Biodynamic Wine

The Organic Wine & Biodynamic Wine Guide

A Guide to Biodynamic and Organic Wine

Over the last few years demand for sustainable wines has grown significantly. Whether they prefer white, rosé, or red wines, more and more wine lovers want their wines to be green. As well as doing things such as recycling water and designing lighter bottles to reduce their carbon footprint, winemakers are increasingly making organic wines and even biodynamic wines. These wines are friendlier to the planet and many producers believe that they produce higher quality wines.

But what are organic wines and biodynamic wines? How are they made and what is the difference between the two? In this guide we’ll reveal all so that you enjoy more great sustainable wines.

What is organic wine?

Organic wine is made by using grapes that haven’t had any artificial fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides used on them. To put the word organic on the label, their vines have to be treated organically for at least three years and they have to commit to land management regulations too. While they’re waiting for their organic certification, wineries can say they are ‘in conversion’, something that’s worth looking out for on a wine’s label if you’re looking to drink green.

Going organic is a big decision and can make the challenging task of making great wine as easy as pushing water uphill. While some regions naturally lend themselves to the production of organic wine – the Rhône Valley, Rioja, and South Africa’s Western Cape – others are not so lucky. In damp Bordeaux or the pest-prone Douro, organic winemaking is tough.

While organic producers can use certain ‘natural’ treatments on their vines, these are strictly limited. For example, only 20 of the EU’s 300 authorised pesticides are available to organic wine producers. Many will even shun these in favour of natural solutions to their problems. More disease-resistant vine clones are popular, as is planting ‘cover crops’ such as grass or wildflowers between rows of vines. These can attract predators looking to feast on pests that eat grapes, protect the soil and trap carbon. Win-win-win!

What is biodynamic wine? 

If deciding to make wine organically is like pushing water uphill, making it biodynamically can be like trying to nail it to a wall. Biodynamic winemaking is not for the faint of heart.

Biodynamic wines are made according to biodynamic principles. Put simply – or as simply as we can – these state that land should be seen as part of the planet and the wider solar system. That everything is fundamentally connected and that things like the phases of the moon should dictate when certain actions are taken. These ideas were first put forward by Rudolf Steiner as part of his idea for ‘anthroposophic agriculture’ in1924.

Still with us? Good.

The above led to the development of the biodynamic calendar by Maria Thun. This categorises days into four types: 

  • Fruit
  • Root  
  • Flower  
  • Leaf

These are aligned to the four elements:

  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Air
  • Water

Each of these types of day has an ideal type of task associated with it which biodynamic winemakers now follow:

  • Fruit days - are ideal for grape harvesting, as flavours and sugars are likely to be at their peak
  • Root days - are ideal for tasks like pruning and soil work, as energy is focused underground
  • Flower days - aren’t good for vineyard work and you should allow plants to flourish undisturbed
  • Leaf days - are perfect for watering and nurturing vines as the moisture will be absorbed effectively

Some of the techniques they follow can seem a little strange. For example, one of the preferred fertilisers – ‘preparation 500’ - is animal dung that’s been buried in a bull’s horn. One teaspoon of the resulting mixture is then diluted with 40–60 litres of water, stirred in alternate directions for one hour and sprayed over the vineyard.

Unlike organic winemaking, which usually allows for the use of sulphur, artificial yeast and other compounds in the winery, these are banned in biodynamic winemaking. This makes things even harder, but it’s meant to ensure that the wine is a true representation of the vineyard from which it came.

While some people can be a little sniffy about biodynamic winemaking, it’s hard to argue with the sheer quality of many biodynamic wines and their green credentials. The same goes for organic wines, which explains why so many quality-focused wineries are choosing to make their wines in this way.

Like to know more about wine?

We hope you’ve found this guide to biodynamic and organic wine useful. If you’d like to explore the world of wine, why not become a Perfect Cellar member? With our exclusive TastingBOXES, interactive tastings via Alexa, and an incredible range of fine wines, we have everything you need to enjoy finer wine. Perfect.

You may also be interested in reading our more in-depth red wine guide, white wine guide and sparkling wine guide.





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