A Personal Word on Alcohol and Organic Wine.

By Amy Crawford

I wonder how many of you are wondering why on earth I'd write a post about wine, or alcohol for that matter. I mean isn't this a wellness site? And where exactly does wine fit into wellness? There is method to my madness, I promise.

Many months ago I wrote a post about coffee and my one a day coffee habit and it was well received. Yes, I gave up coffee during my recovery from CFS because it was not good for my health at all (more specifically, my otherwise exhausted adrenal glands and my overworked/inefficient immune system). I also gave up sugar, all gluten and alcohol. Cold turkey (it was hard). Now recovered I have since softened the alcohol 'restrictions' somewhat, whilst remaining sensitive to the effects any of these substances have on my body, and managing that accordingly. These days my quest is for moderation, with a distinct leaning towards restrictive.

But first I'm going to let you in on a secret or two. I am not a purist, I do not aim for perfection in any areas of my life these days. That desperate need for control in my 'previous' life saw me crumble – because that very quest for ultra tight discipline is exhausting. So often it's completely unattainable (and the berating that follows – toxic). I do not aspire to be 100% 'good' and quite frankly, why would I, unless I absolutely had to be? I worry for many in this online space – too often in my therapy practice I hear stories of overwhelm from clients doing their very best to be '100%', to be just like many seemingly perfect bloggers or wellness 'types' who share a perception of perfection with their followers. Typically they fail, and what then so often follows? Negative self talk, eating disorders, that feeling of failure, of not being good enough.

Which leads me on to the subject of alcohol. My relationship with alcohol used to be far too 'lax', I'll be honest. I went to a university college where learning to scull beer held higher prestige than securing a place on the uni hockey team. Alcohol became a crux, it softened that 'stuff' I carried around in my head – self doubt, a feeling of not being good enough/funny enough/smart enough. I was pretty awesome (in my mind) when I was drinking. Sure enough, the day came that my body couldn't tolerate it any more and I was forced to make serious adjustments to my lifestyle and then, inevitably, my mindset and mental health. The most wonderful result of these adjustments? I simply don't 'need' alcohol anymore...and that is a pretty good place to be.

In case you're wondering, these days I choose to drink a 'little' alcohol. I have long given up mixers so these days I stick to white, red or sparkling wine. I drink one to two glasses in a sitting only. I choose to drink because I really do enjoy it – I love tasting wine, combining it with food, sharing it with friends and family.Having said that I am very careful with it – if my immune system feels compromised I avoid it at all costs. Equally, where possible, I make purchasing decisions that are better for my health. Hence my discovery and continued learning around organic wines.

There are a lot of assumptions around organic wine and I've decided to share some learnings with you today, in order to help you make more educated buying decisions. Special thanks to Nicolle from Cellar Organics, whose words we reference and whose organic wine distribution business was built on her desire to better support her ongoing health by drinking wine without repercussions.

A word or two on organic wine.

Do you find yourself wondering about organic wine, whether it's preservative free for example? Perhaps in the lead up to the festive season you might be thinking about making better choices for your health, with no idea where to start. Well the short answer is that unless it's stated to be 'no added preservatives' or 'preservative free' wine then no, it's not. And what being an organic wine means, with regard to preservatives, is that the wine needs to meet lower allowable limits of Sulphur Dioxide (preservative 220) than for wines produced using conventional practices.

Why organic wine?

Conventional winemaking practice relies on the use of chemicals to protect the health of the fruit in the vineyard. These chemicals are harmful to the surrounding ecosystem and risk the health of native species, surrounding crops and livestock, local residents and surrounding waterways. There is also a concern that trace amounts of these chemicals may remain on the grapes at harvest, ending up in the final product – being the bottle of wine. So although they may not necessarily be preservative free, organic wine guarantees that these same chemicals are not present, the sulphite content will be lower, and the environment far less harshly impacted. Organic wine making practices.

In terms of the happenings on an organic wine vineyard (viticulture), the focus is very much on the health of the soil and the structure of the vines to minimise the use of agricultural input. The physical state of the vines are managed to minimise disease (by promoting air flow through the vine canopies), and pest damage (by using nets and encouraging natural predators). Soils are kept healthy through the use of compost and organic nutrients for fertilisation. Adherence to organic practices means grapes must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Most fungicides are also prohibited. To put it simply, anything used in the vineyard must be a naturally occurring, non-poisonous and non-GMO based product.

Now on to the winemaking. During this process the wine is handled in a very similar way to conventional winemaking, with a few key differences. Certified organic wines may not be stabilised using ion exchange methods such as electrodialysis (uncommon in Australia), and additions of inorganic Nitrogen and Copper Sulphate – both of which are in broad use in conventional winemaking. Use of additives derived from genetically modified sources and genetically modified yeast strains are also not allowed. Many winemakers take this to the next step by preferring to use wild yeasts for fermentation, a practice that is employed in both organic and conventional winemaking, but is more prevalent in organic wines.

From the organic wineries' point of view, the main benefit of organic practices is derived from the viticulture practices used as shown in the previous paragraph; resulting in better quality grapes which becomes better quality wine in the bottle for you.

Where to buy organic wine.

If like me, you enjoy the odd tipple but would rather not bare the brunt of a mouthful of potentially toxic substances, Cellar Organics is a great place to start. Not only is it delivered to your door but you’ll get transparency in service – you'll know exactly what you're getting. Cellar Organics chose to stock 3 types of Organic Wines: Organic practices, Organic in Conversion and Certified Organic wine. The majority of their wines fall into the Certified Organic wine category. Wines that are listed as 'Organic in Conversion' indicate that the winery is currently adhering to the certification standards, however they have to wait out the period of time (no less than 3 years) prior to receiving full certification.

Why jump in your car when you can order from your couch? Here's their contact details. Now go and have a safe, healthy, hangover free festive season. Bottoms up people!

My (minimal) tasting notes!

Recently I received my first selection of wines from Cellar Organics. Needless to say, it's taking me a while to taste them but so far so good. I asked for a selection so that I could then select multiples of my favourite moving forward. My first bottle was a 2012 Verdelho by Tamburlaine in the Hunter Valley who are Australian Certified Organic. It was delish – I appreciate a white with a good bit of depth and body and this was perfect, pairing beautifully with my lighter dinners. The second was an organic 2009 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre by Maverick in the Barossa – oh hello! It's a deep ruby red and the palate was rich, fruity and elegant. It combined perfectly with my barbecue creations. I'll be sure to stock the cellar with both of these wines moving forward.

This is a sponsored post. I have chosen to share this information because I believe it is of benefit to many THI followers. These views are my personal opinion only, please seek advice from your health practitioner if you are unsure about alcoholic intake for your own health

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November 28 2013

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