What is Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wine

These three denominations tend towards a more natural way of growing grapes and winemaking using traditional methods and working closer to nature. Producers of organic, biodynamic and natural wine believe in sustainable agriculture and respect for the land and nature. They also believe that wines made with minimal intervention tell a story and truly reflect their terroir including their climate, soil and vintage.

Organic Wines

Organic requirements and certifications include the removal of all synthetic pesticides or additives in vineyard farming:

  • Chemical or artificial fertilizers
  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides
  • Growth hormones
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

On the other hand, it allows acidification, deacidification, heat treatment, the addition of tannins, the addition of wood chips, sulfur, industrial yeasts …

Biodynamic Wines

Based on the writings of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics goes beyond organic farming. Biodynamic farming incorporates elements of organic farming, along with considering the vineyard as an entire ecosystem. The challenge is to find a balance of the ecosystem and create harmonious living conditions between soil, plant and environment in order to obtain a high-quality wine. For this purpose, they use herbal preparations to infuse, energize or macerate in order to help the vine to strengthen and develop better. They also use the lunar calendar so that the plant, soil and lunar influences combine at best. It permits the collage of wine and filtration, chaptalisation (addition of sugar) only for sparkling, industrial yeasts, but on the other hand the use of sulfur dose lower than organic wines.

Natural Wines

Winemakers operate on a philosophy of minimal intervention in the vineyard and in the winemaking process. Natural wine is made from grapes from organic or biodynamic agriculture and harvested by hand. Unlike organic, a wine called “natural” is vinified without chemical additives and with a minimal or no use of sulfites (sulphur dioxide)… Wine naturally contains sulfites which help to stabilise it. Natural wines are also very little filtered or unfiltered to preserve their “true nature”, so they can be identified by their slightly cloudy colour. 

In 2020, France officially recognises Natural Wine. The denomination will be subject to a three-year trial period. In order to use the term ‘vin méthode nature’ on labels, the wine has to be produced from hand-picked grapes from certified organic vines and made with indigenous yeast. The Syndicat de Defense des Vins Naturels uses a system called Vin Méthode Nature. There are two tiers of certification: those with no added sulfites, and those that add less than 30 mg/L sulfites. The designations are a bit problematic - yeasts can produce varying amounts of sulfites during fermentation. Some yeast strains will produce 10 mg/L or more before the wine is bottled.  Despite occurring naturally, these wines would need to be labeled as containing sulfites, even though the winemaker didn’t add them artificially. The controversial certification will take some time to adjust and recognise.

Below is an example of the difference between these approaches:

Conventional red wine E.U standards:

160 mg / liter of sulphur

Red wine from organic farming:

100 mg / liter of sulfur

Demeter red wine (biodynamic):

70 mg / liter of sulfur

Red wine Association of Natural Wines:

30 mg / liter of sulfur  

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