Organic wines, biodynamic wines and natural wines: the differences
Organic, biodynamic or natural, it is first of all a process... and constraints!
Out of 150,000 wine producers in France, about 1.5% accept additional constraints in making their wines. These mainly concern whether or not to use a list of products in the vineyard to obtain a healthy grape. They are defined in specifications written by various organisations. Certified annually, the winegrowers have the right to add a label (e.g. AB logo) or a brand (e.g. Demeter or Nature & Progrès) on their bottles. We then speak of Organic Wines, Biodynamic Wines or Natural Wines.
Wine obviously does not exist naturally in nature... It is first of all the fruit of the work of Man (it is written in full in the Gospels). Man makes grapes grow. Then he transforms this raw material into a drink which, if he leaves it completely free, will be transformed fairly quickly into vinegar. But there is work and work, and here the differences between the different approaches to viticulture and winemaking can be important.
In order not to confuse organic wine, biodynamic wine and natural wine, here are the main differences between these three approaches:
Organic wine is regulated by a European specification. It guarantees that no chemicals have been used to treat the vines. And that no herbicides have been spread to get rid of the grass, which requires mechanical work. For fertilisation, only natural products are allowed, such as composted sheep manure.
For biodynamic wine, there is no European regulation to date. Two important certifying bodies govern the production of these biodynamic wines: Demeter and Biodyvin. They both require that the wines must first be in organic agriculture. Biodynamics is based on the writings of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Biodynamic winegrowers use preparations that promote biodiversity in the vineyard. The lunar calendar, the stars and their movements are also important to them. This philosophy and these methods represent in practice a step up from pure organic farming.
Principles: a wine made from organically grown or biodynamic grapes, vinified as naturally as possible, will be called "vin nature". The winemaker accompanies the wine. Apart from the use of indigenous yeasts (specific to the grapes and its environment), the winemaker does very little to intervene. No chaptalization, no acidification and no or little use of SO2. Natural wines can also be called "sulphur-free wines" when winemaker has not added any sulphite. Here too, nature (or natural) wines have a convention. According to the Association des Vins Nature, of which we are members, here is the definition of Vin Nature. "The healthy grape, picked on a vine in harmony with nature, gives a juice which, on fermenting, becomes a natural wine. Ideally, man does not intervene, he accompanies it... By ethics he says what he does, and he does what he says ".
The "Syndicat de défense des Vins Nature'l': launched at the end of 2019, this private organization offers a certifying label with the name "Vin Méthode Nature". Nature wines therefore finally have a definition and a label, officially validated by the fraud services (DGCCRF) in March 2020.
Mission of the syndicate: to federate a large community around the values and principles of elaboration and diffusion of the "Vin méthode Nature". Values = craftsmanship, transparency, independence, social dimension
Its operational objectives:
- To defend vin nature and its members with public institutions and organisations.
- Communicate on the commitment charter and the "Vin méthode Nature" logo.
- To create a community (winemaker, wine professional, consumer) around natural wine.
Its commitment charter: 12 points to be respected by winemaker to make natural wines.
- 100% of the grapes (from all origins: PDO, Vin de France, etc.) intended for a wine that claims to be "Vin méthode nature" must come from committed and certified organic farming (Nature & Progrès, AB, or 2nd year of AB conversion at least).
- The harvest is manual.
- Organic wines are vinified only with indigenous yeasts.
- No inputs are added.
- No action of voluntary modification of the constitution of the grape is permitted.
- No recourse to brutal and traumatic physical techniques (reverse osmosis, filtration, tangential filtration, flash pasteurization, thermovinification...) is allowed.
- No sulphite is added before and during fermentation, nor in the vat feet (can be adjusted - in the order of : SO2 < 30 mg/l total H2SO4, whatever the colour and type of wine - before bottling; obligation to inform about the addition of sulphites, mentioned on the label via a dedicated logo).
- During a "Salon des Vins méthode nature", the winegrowers as well as the organisers undertake to present the charter next to the bottles. Independent wine merchants are encouraged to do the same, as far as du possible is concerned, within their establishment.
- Use of one of the VMN identification logos (2 possible versions: sulphite-free / inferior to 30 mg/l).
- The commitment will be made at the time of "commercialization" by a "declaration on honour", following the advice of the Union's office. It will be requested each year for each vintage (batch clearly identified).
- The vintages that are not "Natural method wines" must be clearly identifiable (differentiated labelling) among the signatories.
- The signatories will commit themselves in their own name and all the information requested will be put online.
Control procedures for natural wines :
- Random control (vintage and calendar): 1% per year.
- On-site control and sampling by a certifying body.
- Carrying out analyses on the vintages involved (sulphite, synthetic pesticide residues, etc.).
- Provision by the winemaker of all the wine traceability documents (cellar notebook).
- Control and analysis at the expense of the Union.