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Organic,Wine

Days of Crimson And Clover ~ Or, do organic wines really taste better?

The 1960s, 70s, and early 80s were very good to and for me. I deliberately sacrificed a lot of materialism, for which the universe delivered copious hours to study and practice many subjects of great personal interest:

  • nutrition and gardening, organically
  • buying my organic foods in a “health food store” (the only place to get organic foods in the beginning… health food being the operative words)
  • ornithology, Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and horticulture
  • spirituality through Buddhism, yoga, and Transcendental Meditation
  • the world of mushrooming (what’s poisonous and what’s not)
  • raising children as a nursing mother (Katie Sunshine, Melanie Rainbow, and Lyla Lynn… Lyla is a derivative of the flower “lily,” so I didn’t lose it with the third child)
  • practicing ecology to save the world
  • creating elaborate bead work and selling it all at craft fairs and head shops
  • Crocheting baskets with sisal and jute, and selling those, too
  • loving life large

On this blog, I occasionally allude to being an old hippie, because I enjoyed many of the freedoms, and it still pops up as relevant with some – if not all – of today’s issues.

No, I didn’t live in a commune; although, I thought about it a lot. To be in the epicenter of that sociological movement gave me many interesting perspectives that are now some of the most brilliant threads in my tapestry.

I was recently reminded that I’m such a product of my past, that this intro is necessary; because, I otherwise have no leg to stand on as being informed with organics. I have no degree, but I have a long history of experiential learnings with organics; although, I’ve never had the interest to make it an issue.

Why? Because it’s just me on auto pilot. It’s like the functions of my body that happen, just because some unknown energy keeps my heart beating, my lungs functioning, and somehow my food gets digested. It’s just is what it is. It’s no big deal.

Or… is it a big deal?

Perhaps it needs to be one…

It is easy being green, Kermie!

I was recently having lunch with a wine grape grower. We were talking about his organic wine brands, and I made the comment that organic foods just taste better. Simple enough statement for me; but he asked, “Are they?” I’ve never been challenged before with that one. I just knew it from things that I’ve been eating… Like, what comes out of my garden versus things I buy in the store. There’s no comparison… and there’s no chemical flavors that have been absorbed by the roots to become part of the food. And, yes, I’ve tasted chemicals in the past when I’ve purchased something because “organic” wasn’t available at the time, and I had a craving.

I once read that if you find bugs in your food, it means that it’s great food. The reasoning is, if it’s good enough for the bugs, it’s good enough for you. If it’s spayed with pesticides, bugs won’t be present. That’s now one of my rules of thumb, when organics might not be available. I look for bugs in my lettuce ;^)

I answered this grower with, “Yeah, of course. My body’s my temple, and I’m only going to put the best of everything inside of me. I don’t do fast food. While Alice Waters was busy inventing slow food for consumers on the west coast, I was on the east coast inventing the same for my family. My sister Merry gave me a wok, and that’s when I began to run. I only eat really wholesome foods, most especially organic, because they taste so good, besides being good for me.”

There, I worked it out, but now I want to work it out a bit more, for the sake of organic grapes.

For me, paying a bit more for organics now is worth the price. The little bit more that I pay forward today means that I’ll not have to pay thousands in the future with medical expenses. My father scoffed at me when I talked about this to him; and yet, by my age, he only had two more years to live. His fourth and final coronary, after two stokes in between those heart attacks, did him in. To date, and I always knock on wood, I’ve not had any of these medical emergencies, and I share his DNA.

BACK TO ORGANIC GRAPES

What was really fascinating to me about this business man, who has farmed only organically since the 1970s, is that he only does it because he and his family believe strongly in being good stewards of the land. He feels the need to protect the environment as much as possible, because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not until recently that coming out about being green has ever been an issue. He’s mostly been growing and selling, and just giving people the most pure fruit that he’s able to, because he has a conscience.

Could my generation have just given our children this consciousness and it’s simply playing itself out… and I got to witness it with someone else’s child?

Here are a couple of important question to consider:

  1. Why has he been staying in the business of selling grapes for so long?
  2. Could it possibly be because when his fruit is being compared to others as samples, his grapes just taste better, beating out the competition with a similar price point?

Hum…

I asked my sister Merry Matukonis to give me a paragraph about why organic foods taste so much better than those processed with a myriad of chemicals. Merry’s been a registered nurse for over 30 years, with the majority of her nursing experience in cardiovascular, surgical, and gastroenterology nursing. Merry says that she got tired of helping people to die; so she switched her gears, and is now helping people to live. She has her own practice for wellness in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania called Optimal Wellness Center, and writes for My Women’s Journal.

A typical subject matter would be Nutritional Counseling, Prevention — Detoxification. Her interest in nutrition also led her to graduate from the New York Restaurant School, and she had a catering company for years called Savory Table in Lewiston, Maine. She’s an associate member of the International Foundation for Nutrition and Health and certified as a Clinician in Whole Foods Nutrition. I’d say that neither of us do things lightly… What I can only say as a lay person, Merry can say as one whose entire life has been devoted to helping others…

Originally those patients exited with no plan. Today, Merry’s clients are existing with a better plan along their way…

Merry Matukonis: The reason that foods taste so much better when they’re organic is because they actually have nutrients in them. The soil has organic compost in it to provide those nutrients and minerals. The plant then absorbs all that it needs, in order to grow.

If a person is 50 years old or older, organic foods taste the way they did when you were a child. So many young Americans today don’t really know what really wholesome foods taste like.

