Several wines in The French Cellar selections are biodynamic or organic… What are the principles behind these 2 concepts?
Organic wines are made from grapes that are grown and processed without chemical products (pesticides, fertilizers…). The objective is not only to protect the soil but also to produce better wines that ‘express their terroir origin’ more intensely.
Rules vary for the grape processing part (fermentation, bottling) with different certifications having different criteria. The use of added sulfites in particular -widely used in wines as preservatives- is debated heavily within the organic winemaking community. In the United States, wines labeled “organic” cannot contain added sulfites. In France, the use of sulfites only needs to be ‘reduced’.
Biodynamic wines follow the principles of organic farming but go beyond, with an additional set of rules focusing on soil sustainability and the creation of a biologically healthy ecosystem. Biodynamic agriculture takes into account the natural weather cycles, soil health, integrated pest management and even the phases of the moon. Vineyard or terroir is considered as a living being.
The rules of biodynamics are based on a series of conferences given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. They include a set of 9 natural ‘preparations’ with various herbal and mineral additives that need to be added in the soil during grape farming to aid fertilization. These are sometimes prepared by controversial methods, such as burying ground quartz stuffed into the horn of a cow, which are said to harvest “cosmic forces in the soil”.
The practice of organic and biodynamic grape farming has become popular in recent years in most wine growing regions. But these practices make the work in the vineyards more difficult, with more manual steps and lower yields. Still the share of organic has tripled in France in the last 3 years to reach 8.2% of vineyards (in 2013). 10 to 15% of them following biodynamic principles.
Do organic and biodynamic wines taste better? This is still discussed! Organic wines have sometimes been criticized in France on their taste, as some of the less experimented organic winemakers had more difficulties in protecting the grapes and stabilizing their wines without the help chemical products. However many wine experts find organic and biodynamic wines to have more aromas and ‘personality’ as they express the characteristics of their soil with more strength.
Organic wines on The French Cellar: