An Expert's Best Wine-Picking Tips For Girls' Nights

For many of us, adulting can feel as if we were held hostage by a monotonous routine where we have to juggle between different roles with each passing moment: staff, neighbor, taxpayer, spouse, parent, child, and friend. It's hard not to feel the weight of the multiverse weighing down on us when each day is pretty much the same as the last. To preserve our sanity and rejuvenate ourselves, it's essential that we take out time for ourselves and engage in some fun activity — like having a girls' night.

As its name suggests, a girls' night is a female-only gathering where you and your glam squad let your hair down and make merry together. From enjoying juicy gossip to having a dance throwdown, you can do anything you want — the possibilities are endless. But whether you decide to hang out at home or in a local pub, one of the activities specific to girls' night that many look forward to is the drinking games. Unless everyone in your group is in recovery or wants to drink less, hosting a party without a little something boozy is akin to having a nighttime business meeting. Drinking wine helps people loosen up, amp up spirited interactions, and liven up the hangout. To help you let loose and have fun at your girls-only gathering, we spoke to Jen Purcell, president of the wine brand Avaline, for advice on how to shop for wine to serve at a girls' night.

Organic is a good place to start

One way to drink responsibly is to drink with the earth in mind. And in the opinion of Jen Purcell, organic wine is a good place to start. Organic wines make a healthier choice for your well-being as well as the environment. 

When choosing wine for a girls' night, check the wine label and look for the phrase "made with organic grapes," advises Purcell. Wines can only be labeled "organic" when the grapes used in winemaking were grown without synthetic pesticides. Organic wines are also the results of sustainable farming practices through composting, using natural fertilizers, and natural forms of pest control — such as planting lavender at the end of rows to ward off pests and diseases, explains Purcell. By adopting organic practices, farmers can enhance soil health and improve the quality of the grapes. In other words, when you buy organic wines, you're supporting sustainable winemaking. Since organic wines do not include synthetic pesticides, they come with less potentially harmful components that could produce negative effects.

Look for certain certifications

Another way to tell if a bottle of wine is up to your standards is to look out for the lingos that indicate their sustainable production. Demeter Certified Biodynamic, SIP Certified, LEED Certified, LIVE Certified Sustainable, and CCSW Certified Sustainable are some sustainability certifications to verify that the products meet the standards in organic production and processing, Jen Purcell explains. 

While certification labels are a quick way to source sustainably made wine wines, you may find that some winemakers grow their grapes without pesticides or chemical fertilizers even when their products don't have the organic stamps on them. The reason is, according to Purcell, the cost of attaining an organic certification can be high. Therefore, some smaller wineries that can't attain official organic seals opt for other badges to show that they are organic in practice.

When shopping for organic wine, however, beware of the difference between organic and natural wines. Natural wine refers to wines produced with little intervention throughout the winemaking process. Like organic wine, natural wines are also made without the use of pesticides and with minimal additives. However, natural wines are not certified and are not regulated. They might lack shelf stability and consistency, and they're not the healthiest wine alternative out there. On the other hand, organic wines don't always guarantee low intervention, and farmers must adhere to stringent guidelines for the cultivation, processing, and management of their products.

Price can be an indicator

If you don't see any certifications or indicators that tell you a bottle of wine is made with organically grown grapes, a good way to tell is to check its price. A wine that is produced organically is usually more costly. This is because it's more expensive to adopt sustainable farming practices than conventional methods, and there's a cost for an official organic stamp.

In organic farming, there is less wine being produced, and the cost is higher. But wine will be of higher quality. To cover the additional expenses and labor incurred during the winemaking process, organic winemakers put a markup on their wines.

If the price is under $10 a bottle, there is a strong likelihood that the wine was produced using non-sustainable farming methods, Jen Purcell warns. For instance, the grapes used to make traditional wine can be cultivated using excessive amounts of water, sprayed with pesticides, and farmed in a way that damages the soil.

When in doubt, ask

If you have checked the label and the pricing and you're still not sure if the wine is 100% organic, it's a good idea to ask the staff at the wine shop you're shopping at for clarification, advises Jen Purcell. Because many wineries lack the resources to obtain certification, it may be difficult to identify which bottles of wine were produced with the health of the environment in mind. The best approach to learn more is to speak with a sommelier or a specialist at the wine aisle. Not only can they help you differentiate organic wine from regular wine, but they can also recommend sustainable options they have on hand that suit your preferences and budget.

If you're looking for places to buy organic wine online, look for vendors who only sell alcoholic beverages made from organically grown grapes, or visit wineries whose websites provide information about their sustainability policies. This will ensure that you're buying wine from companies that genuinely care about sustainability.