Now this is a topic that is sometimes confusing. Words like organic, biodynamic and natural wines are thrown around in conversations lightly. But do we really know the difference? Is it even possible to know the difference as countries and apellations regulate these terms differently? I will be honest with you, I was not at all sure of all the definitions myself before I did this little investigation. Here are some ground assumptions that you can make when discussing different types of ecological wine production.
Organic wines are produced from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming. Typically this means that artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides are not used. The legal definitions of organic wine vary from country to country (appellation to appellation) with the primary difference being the use of preservatives during the wine-making process.
A biodynamic wine is (obviously) a wine produced from grapes are farmed according to biodynamic practices, and that the winemaker did not make the wine with any common manipulations such as yeast additions or acidity adjustments. Both organic and biodynamic farming exclude the use of chemicals, the main difference being that biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an ecosystem (even looking at astrological movements and lunar cycles).
Very important! One should always check whether the bottle states that the wine is organic/biodynamic (includes production process) or that the wine is ‘made from organic/biodynamic grapes’ (does not include production process)
And then to the hot hot hot labeling of the day and the most common area of confusion: natural (nature) wine. The term natural refers to the wine being produced with ‘minimal intervention’. This means no chemicals are used in the vineyard (organic or biodynamic practices) or in the wine-making process. Natural wines are often unfined and unfiltered which may give them a cloudy appearance (you can see the sediment in the glass).
Regardless of what the label on the wine says or doesn’t say, it is always good to read through the producers notes about a wine. I have visited many wonderful vineyards, many of which we have in our selection, that use organic or biodynamic practices, but do not label their bottles with these definition. Why? Because it is shit expensive. Having your vineyard certified as organic or biodynamic requires a lot of work from the grower. The certifying party will do several audits per year and most likely charge a fee for using their “brand”. Some of our producers have wondered why they should end up paying for being the responsible ones. Why don’t the producers who actually wear out the land and use heavy chemicals have to pay for ‘not farming organic’? Good question!
Another good tip is to check the appellation. What does the regulatory authority for a specific wine region say about production methods? For example DO CAVA is very strict on the use of chemicals as well as extra irrigation. Perhaps you have the bases for organic farming already there.
I hope I got all the definitions right. As briefly mentioned before, the terminology is local, meaning the term ‘organic’ in country A might include different requirements than ‘organic’ in country B. So hopefully I have not confused you even more.