There is widespread confusion surrounding the social impact and personal health benefits of organic & biodynamic farming globally and these exact same concerns exist in the wine industry. Winemakers who don’t support this method of winemaking claim it to be ‘ludicrous’, ‘the wines won’t last’, ‘it’s for hippies and it doesn’t taste any better!’. But an increasing number of winemakers are sworn converts, devoting the same care and love to their vines as they would their own children and extolling the virtues of the ‘natural wines’ they produce – that don’t give you a sore head the next morning, they say.
So what is the difference between organic and non-organic wine? Essentially this comes down to the products used in the vineyard and winery – in short, no nasties! Rather than using chemical-based synthetic products the winemaker might choose to use egg whites to fine the wine, natural fish products as a preservative and stick only to naturally occurring yeasts. Organic wine is typically made to be drunk younger because a suitable alternative to sulphites – those nasties that preserve the wine and allow for slow, steady ageing – is yet to be found. But some winemakers are finding regions & grapes that perform well enough and generate sufficient acid and tannin to age very well…organically. Other winemakers follow organic farming methods in the vineyard but still use some chemicals (in moderation) in the winery – these wines will have ‘made from organically grown grapes’ on the label.
Taking this concept one step further, some wineries including Gemtree Wines follow biodynamic winemaking, a spiritual and holistic approach that respects and capitalises on the natural cohesive energy of nature and its cycles. Winemakers harvest the grapes in accordance with the moon, plant and bury symbolic and mystical items in the soil to generate positive energy and spray the vines with natural plant extracts. The theory behind biodynamic winemaking also encourages self-sufficiency in the vineyard, making use of recycling to limit wastage and maintaining the planet in its healthy state for future generations.
Whatever you think about all this, the truth is that the production and consumption of organic and biodynamic wine is on the up – we are living in an increasingly health conscious world with informed buyers making educated choices. Organic is no longer associated with hemp-wearing hippies – it’s a healthier way to live your life and take care of our planet. Deciding to ‘go organic’ is also no mean feat – winemakers have to undergo stringent tests and adhere to specific guidelines in order to be ‘certified organic’ so it is really a conscious marketing decision that can affect their bottom line. And biodynamic winemaking is fast becoming a popular choice with many of the world’s top winemakers vehemently supporting this trend.
Ultimately there is one important question that we need to answer: does all this affect the taste of the wine? Well, I suggest you go out and try some! In my humble opinion, no it doesn’t, but it might all be in my head.
Want to try some organic wines & decide for yourself?