The conversation about what type of wine to buy is hot right now. But it’s not about whether to move from Provencal rose onto a Californian Pinot Noir as the seasons change. It’s about which practice is better in wine making: organic, sustainable or biodynamic. The subject is surprisingly complicated.
Firstly organic wine and wine made with organic grapes are two different things. Some say organic farming requires too much tilling so we should go for wines coming from sustainable farming, but then sustainability doesn’t always mean no pesticides. Then there’s biodynamic producers who preach the benefits of manure teas and a moon phase calendar and frankly sound very hippy and a bit bonkers. So where to turn?
Wines made from certified organically grown grapes are farmed without synthetic additives and pesticides. But, these winemakers add sulphur at the bottling stage to keep the wine from going off. Organic wines on the other hand are made from organically grown grapes but have no added sulphites. Organic farming does however require more soil tillage to manage weeds and though it won’t use chemicals it does use natural pesticides.
Sustainable wines come from producers that practice greener efforts, such as using renewable energy and creating lower waste and emissions. The problem is there are few third-party certifiers so wineries can claim they are being sustainable without anybody certifying it. Sustainable also doesn’t necessarily mean produced without pesticides or herbicides. It’s more to do with the farming practice itself.
Biodynamic is a holistic approach to agriculture. The land and vines are seen as one entire being. Everything is connected and cyclical and tuned into the patterns of the earth such as the equinox, sunrise, sunset etc. Animals are used to graze and trim the vegetation around the vines, while fertilizing the soil. It’s serious back-to-basics stuff and it seems to work. Wineries around the world are adopting it. Certification, however, is costly so a lot of wineries won’t bother.
Safe to say it’s a viticultural minefield out there, but at least vineyards around the world are starting to do their bit for the environment. If you’re not convinced about a wine’s ethical credibility, contact the winery. They’re always happy to talk to consumers. And the best news is that earth-friendly wines used to mean disgusting plonk but that’s definitely not the case anymore. Experts agree that responsible wines are competing with some of the best out there – and they’re better for you. So chin chin!
Check out sustainablewines.co.uk for a list of local and international wines according to their ethos.