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Organic & Biodynamic Wine Production

Organic Viticulture

Heightened awareness about what we consume has lead to a boom in organic-labelled produce, as consumers seek the truth.

Organic Certification, as carried out by an organisation such as ECOCERT (www.ecocert.com), seeks to safeguard a product’s authenticity. While there’s no guaranteeing the quality of a wine made from organic fruit, the fruit used should be free of all chemicals except naturally occurring Sulphur & Copper. Typically, Certification requires…

  • Study the organic standards, which cover in specific detail what is and is not allowed for every aspect of farming, including storage, transport and sale.
  • Compliance - farm facilities and production methods must comply with the standards, which may involve modifying facilities, sourcing and changing suppliers, etc.
  • Documentation - extensive paperwork is required, detailing farm history and current set-up, and usually including results of soil and water tests.
  • Planning - a written annual production plan must be submitted, detailing everything from seed to sale: seed sources, field and crop locations, fertilization and pest control activities, harvest methods, storage locations, etc.
  • Inspection - annual on-farm inspections are required, with a physical tour, examination of records, and an oral interview.
  • Fee - an annual inspection/certification fee (currently starting at $400-$2,000/year, in the US and Canada, depending on the agency and the size of the operation).
  • Record-keeping - written, day-to-day farming and marketing records, covering all activities, must be available for inspection at any time.

(source: Wikipedia)

For many (of our suppliers), however, organics is simply the most logical way of tending their vines, without seeing the need for labels, gold stars or certificates as supporting evidence. It’s a way of life passed down through generations that enables them to produce a healthy crop amid a biodiverse environment while nurturing the vine to a ripe old age; that in turn brings better quality fruit & ever finer wine.

We have differentiated between those who are Certified (by ECOCERT or other accredited bodies) as making wine using organically-grown fruit, a process which takes three years, & those which are undergoing the process of conversion.

The European regulations regarding 'organic wine' (as opposed to 'wine made with organically grown grapes') come into force from August 1st 2012, and can be applied retrospectively to wines from the 2011 harvest, supposing they were made in conformity with the new requirements.

The new regulations should ensure that everything which happens to the grapes between harvest and bottling is carried out in an organic spirit. For example additions of sorbic acid (potassium sorbate – a sweet wine preservative) are now forbidden, as are the relatively uncommon process of desulphurization. Overall maximum sulphur levels is lower than that permitted for European wine in general: 100 mg/l in place of 150 mg/l for red wines, and 150 mg/l in place of 200 mg/l for white and rose wines.


See here the full list of Berrys' organic wine producers

Biodynamic Wine

Biodynamics takes organic farming to a new, higher, spiritual level. The father of the movement is widely regarded as being Rudolf Steiner who gave a series of agricultural lectures in 1924 setting out the broad principles.

His best known follower since then has been Maria Thun (1922-2012) who published an annual biodynamic gardening calendar.

Nicolas Joly was one of the earliest French vigneron proponents of the biodynamic movement since when the idea has spread widely in Alsace, Burgundy and many other parts of the world.

Biodynamic accreditation is through DEMETER or BIODYVIN. Whereas we have only cited as Organic producers those who are certified or in conversion, for biodynamic farming we take a slightly different view because we regard biodynamism as a philosophy more than a regime. We therefore highlight both those who are certified biodynamic, and those who are comfortable in being described as ‘broadly biodynamic’.
 

See here the full list of Berrys' biodynamic wine producers (certified & broadly biodynamic)

 According to DEMETER Biodynamic certification entails:

  • Conversion of the entire farm (incl. secondary crops, animal husbandry, areas producing products for home consumption, etc.)
  • Ruminants are present in arable enterprises - the minimum requirement is 0.2 livestock unit/hectare.
  • At least one application per year of cow horn manure and horn silica, as well as the spreading of prepared manures on all areas of the enterprise.
  • All organic manures (stable manure, compost etc.) are to be treated with the compost preparations. A composite preparation (such as cowpat prep, barrel compost, prepared 500 etc.) may be spread as a substitute on all areas of the enterprise, which receive no prepared manure in the course of a year.
  • Compliance with the requirements for seed/plant material quality; it has to be Demeter if available and, if not, then of organic quality. Conventional quality may be used only with prior written permission of Demeter-International. Treated seeds are strictly forbidden.
  • Compliance with the input lists named in the annexes of the Demeter Standards, such as no use of copper in vegetables. Restriction to max. 3 kg copper/ha in perennial crops.
  • Chicken manure only from certified organic farms.
  • GMO free declaration for all inputs at risk from genetic modification.
  • Clear separation of product flow in all steps of production, transport, processing, storage, export - introduction of a lot number system is required to trace a product back to the farm at any time.
  • It usually takes three years conversion time to achieve Demeter certification. The conversion time can be shortened if it can be proven that previous farming methods were organic or extensive. A valid certificate from an accredited organic inspection body is a precondition.

Read Jasper Morris' MW article on Biodynamic Wines and visit Berrys Wine Blog to see further discussion on this topic.