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What does organic wine actually mean and what are the differences between biodynamic, natural and sulphite-free wines?

agriculture biologique, vignes

WHAT DOES SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE MEAN?


Sustainable agriculture is defined as a production method based on a global approach to the farm that integrates economic, qualitative, social and environmental aspects into its management. In other words, sustainable agriculture seeks to take into account in a balanced way the objectives of producers, the expectations of consumers and respect for the environment in daily practices. Its role is therefore to limit the impact of the winegrowing activity on the environment. The idea is to use only the minimum of chemical products, to treat the vine only when necessary and to ensure total transparency of these treatments given to the vine. This approach, which limits the use of chemicals without rejecting them entirely, is officially recognised and certified by the H.V.E. (High Environmental Value) label.

vin bio rouge, vin bio rosé, vin bio blanc

WHAT DOES ORGANIC WINE MEAN?


An organic wine is a wine produced by organic farming, i.e. produced from grapes certified as organic, thus respecting strict specifications banning pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers and GMOs. To obtain organic certification, not only must the grapes be organically grown, but also the winemaking process must comply with some specifications that include winemaking rules, such as a maximum sulfite content that is lower than the maximum doses authorised for conventional wines. However there is no big difference in what an organic grower can do in the wine cellar compared to a conventional one. In fact many producers argue that the set of rules is far too generous. Wine can only be called organic if the wine-growers have had their farming practice monitored and certified by an organisation that has been officially recognised. The most important organisation for awarding the "AB" label is Ecocert.

grappes de raisins issus de biodynamie

WHAT DOES BIODYNAMIC WINE MEAN?


Biodynamic viticulture is inspired by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and scientist. It consists of rehabilitating and intensifying organic life within the vineyards in order to better respect the environment, to make the vines strong enough to defend themselves and allow the best expression of the terroir in the wines. Biodynamics also takes into account the lunar cycles and planetary positions for their influence on the life and growth of plants, and aims to improve the quality of the soil and the vines naturally. It also includes the use of specially prepared homeopathic remedies, that are called preparations, to ward off and treat the vineyard diseases and pests. More and more estates are converting into biodynamic farming, without chemical fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides, to adopt natural methods of prevention while seeking to reactivate the natural microbial life of the soil. This type of cultivation is often a guarantee of quality and, above all protection of the terroir. In order to obtain biodynamic certification (Demeter or Biodyvin label), it is necessary to be first certified in organic agriculture.

vin naturel, vin nature, vin sans sulfites ajoutés

WHAT DOES NATURAL WINE MEAN?


Natural wine has been growing in popularity in recent years, but even natural wine producers don't always agree on an acceptable definition. A natural wine is an approach inspired by organic agriculture and biodynamics that goes much further, especially during the vinification process. Many of the natural wine producers feel that the restrictions and requirements for organic and biodynamic wines are not strict enough. The new French natural wine certification label is called "Vin Méthode Nature". In order to qualify, the grapes must carry an organic certification, be hand-picked and fermented using indigenous yeasts. Methods which are banned during the winemaking process include thermovinification, reverse osmosis, flash pasteurisation and cross-flow filtration. Only up to 30 mg/L of sulphur dioxide is permitted after fermentation. Other wine-producing countries are expected to follow the French example. In France there are also two separate organizations, AVN and Vins SAINS, for so called natural wines.

AVN Association des Vins Naturels

L’Association des Vins Naturels (AVN) defends that: "a natural wine is made from organically or biodynamically grown grapes, harvested by hand, vinified using artisanal techniques, without any inputs, with the possible but not encouraged exception of very low doses of added sulphites".

SAINS S.A.I.N.S association Sans Aucun Intrant Ni Sulfite

The organisation S.A.I.N.S (Sans Aucun Intrant ni Sulfite Ajouté) is more restrictive because if AVN wishes to add as few addictives as possible, notably sulphites at the time of vinification, S.A.I.N.S. bans them completely.

DOES ORGANIC WINE CONTAIN SULPHITES?

There is no such thing as a wine without sulphites as all the wines naturally contain a small amount of sulphites. Sulphites (SO2) are derivatives of sulphur that play a major role in the production and preservation of wine. They are found in wine through a natural effect but also through manual addition by the winemaker at different stages of the winemaking process to protect wine from oxidation and unwanted bacteria and yeasts. Without the presence of sulphites, wine would turn into vinegar! There are regulations for the maximum sulphite content in wines. The authorised amount does differ between organic, biodynamic and natural wines, however the amount is always considerably smaller than it is allowed for the conventional wines. The legal statement "contains sulphites" must always be displayed on the label if the wine contains more than 10 mg/L of SO2.

WINES WITHOUT ADDED SULPHITES

Find our selection of natural wines and wines without added sulphites

WHAT ARE THE MAIN ORGANIC LABELS?

Demeter, Biodyvin, Terra Vitis, Nature&Progrès… Not so easy to understand the differences between all the lables ! Here is an insight into the differences between the main environmental labels on the wine bottles. A bottle of organic wine must carry two labels: "wine made from organically grown grapes" and the logo of the certification body. In addition, wines produced since 1st of August 2012 must bear the words "organic wine" and the EU organic logo on the label.

TERRA VITIS LOGO

terra vitis label bio

The winegrowers who adhere to this label commit themselves to reducing the quantity of synthetic inputs both in the vineyard and in the wine. However, in the event of vine disease or damage, they are allowed to use them. This organic label is the most permissive.

AB LOGO

label ab, agriculture biologique

The AB logo is a guarantee that the grapes from which the wine is made are organically grown, and of nothing else. AB wines are subject to no specific restrictions in their vinification.

NATURE ET PROGRÈS LOGO

nature et progrès agriculture biologique

To use this logo on a wine bottle, a member must have organic certification for his grapes and follow the Nature&Progrès rule-book on vinification. Nature&Progrès recommends, but does not require, that grapes are hand–picked and fermented with their own yeasts. It allows chaptalisation (adding sugar to increase the level of alcohol) up to one percent, fining (with organic egg-white or bentonite), and, in certain circumstances, the use of tartaric acid to adjust acidity. Permitted levels of sulphur dioxide are about half those allowed under EU law.

DEMETER LOGO

demeter vin biodynamie, biodynamique

These are wines made from biodynamically certified grapes and vinified according to Demeter rules. The rules governing the production of vin Demeter are stricter than those for Nature&Progrès. The grapes must be hand-picked, but can be fermented with foreign yeasts. Chaptalisation is permitted only in sparkling white wines, fining only with biodynamic egg-white or bentonite. Some filtration is also allowed. Permitted levels of sulphur dioxide are slightly lower than for Nature&Progrès, and about half those allowed under in EU law.

H.V.E LOGO

label HVE haute valeur environnementale vin bio

High Environmental Value farm that aims at sustainable production and consumption. Recognises farmers' good environmental and health practices (phytosanitary issues, biodiversity, energy, etc.). A voluntary certification.

ECOCERT LOGO

ECOCERT LABEL BIO

Respect for living ecosystems, better management of natural resources and energy, socially responsible industry, committed to safety and quality towards sustainability.

BIODYVIN LOGO

label biodyvin biodynamie

Wines carrying their Biodyvin logo must be made from biodynamic grapes and are certified by ECOCERT. The mark is also intended as a guarantee of quality: all Biodyvin wines are tasted and approved by SIVCBD. Biodyvin wines will have to conform to a set of rules on vinification once these have been finalised. They are expected to be more lenient than those of Demeter.

ORGANIC BEERS

Find our selection of 100% organic Beers

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