and streamlined regulatory process for wine producers who are considering organic viticulture.