Guide to Organic Wine

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With all the jargon about different types of wine being thrown around so much lately, it’s enough to make your head spin. From organic wine, natural wine, sulphite free wine and even biodynamic wine, what do they mean?

For many people the assumption is, that all wine is organic. This is wrong. The official stance taken by the EU is that a wine can be considered to be organic when it has been produced according to the Regulation of the European Commission. It states that the grapes must come from organically-farmed vineyards, and once in the cellar the grapes must continue to be processed organically. In a nutshell, organic ingredients, organic processes, from vine to bottle. These regulations are a relatively new thing, since 2012 there has been a law which provides clear parameters for winemakers.

Biodynamic Wine

Biodynamic winemaking takes the concept of organic agriculture and pushes it forwards in more holistic ways. Whilst organic farming bans the use of any synthetic products, biodynamic winemaking takes it one step further by prescribing the use of eight ‘preparations’ to enhance the life of the soil and to protect against vine diseases.

The biodynamic approach is useful in regions where simply abstaining from using chemicals is not always the best solutions for the vines. It’s safe to say that this use of nature to sustain vine health is immeasurably better than using harsh chemicals, both for the vineyards and their ecosystems and us as the human consumers.

Can you taste the difference between Organic Wine and Biodynamic Wine?

Scientifically speaking, the answer is no. It would be very difficult to prove that there are consistent variances in the tastes between a product that has been farmed organically and a product that has been farmed biodynamically.

What about Natural Wine?

Over recent years, there has been an increased uptake in the term ‘natural wine’; the difficulty surrounding natural wine is that there is no set definition or laws on what natural wine actually has to be. An accepted definition in the wine community is “organically or biodynamically farmed grapes that have been processed as little as possible before going into the bottle”. True natural wines can taste very wild, and they are almost as far away from traditional wine as you can get.

As with all wine, there are some good natural wines and some bad natural wines. However, with increasing experience and support of winemakers that choose to make their wine without the safety net of chemistry, the quality of natural wines seems to be getting better and better.

Sulphites

All wines contain sulphites. Sulphites are a totally natural byproduct of fermentation, so it is simple impossible to have wine without sulphites. However, winemakers can choose to add in extra sulphite to their wine. Natural wine does not add in any extra sulphites, and this helps to contribute to the significantly different taste. Drinking wine with no added sulphites will be strange at first as you will possibly only be used to drinking wine with added sulphites; persevere and try something you already know you like in a wine.

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