Natural Wines

 

Natural wines is a somewhat confusing and complicated term. It is the term often used when talking about Organic and Bio-dynamic winemaking, although it is perhaps not the most accurate description, as there are winemakers who do not necessarily have organic or biodynamic certification, but do farm with some of those principles in mind. Let us try and keep it simple and stick to the basics:

 

Natural winemaking involves the following principles

•   Grapes are typically farmed in an organic or biodynamic way where herbicides are not used and cover crops are found between the rows which stimulate for example deep root growth.

•   Grapes are harvested by hand, which allows only mature and clean fruit to be brought to the winery.

•   Fermentation occurs using only indigenous yeasts naturally present in the vineyard and cellar allowing genuine flavours of the grapes and soil to be expressed.

•   Sulfur dioxide in not used or is very limited as winemaking without sulphur dioxide is very difficult if there are not enough healthy yeast populations in the organically grown grapes.

 
Read on for information on Organic and Biodynamic winemaking. 
 

 

Certified organic wines

 

All wines claiming to be Organically certified, are made with organically grown grapes. There are an estimated 2000 organic wine producers worldwide. It takes up to 3 years for a winery to be converted to an organically certified winery, and with some variation from country to country, the following rules need to be followed:

 

•   Chemical herbicides and pesticides are banned

•   Only certain natural preparations may be used against rot or mildew

•   Yearly inspections must be carried out by a certified body

 

Many winemakers who practice organic viticulture prefer not to go through the certification process, they just farm that way because they believe it is better for the wine. 

 


 

Certified biodynamic wines

 

At its most basic, the biodynamic approach to grape-growing views the vineyard as an ecological whole, not just rows of grapevines, but the soil beneath them—an organism in its own right—and the other flora and fauna in the area, growing together interdependently. Like organic wines, there is a certification process involved before you can call your wines biodynamic.

 

There are currently more than 500 biodynamic wine producers worldwide and the largest certification body in the world being Demeter.

 

Biodynamic wines start with the same fundamentals observed by organic farming and observing all the principles of natural winemaking, but it connects further to the vineyard with the rhythms of the earth and atmosphere through the performance of vineyard and winery tasks in alignment with lunar and other cycles. Furthermore it actively promotes the life of the soil, and the organisms within, through the application of specially prepared composts and animal products. The list of prohibited applications are far stricter than in organic winemaking and vine disease and pest control are based on prevention within the life of the farm itself.

 

Biodynamic wines gives a more pure and unchanged expression of the grapes and terroir through healthier vineyards that are naturally more resistant to plant diseases and extreme weather. The extreme heat in Europe during 2003 being one example where biodynamic vineyards produced more balanced wines than their conventional neighbors. Most believers in the biodynamic principles of winemaking feel that the wines offered to the consumer offer a level of purity, balance and complexity that is superior to wines made through conventional principles. And regardless of the more outlandish aspects of the biodynamic approach, the intense attention it forces growers to pay in the vineyard can't be anything but good!

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