Bottoms Up! Toasting the season with organic wines and spirits

Photo: istockphoto.com/Philip Loyer

What are the holidays without a few toasts? Organic wine and spirits are just the thing to help lift the spirits.

We worry about chemicals in our food but what about the chemicals in our drinks? Fungicides like chlorothalonil and lindane, along with herbicides like isoprotuon and diflufenican and the popular insecticide dimethoate, are just a few of the tasty chemicals used in the production of wine and spirits. That's a lot of endocrine disrupting, nervous system-destructive chemicals to be consuming in the cocktail hour.

Vodka
Several organic vodkas have emerged on the market. When Allison Evanow wanted to put "the ethos of the farmer's market into a glass" she created Square One vodka from organically certified North Dakota-grown rye. The ingredients are so pure that Square One doesn't need multiple distillations and even the packaging is eco-friendly.

OrangeV is organic vodka made from organic Idaho grains and spring water from the Rocky Mountains. After being further purified through charcoal osmosis filters, an infusion of organic Valencia, Mandarin and tangerine oranges is added to create unique vodka. The website offers some smart cocktail suggestions as well.

Gin
Juniper Green Organic London Dry Gin bills itself as the first and only organic gin. It uses a combination of organic juniper berries, coriander, angelica root and savory to create its distinctive flavour. This gin is a thoroughbred distilled at the distinguished Thames Distillery, home to all the best London dry gins.

Scotch
Highland Harvest Organic Grain Whisky is a blend of three grain whiskies (highland, island and Speyside) and a highland malt. Blended four years, this whisky has a light taste that is sweet and not harsh. The unique taste is from the natural yeast used. It won't replace aged single malt but it's a nice addition to your collection.

Rum
The sugar cane industries has a brutal history of abuse and slavery. Papagayo Organic Rums are the result of a fair trade project started in 1993 in a remote region in Paraguay. Today 800 plus farmers produce organic sugar using sustainable methods. Both the plain and spiced rum are pretty delicious as well.

Tequila
4 Copas Tequila based in El Arenal, Mexico, produces a smooth and sophisticated drink made from organically certified agave plants and foregoes the usual harsh chemicals used during the brewing process. They produce three varieties: Blanco, Reposado and Anejo. Their Reposado is aged for nine months in Blackened American White Oak barrels and the Anejo for seven years. This is the tequila you want for your organic margarita.

Organic wines
That headache you get from that glass of wine probably is more than likely caused by the sulfur dioxide and other preservatives added during the bottling process. In the last few years the organic wine market has exploded with a wide range of products available and a great deal of confusion. Wines for the States can carry four labels: 100 percent Organic, Organic, Made With Organic Ingredients, and Some Organic Ingredients.

Both the 100 percent Organic and Organic must not contain any sulfites. The difference between the two is narrow – Organic has 95 percent organic ingredients as opposed to 100 percent. Made with Organic Ingredients is 70 percent organic with an ingredient statement saying as much and can contain added and naturally occurring sulfites under 100 parts per million. Some organic ingredients contain less than 70 percent organic grapes.

You can find organic red and white wines from every wine producing country.

Drinking buddies
You can find out more about organic wines and spirits at the boozy blog CocktailOrganico written by Remy C. He's obviously tried all the products he writes about. And for anyone who doesn't think greenies have a sense of humour, check out the organic booze song on the Plenty website.

Even though organic liquor and wine is better for you, the hangover will still be the same if you drink too much. So stay green, drink responsibly and don't get behind the wheel of your hybrid.

Anne Colvey is an environmentalist journalist who likes organic vodka.