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Organic & Biodynamic Wine
What is Organic Wine?
At its most basic level, organic wine is made from grapes grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. View our selection.
Winemaking techniques should be organic as well; little or no manipulation of wines by excessive filtration, flavour additives (such as oak chips) or reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis became fashionable in Bordeaux and other regions in the last decade, essentially a system of pushing the wine through a very fine filter at high pressure (80 bars), to remove alcohol and water, concentrating the flavours. Opponents of the technique say that the process is very energy intensive, removes more than just water from the wine (flavour is lost too) and that the chemical structure of the wine is affected in ways we don’t yet understand. Many organic winemakers also prefer wild yeasts for fermentation. When a label says “organic,” it means the wine has met certain standards that are set by a government agency. Different nations have their own certification criteria, so what’s organic in one country may not be so in another. Many wineries that are technically organic still choose not to be certified. There are many reasons for this. Some do not want the added costs and bureaucracy of registering. Others may disagree with their government’s standards. It can also be a marketing decision. Whatever the case, they are not allowed to use “organic” on their labels. The use of added sulphites is debated heavily within the organic winemaking community. Many favour their use, in extremely small quantities, to help stabilize wines, while others frown on them completely. In the United States, wines labelled “organic” cannot contain added sulphites. Wines that have added sulphites, but are otherwise organic, are labelled “wine made from organic grapes.” In general, quality organic wines will have lower sulphur levels than non-organic wines.
What is Biodynamic Wine?
Biodynamic winemaking follows the teachings of Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925), and incorporates homeopathic treatments, as well as astronomical and astrological considerations, into the organic process. Vineyard and winery processes are run according to the biodynamic calendar, following the phases of the moon, planetary cycles and constellations of the zodiac. Famers have been aware of the effect of the moon on plant growing cycles for thousands of years (the moon, after all, controls the tides and plants are reliant on the phloem and water to carry nutrients around their systems). Nettle, yarrow, camomile, oak bark, dandelion and valerian make up the 6 preparations used to treat all manner of conditions of the vine and to make biodynamic compost. Soil health is paramount and biodynamic vineyards are often noticeable for the amount of mixed cover crops in between rows of vines, with wildflowers and grasses helping to retain soil moisture and nutrients. Ploughing is often done by horse and if egg white fining is used to clarify the wines (still surprisingly common) the domain will probably keep its own hens to provide the eggs. Everything is used and the aim is to make a ‘closed system’, which can have an added benefit of reducing consumption of energy and resources. Biodynamic viticulture was championed by Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive, one of the finest estates in Burgundy and has since – quietly – been adopted by many of the greatest estates. Petrus, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Chateau Palmer, Chateau Pontet Canet are notable examples, but the practice is being used more and more widely. Many top Burgundy estates are biodynamic and many in Bordeaux are ‘in conversion’, but you may well not see this on the label. At this level, domains do not advertise their organic or biodynamic status, they simply follow these practices as part of their pursuit of making the best possible quality of wine.
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