An organic tomato 50 years ago had approximately 40 mg of whole vitamin C in it. Today, that same tomato, when mass produced, has approximately 5 mg. It’s a difficult challenge to stay healthy today if people are consuming processed, devitalized, mass produced foods.

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12 Responses to “Days of Crimson And Clover ~ Or, do organic wines really taste better?”

  1. Matt says:

    Organic wines (and foods) may taste better, but I don’t think that Merry’s reasoning is sound. The tomatoes mass produced today, are not the same variety as the ones grown fifty years ago. That , and they are not picked ripe. I would suggest that it is possible that an organic tomato grown from the same variety as the mass produced would be nearly as nutrient deficient. It may have a little more, because it will probably be picked ripe, not green and ripened in a warehouse with ethylene gas.

    Also, peoples tastes change as they age. I find it hard to believe that older people are even tasting the same as when they were children. If our sense of taste were static, then the Coca Cola today would be the same as the pre- new coke incident. Instead, there is evidence that after the outcry, coke simply just changed the formula incrementally so that today we are drinking “new coke”.

    Now none of this means that organic is not better, but just for different reasons than Merry suggests. What if organic farmers were picking riper fruit, and using better varieties, because they don’t have to store them? Maybe organic grapes, happen to go to better winemakers who care more about the wine. I would suggest that organic is better, but for different reasons. And the reasons are important.

  2. Patrick says:

    I love the spirit of this column; it glows. But it misses the big problem about organic wines in the USA: If a winemaker adds sulfites, the wine can’t be labelled “organic wine,” though it may be made from organically grown grapes. Lots and lots of wines labelled organic taste weird. Not weird in the sense of unusual because they’re so fresh and pure, but weird, with off flavors. So, while I do buy lots of organic food, and I often buy wine made from organically grown grapes, I rarely buy organic wine. I hope I’m not in trouble.

  3. Jo Diaz says:

    Matt, the only constant is change, and all the variables that you’ve mentioned are possible.

    And I’m the first one to admit that my taste buds ain’t what they usta be…. But I do get more flavor from a tomato that I’ve grown versus store bought, even including the organics. If you can grow it, use cow manure, etc., it’s so much better.

    And, Merry has spent years studying nutrition… since the 70s, and has gone through rigorous testing and accreditation and certification. (Member Affiliations: Weston A. Price Foundation, International Foundation for Nutrition and Health)

    She started out as an RN, and decided to help people to live, versus helping them to die (cancer and heart patients, pre and post op). I’m going with her credentials and reasoning, because it’s got a lot of education and experience behind her knowledge.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Patrick,

    All we can do is the best we can do. I know of one brand where someone in the cellar accidentally added something tot he wine that shouldn’t have been added, and it was a lost vintage. If it’s labeled organic, it’s not had any sulfur added, over and beyond what the grape has naturally.

  5. Peter Rosback says:

    Jo, nice article.

    Matt, when the subject comes up, I tell people the story of my chickens (we raise chickens for meat). You see almost the entire (9 week) life of the birds as they come as one-day old balls of fluff. For several years, we raised them on conventional feed. They were the best tasting chickens I had ever eaten. After a few years, organic feed became available. We fed them that. The chickens grew faster, had fewer diseases, were far more thickly feathered, were more athletic and after butchering and freezing, had a distinct glow about them when inspected coming out of the freezer (compared to conventionally fed birds). It’s easy to decide what to feed your children after seeing this real-world comparison.

    That said, organic wines just don’t differentiate themselves in the same way that the fruits and vegetables we buy do. Organic wines categorize for me just as all wines do: a large number of forgettable wines, some decent ones and a few special ones. It may be that wine grapes are farmed so intensively for quality of wine that there is not a big difference. Biodynamically grown wines? I’ve seen some differences there…

    Peter Rosback Sineann

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Peter.

    Verrrry interesting on the biodynamic wines comment.

    You may be right about organic wines, because they HAVE been so intensely farmed.

    You story of your chickens serves as a great parable.

  7. Sondra says:

    Organic wines and wines from organically grown grapes are farmed the same way, as far as I know. the difference is in the winemaking process – no sulfites can be added.

    Biodynamic wines are typically not organic but are made from organically grown grapes. and their farming practices are way different since the connect with the cosmos, biodiversity, more spiritual concepts, actually. I have enjoyed many biodynamic wines and usually sleep better after I’ve had them.

    Like Peter I cannot say I have liked organic wines from this country – they do have a peculiar flavor and do not live long. Organic wines from other countries, such as France, do not have this crazy notion of sulfite avoidance.

    now maybe we need organic tomato wine – i am sure it would beat V8.

    Thanks as always for your stimulating writing.

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Sondra, that’s for great comment content…

    I’ve had great organic wine, but it has to be soon after it’s bottled. they just don’t last, so guard what vintage it is…

  9. Tim McDonald says:

    Awesome piece Jo. Very thoughtful and after so many years selling marketing and making wine, I believe that organic grapes just make sense. You still need a great label and the wine still has to taste great for the price. When everything aligns well then you have economic sustainability…cheers!

  10. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Tim. Great thoughts. I know I’m on the right track, having maintained great health for so many years, and watching so many around me my age not in the best of health. I was inspired by my Great Depression grandparents, who learned how to do it right out of necessity. Today’s necessity may have a different face, but it still has the same urgency.

  11. Jason says:

    I definitely prefer organic wines and tend to be steering more and more towards them these days.

  12. Randy says:

    Great sellection of information here! Agree very much with jason on this topic.

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