Organic & Biodynamic Wine – Not just for hippies!
Many people get confused by Organic and Biodynamic wine. We’ll simplify this for you!
You may find two types of phrases on Organic Wine on wine labels.
- Wine made from organically grown grapes – these wines have no synthetic additives, contain sulfur, and must have at least 70% organic grapes
- Organic wine made from organically grown grapes – the grapes have not synthetic additives, with no added sulfur (sulfur occurs naturally in winemaking – but they are barred for adding more)
What are Sulfites (aka Sulfur Dioxide)? First, every wine has some sulfites – it is a by-product of fermentation! This component kills bacteria, prevents (unwanted) fermentation, protects the wine, and helps it age gracefully. Without adding sulfur to wine the wine may oxidize, brown, or spoil quicker. During the winemaking process, the winemaker carefully adds small doses of sulfur to protect the wine. The wine’s acidity level & alcohol level will also help determine how much sulfur will be added. If the acidity is low, the wine may need more sulfites. Wines with higher sugar level also may need more sulfur to prevent unwanted fermentation.
In Conclusion: unless you have asthma with a severe sulfite sensitivity, then sulfites in wine will generally not be a problem. You know what has more sulfites than wine? Soda, soup (in cans), fries…and dried fruit!
Biodynamic wine is the new hotness…
But its not really new. Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner gave a series of lectures in 1924 laying out the principles of Biodynamic Viticulture. Think of this is organic plus, as proponents of biodynamics seek to go even further. No chemicals are used, and the growing and winemaking process is determined by the influence of the moon and stars on the ecosystem of the vineyard. There are also a series of preparations which are used to assist the grapes and help them be the best grapes they can. Also, to help combat any sickness or issues of the vine. For example, one of the preparations is Preparation 500 where a cow’s horn is filled with cow dung and buried. After a few months, the contents are added to water and sprayed onto the vines during the descending phase of the moon.
You may find two types of phrases on Biodynamic Wine on wine labels.
- Biodynamic wine – the grapes are grown in the biodynamic process with no additions of yeast, or acidity, or chemicals (of course!)
- Made with biodnynamic grapes – the winemaker uses grapes grown bioynamically but did not use the strict processes in winemaking.
There are two bodies that give biodynamic accreditation: Demeter and Biodyvin. For more information, try Biodynamic Wine, Demystified by Nicolas Joly – one of the pioneers of the Biodynamic movement. Your Pioch de L’Oule by Domaine Costeplane is a fabulous example of the Biodynamic wine.
In conclusion – here are the Pillars of Biodynamic Wine Production:
- no pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals
- follow the biodynamic lunar calendar
- use a homeopathic approach for treating the vines
The question is…does this make a better wine?
That is for you to decide! We think that any process that requires you to pay more attention to your vines, be it organic, biodynamic, or even a process we haven’t heard of yet, is great for the wine and for the consumer. We may not understand the process, but we do realize that these types of philosophies require the producers to be much more detail oriented and thus result in better wine. And that is fantastic.