Organic &Biodynamic Wines
Wine has been made from organically grown grapes for some decades, indeed arguably organic viticulture is a return to pre-war, less intensive agriculture practices, but only since the 2012 vintage has there been a definition of organic wine in the EU. Organic wine has to be made from grapes grown under certified organic practices, but in addition there are restrictions on winemaking, including the use of reduced levels of the anti-oxidant and ant-microbial agent sulphur dioxide (SO2).
Organic wines may not use cryoextraction, de-alcoholisation, physical reduction of SO2 levels and electrodialysis or cation exchange to stabilise tartrates, or the addition of sorbic acid or potassium sorbate as a stabiliser. In addition, restrictions are put on heat stabilisation and filtration processes, to ensure that the fundamental taste quality of the wine is not affected by these processes. It is highly likely that in future all heat treatments will be banned for organic wines, together with the use of ion exchange resins for de-acidification and reverse osmosis for concentration.
All the processes mentioned above may seem far removed from the popular notion of what “organic” means and it is probably true to say that most organic producers would not avail themselves of all the technological winemaking options open to them, but the core of organic winemaking is still the provenance of the grapes used.
Organic viticulture does not use synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or fertilisers, or any genetically modified organisms. It relies on traditional fertilisers and fungicides, although these may cause some raised eyebrows when it is noted that the latter include compounds of the heavy metal copper. Weed suppression is carried out by ploughing or the use of cover crops, which can also double as green fertiliser.
There is an EU “Organic” logo that may be used on the label of wine that meets all the conditions discussed above, subject to regular independent review. There are a number of other bodies that monitor and certify organic practices, including the Soil Association, the Global Trust, Ecocert, and in future their logo may be seen alongside the EU logo, however it is the latter that should be taken as definitive evidence of meeting the EU requirements.
Biodynamics is the agricultural manifestation of the spiritual science philosophy developed by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and codified in a series of eight lectures in 1924, just before his death. His work was built upon by Erhard Bartsch, who founded Demeter, the regulatory body for worldwide biodynamic agriculture, and Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, who published Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening in 1938, and more recently by Nicolas Joly and Alvaro Espinoza.
Biodynamics recognises the interconnection between all living things, and the consequent need for biodiversity and sustainability, factors it has in common with the organic agriculture movement. This includes the need for livestock to be part of the agricultural activity, to provide natural fertilisers. However, it also believes in an interconnection between terrestrial and celestial energy sources that dictate that agricultural activity should be scheduled in accordance with the position of the moon and the planets.
The proponents of biodynamic viticulture claim that not only is it good for the environment, but also benefits the consumer, who experiences more vibrant fruit flavours in the wines.