Oregon's Organic Wine

Willamette Valley & Columbia River Gorge AVA (See below for list)

When it comes to the winery scene, Oregon's wineries are already globally recognized for its sustainability practices. Another trend putting this region in the spotlight is the production of organic wine. Although Oregon has only about 13,000 acres of wine grapes compared to California's 450,000-plus acres, it's estimated that nearly 50 percent of Oregon's vineyards are sustainable or organic compared to California's one percent. Twenty-three percent of its vineyards have met very stringent certification guidelines and are LIVE-certified sustainable or organic, or Demeter-certified biodynamic. (LIVE--Low Input Viticulture & Enology--is just one of two sustainable certification agencies in the United States, established in 1997, that recognizes farms and vineyards for sustainable agricultural practices. Demeter is an international certification body). Salmon Safe certified vineyards is also prevalent.

The goals of organic wine production are to reduce reliance on synthetic chemicals and fertilizers with the purpose of protecting the farmer and the environment, and ensure land protection by maintaining natural, chemical-free soil fertility. Perhaps the biggest hindrance in producing organic wine is preserving the wine with a sulfite-free preservative. Wines require long periods of storage so standardized methods of preserving wines includes adding sulfites. Even though yeast naturally produces sulfites during fermentation, adding sulfites goes against certification standards.

People with allergies, including sulfite sensitivities, often seek out organic wines. The FDA requires warning labels for wines with sulfites more than 10 parts per million (ppm). Most red wines contain approximately 40 ppm sulfite. There's also the term "no detectable sulfite" which means that wine constitutes less than one milligram per liter. Many wineries create wine made from organic grapes and label it as such, so long as the detectable sulfite level remains below 100 ppm.

100% certified organic wine labels are still uncommon as the preservation and storage challenges remain in conflict with the strict certification requirements. However, many of the wineries in Portland's neighboring communities of Yamhill and Washington counties are turning new soil on best practices for farming and cultivating some of the most respected wines in the industry.