Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines – what are the differences?
Organic wines, Biodynamic wines, natural wines… are you getting confused ? Winalist tells you everything about these new terms and the differences between the wines they label!
Until February 2012, the term “organic” labeling a wine was only referring to the farming process of its fruits. Indeed in France, for a wine to be certified “organic” by Ecocert, Agrocert or Qualité France, its grapes must have grown without chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, for at least 4 years.
Therefore, certified “organic” winegrowers can use treatments like sulfur or copper, which do not penetrate the plant. However, once these grapes were collected, the cellar practices of an organic winemaker were not controlled. Starting in February 2012: the organic wine must comply with restrictions in its wine-producing method according to European specifications. For example, the maximum sulfite that the winegrower can add to the wine to kick-start fermentation has been reduced by a third. The winegrowers must also add certified organic additives (organic yeast, organic sugar) and can’t use malic acid anymore! The biological activity grows a little more every year in France alongside with the growing drive to know the provenance of what we eat and drink. Gaining 2 points compared to 2015, 9% of the French vineyard is now certified organic!
A biodynamic wine is part of a holistic environmental approach based on Rudolf Steiner ‘s work. This Austrian philosopher and agronomist explained the impact that each element, and therefore man, has on its environment
Thus, Biodynamics advocates a viticulture that is in harmony with nature to come back to biodiverse and sustainable vineyard. Not only chemical inputs are banned and replaced by plant-based treatments, but they are applied by the winegrower according to the cycles of sun and moon (depending on how they influence the plant growth). Nettle manure, compost, and silica preparations for example, are sprayed in very small amounts to improve the quality of the soil and the vines.
This soil is also worked by plowing in order to aerate it. All these gestures of Biodynamics aim to rehabilitate the organic life in the vineyards: if you walk through biodynamic vineyards, you will certainly see all kinds of flowers, bees … etc. If the vines grown in Biodynamics can be identified by the diversity of the flora that coexists among it, the biodynamic wine can be recognized thanks to the Demeter and the Biodyvin labels. These two associations have their specificities though, and there is no regulation in Biodynamics at the European level.
When the emphasis in organic and in biodynamic wine making process is primarily put on farming, natural wines go further. Their vines must be organic or biodynamic, but natural wine are basically “raw”. They are about adding nothing to the wine, leaving it “natural”, even when it means to give up wine-making stages such as fining. Natural wine is rarely filtered which gives it a more cloudy aspect compared to the other wines.
Natural wines are made with no addition of aromatic yeasts, or sugars, and concerning the sulfites: none or very little. Do you know what sulfites are? Wine naturally contains this chemical that maintains freshness and prevent the beverage from oxidation. Sulfites are also at the origin of a headache when consuming too much alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, natural wines are not sulfites free, but most of them are without added sulfites. If necessary, the winemaker adds sulfite to its wine to increase its long-keeping properties. A natural winemaker though, can only add 7 to 10 times less than the allowed quantity of sulfites for conventional wines.
The author Antonin Iommi-Amunategui wrote the Manual to learn about natural wine and explains that “natural wine is a rebellious wine, not even 1% of the market, so let’s support it”. Indeed, the initiatives surrounding natural wine are still recent and there are no official specifications. Therefore, each association gives its onw definition of “natural”, that is why one can find a natural wine without sulfites added, and another natural wine with a little-added sulfites. The French association of natural wines (ANV) is trying to get a formal definition so that consumers could finally find their way.
Facing the evolution and diversification of wine lovers’ expectations, Winalist offers you to meet its 7 Organic and Biodynamic wine producers you can spot on the platform thanks to this symbol:
You can easily find all the organic and biodynamic wineries on Winalist!