Organic wine is more and more present in our minds. You can find it everywhere but it’s difficult to find your way through all the labels. BIO, BIODYNAMIQUE, NATURAL: I will give you the basics to better understand what organic wine is and what organic wine is not.
WHAT IS ORGANIC WINE?
Might as well start there. For a long time, organic farming did not concern many people (and not only wine). Yet the first winegrowers to work their vines organically did not wait for the first AB labels.
Until 2012, with the appellation AB (Organic Agriculture), only grapes were organic. We were talking about organic wine. Since then, Europe has created a common label: organic wine.
From now on, grapes and wine are organic, but certain chemical inputs remain authorised during vinification.
ORGANIC, BIODYNAMIC OR NATURAL
Many people get scared when they hear about organic wine.
“Oh, no! I don’t want a wine that smells like a stable.”
“There’s a human side that bothers me.
Yeah, it smells like hipter’s ass.
It’s very tattooed sweat.”
Well, that’s good, I totally agree with you. As always, I remind you that there are bad wines everywhere, organic or not! The advantage of bad wines is that they make it possible to highlight the good ones.
Here are the differences between organic, biodynamic, natural and other wines:
Organic farming is subject to specifications prohibiting, among other things, the use of fertilizers or synthetic phytosanitary products, or chemical products (pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc.).
The winegrower who produces an “organic wine” tries to strengthen the vine’s defences as much as possible to limit treatments. However, against the most frequent diseases (mildew, powdery mildew), sulphur and Bordeaux boil (copper-based) treatments are most often used.
The good work of a winegrower takes time: this is why making an organic wine requires 20% to 30% more labour compared to conventional agriculture.
A minimum of 3 years is required to obtain organic certification. During these 3 years, the vineyard is in “organic conversion”: it must comply with the regulations on organic products, is monitored by the certification body which ensures compliance with these regulations but is not considered as “organic wine”.
Biodynamics, validated by labels such as Demeter or Biodyvin, was born in 1924 in the head of Rudolf Steiner. It is a model of agriculture that is more respectful of nature and its environment.
Little explanation from my friend Wiki
This approach uses the concept of “agricultural organism” which consists in looking at any agricultural exploitation as a living organism, as diversified and autonomous as possible, with the least inputs as far as living organisms are concerned (plants, seeds, manure…).
This method uses plant-based preparations that are supposed to activate or control the planets'”cosmic forces” present in the soil in order to support a good vegetative process and limit the development of parasites. It is the use of these preparations based on esoteric principles, taking into account the supposed influence of lunar and planetary rhythms, which mainly differentiate biodynamic agriculture from organic agriculture.
In plain text
Biodynamics aims to be as close as possible to nature and in balance with human influence.
First of all, it should be known that, for natural wine, there is no legislation to regulate natural wine practices. Each winegrower is responsible for his transparency and honesty towards the consumer.
In natural wine, the wine must undergo only the minimum of human intervention. And of course no chemical products can be used either in the vineyard or in the wine. Except for a tiny amount of sulfur at the bottling.
WINES WITHOUT SULPHITES
For my part, I find that “sulphite-free” is equivalent to “sugar-free”. If it’s to remove a product and replace it with others that are often more harmful and in greater quantities, I don’t see the point!
And above all “without sulphite” does not mean organic!
We talk about it more and more, so I have to talk to you about it. Vegan wines undertake not to use animal products in their wines (this mainly concerns fining* with egg whites) and not to use animals in vine work (horses, donkeys, oxen, etc).
*The fining allows to clarify a wine, to make it clearer and brighter.
These are wines in conventional agriculture but which decide to limit the number of chemical products. Both in the vineyard and in the wine. Some of these wines could be organic but prefer to keep the possibility to treat during more difficult periods.
SULPHITES: LET’S TALK ABOUT THEM!
Since 2005, winegrowers must indicate if their wines contain more than 10mg/l of sulphites. However, naturally occurring yeasts can already produce about 25 to 30 mg/l of sulphur during malolactic fermentation. Sulphites are preservatives that allow wines to stabilize better and not turn vinegar.
Sulphites are also used in the rest of the food industry, for example for ham.
LABELS: HOW TO FIND YOUR WAY AROUND!
I would speak, for this article, only of the most recognized labels but there are many other labels for which I will let you be the only judge.
TERRA VITIS : This is the most permissive label. The members undertake to reduce the quantity of chemical inputs both in the vineyard and in the wine. However, they have the possibility to treat the vine in case of diseases and/or difficulties.
AB (Organic Agriculture): The label was used until 2012 and guaranteed that the grapes were organic. It is now replaced by the European label: VIN BIO.
VIN BIO: This European label exists since 2012 and completes the AB logo. It allows to label the wine in addition to the grape and the vine. However, in Hungary and southern Portugal, it is difficult to federate all these climates around a common label. As a result, this label remains very permissive.
DEMETER: This is by far my favorite with the next one. This biodynamic label controls and tests all the wines of its label. It is therefore a label that is equally committed to its respect for the environment and the quality of its wines.
BIODYVIN: Same as for Demeter. The difference is that this one is a little more restrictive. But the Demeter and Biodyvin labels follow the same guidelines.
NATURE AND PROGRESS: I really like their own definition so I give it to you as it is:
Founded in 1964 as a reaction to the industrialisation of agriculture, Nature & Progrès is still campaigning today for the development of organic farming – not in the sense of the European regulation but as a real social alternative – for an economy on a human scale and for a participatory and horizontal societal dynamic. The Nature & Progrès associative project is developed in its charter.
Also to be noted: S.A.I.N.S (Sans Aucun Intrant Ni Sulfite), AVN (Association des Vins Naturels), H.V.E (Haute Valeur Environnementale) wines.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW!
There, now you have in mind the great families of wines in France. Let’s talk frankly! I know very well that the subject of organic wines is often subject to debate and criticism.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one question to ask:
Do you enjoy drinking this glass of wine?
I am a big fan of biodynamics because I find that overall it is the wines that offer the best pleasure/price ratio. For organic wines (AB or organic wine): these labels are absolutely no guarantee of quality. And for natural wines… how to say! I am firmly convinced that natural wine producers opt for the best approach in terms of agriculture and production. However, in 10 years, I have rarely tasted natural wines worthy of selection. So no natural wines for me, they are too unstable and often too expensive.
Moreover, it is often very difficult to communicate with natural wine lovers (wine merchants, winemakers and/or consumers). Each request for advice often turns into a masterful lesson about my lack of openness and knowledge into a “real” wine.
So in terms of pleasure/price ratio, we’ll come back! It is very complicated to have to be yelled at for the “immense honour” of buying a bottle of bad wine for 25 euros.
But I would like to add that despite my rather strong point of view. The most curious among you will surely have the chance to come across “THE” wonderful natural wine that will change your vision of these wines. I hope you do. I wish it to myself.
CONVENTIONAL OR ORGANIC FARMING
It seems obvious to me that with current ecological issues, it is preferable to buy organic or biodynamic wine. As for natural wine, I will let you follow your own convictions.
However, keep in mind that “good” organic wine is often rounder and more digestible. I would finish like almost all my articles by telling you that you should always drink what makes you happy.
Otherwise, you might as well just drink water!
Tell me in commentary if you prefer wines in conventional, organic, biodynamic and/or natural agriculture; to know you a little better and especially because it always makes me super pleasure to read you;-)
Finally, don’t forget to share this article on your networks so that tomorrow, you and all your friends can better know wine. 😉
See you soon,
Corentin – DesVinsaVous