What exactly is organic wine? Basically, it is wine made from grapes that have been grown without the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers.

Conventional wine is usually made from grapes that have been sprayed with some or all of the above. This is the cheapest and easiest way for growers to protect their crops from disease, weeds, and insect infestations. It’s easy to spot a non-organic vineyard. A drive through Napa Valley in California will reveal mostly gorgeous vineyards with grapevines that have vibrantly green leaves and plump grapes, all in perfect rows without a weed in sight. The more perfect-looking the vineyard, the more chemicals have probably been used. In this case, aesthetics do not rule. A typical organic vineyard isn’t so picture perfect, with cover crops growing in between wild-looking vines. But make no mistake about it: prettier doesn’t mean better tasting.

One of the main reasons to choose organic wines is that the residue from the chemicals has the potential to end up in the wine itself, when the grapes are pressed and put into vats. Also, organic wines have fewer sulfites (a preservative) in them. While it is a misconception that organic wines do not have any sulfites, they do have less than conventional wines. During the fermentation process, all wines will develop naturally occuring sulfites, but most organic vineyards will stop there and do not add additional preservatives. This can be a blessing for wine lovers. Many people who claim to get headaches from wine — especially red wine — often say they do not suffer the same problem from organic wines due to the lower sulfite content.

Organic wines are often some of the best wines, too. Since most vintners pay impeccable detail to their vines, such as amending the soil by hand, the attention often leads to better quality and often award-winning wines. Frog’s Leap, one of my favourite California wineries, has always been organic, and its impressive list of wines has consistently been awarded glowing reviews.

On your next visit to the wine store, ask about organic options; you’ll be surprised at the number of varietals available to you.

Need a vacation? Check out our guide to California wine country and the world’s best wine-themed hotels.

Excerpted from Simply Green Parties by Danny Seo. Copyright 2006 by Danny Seo. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.