Organic vs Biodynamic Wines
We at Vintage Roots are proud to offer an extensive selection of both organic and biodynamic wine from around the world. We have scoured the globe to find only the best wines, all representing great value too.
One question we are often asked is “What’s the difference between organic and biodynamic wines?” The term “organic” is one most people are familiar with, but “biodynamic” is less well-known.
We’re more than happy to answer the question! Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the subtle differences between organic wine and biodynamic wine, including what is biodynamic wine, what is the biodynamic wine growing process, what makes biodynamically grown grapes different from organic grapes, and what the biodynamic wine calendar looks like. By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert on organic wine versus biodynamic wine…
What is Organic Wine?
The term “organic wine” refers to wine made from organically-certified grapes, and since 2012 the winemaking process has also been regulated under the term ‘Organic Wine’. This means that they are grown WITHOUT the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers.
All of the bugs, weeds, and pests are managed using all natural substances, and the fertilizers used to nourish the vines are also 100% natural. For example weeds can be removed mechanically, and natural composts can be used as fertlisers.
Note: While the EU has common standards for ‘Organic Wine’, each country can have their own unique standards for “organic”.
Look for the green leaf logo on the label which shows the wine conforms to EU standards.
In the U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture can certify that a wine is organic. These bottles are labelled and sold as “USDA-Certified Organic”. In order to be certified organic, the grapes have to be grown according to organic farming standards, and in contrast to the EU rules, the wine cannot have added sulphites.
In the UK, the Organic Food Federation is responsible for certifying foods as “Organic”. All of our Vintage Roots wines are certified “Organic” according to OFF standards.
What is Biodynamic Wine?
To understand what is biodynamic wine, you have to understand the term “biodynamic”.
Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic approach to farming that goes beyond ‘organic’. It views the farm as a closed ecosystem, where nothing should be brought in from outside, and nothing wasted (the ideal farm is mixed use, with livestock providing manure for compost, but wine estates without livestock will buy in biodynamic compost).
While organic farming bans the use of synthetic products, biodynamics goes further by stipulating the use of eight ‘preparations’ to enhance the life of the soil. Minerals and herbs such as nettles and dandelion flowers mixed in water in very low concentrations are sprayed in the vineyards.
For example, ‘Preparation 500’ is made by burying cow horns filled with fresh cow manure over winter. After six months, the contents are diluted in water and stirred in different directions to ‘dynamise’ the solution, and sprayed over the vineyard. The aim is to make the soil more porous, encourage the roots to grow deeper and therefore more protected against drought.
One important concept behind biodynamics is the belief that everything–the crops, the soil, the farmer, the universe – is interconnected. The sun, moon, planets, and stars all affect the growing of crops. Viticulturists growing grapes for biodynamic wine will try to balance the connection between the farmer, the vine, the earth itself, and the celestial bodies.
This may sound a bit unusual to some people, but it’s a holistic form of agriculture that has become widely practiced in Europe, Australia, and the New World. Since its introduction in the 1920s, by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, it has become one of the most accepted forms of organic viticulture.
So what makes a wine “biodynamic”? How is there any difference between organic and biodynamic wine?
Biodynamic wines take things a step further on from organics, and follow a very specific biodynamic wine calendar, based on the Moon and the planets. There are days that are ideal for planting, days that are best for harvesting, days that are best for pruning, and days that are ideal for irrigating the plants (where irrigations is permitted). (See the next section).
All of these things are done to encourage the natural growth of the vines and fruit, leading to a wine that is in better harmony with the earth, man, and the universe. Again, this may sound all unusual, but practitioners point to other lunar effects such as tidal systems to show the potential power involved. It’s a unique form of viticulture, one that has produced a lot of excellent wines.
For a wine to be sold as “biodynamic”, it must be certified by an organisation such as Demeter or Biodyvin. Demeter certifies the majority of biodynamic wines, but a large number of French vineyards prefer to obtain the Biodyvin certification as well. To obtain certification, the wines must follow the viticulture and vinification rules established by these organisations.
Biodynamic Wine Calendar
Understanding the biodynamic wine calendar will help you to understand the concept of biodynamics a bit better. The calendar is divided into four days:
- Fruit Days, the best days for harvesting grapes. A Fruit Day is any day when the moon is in Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius – the Fire Signs. Fruit Days are the best days for wine-tastings.
- Leaf Days, the best days for watering the plants. A Leaf Day is any day when the moon is in Pisces, Cancer, or Scorpio – the Water Signs. On Leaf Days, chlorophyll production in the plants increases.
- Root Days, the best days for pruning the vines. A Root Day is any day when the moon is in Virgo, Taurus, or Capricorn – the Earth Signs. For those who follow the biodynamic wine calendar, Root Days are not ideal for wine tastings.
- Flower Days, the days when you leave the vineyard alone and let nature take its course. A Flower Day is any day when the moon is in Aquarius, Libra, or Gemini – the Air Signs. Flower Days are the best day to enjoy aromatic wines.
Each of the important tasks (pruning, harvesting, and irrigating) should only take place on their corresponding day of the lunar calendar. Performing these tasks on the wrong day can have a negative effect on the wine, as it interrupts the natural cycle of the calendar, it is argued.
Do Biodynamic Wines Taste Different?
Now that you understand what biodynamic wine is and how biodynamic wine growing works, we come to the very important question: will a bottle of wine made from biodynamically grown grapes taste any different from a bottle of ‘conventional’ or organic wine?
Biodynamic wines taste like any other bottle of wine in terms of style and flavours. If you were to crack open a bottle of biodynamic wine without reading the label, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell from the taste that it was made using biodynamic winemaking principles. That being said, leading (and impartial) critics such as Jancis Robinson MW have suggested there is often a ‘vitality’ and ‘wild-flower’ aromas that can indicate that a wine is biodynamic.
This could be because of a style biodynamic producers tend to aim for, rather than a natural result of the method. It could be related to the mandatory use of natural wild yeasts. Their effects are fairly subtle, but they can change and enhance the flavour of the wine.
However, many organic and traditional viticulturists follow these same practices. It could also be due to the lower levels of sulphur allowed in biodynamic wines. Low sulphur can give a more aromatic and ‘wild’ character to the wine.
How Can I Find Biodynamic Wine?
If you’re the kind of person who prefers the more natural organic products, you’ll want to try biodynamic wine. These wines go beyond simply using all-natural and chemical-free processes, but they are made using a holistic approach to farming and winemaking.
But how can you find these biodynamic wines? How can you tell if a wine is biodynamic, organic, or traditional?
All biodynamic wines on our website, and in our catalogue, are denoted by the crescent moon symbol.
Alternatively, if you are in a shop you can simply read the label!
Biodynamic viticulturists want you to know that their product is made using the highest-possible quality grapes grown according to biodynamic standards, so they will make sure the word “Biodynamic”, and the logos for Demeter or another certifying body are be on the front or back label.
We at Vintage Roots are proud to offer a wide selection of high quality organic and biodynamic wines from around the world. We have a selection of biodynamic vintages from Argentina, France, Italy, Austria, Chile and many other countries. Check out our wines and see if you can find the perfect bottle of biodynamic goodness for you!