Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wines

At The Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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T he topic of organic wines has come up several times over the past month. Most recently, we had a customer ask us to source only organic, biodynamic or sustainable wines for a special event she was having. We had to do digging to ensure we understood the difference. All three practices involve different techniques and guidelines as well as certifications, which can all be a little confusing.

Organic Wine

Organic wine is wine made from grapes grown following very specific organic farming practices. It means that grapes have to be grown without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Depending on which country you are in, there is also a difference between the general term 'organic wine' and the specific legal term 'organic wine' used for labelling purposes. Things get a little complicated when we take the organically grown grapes into the winery. The wine grapes must not only be grown organically, but also the wine should be made organically in the winery which include steps such as fermentation and bottling.

Worldwide, organic wine certification is complex business; in the USA there are two types of organic listings on wine bottles. Wines can be certified by the USDA as organic wines - those meeting all organic requirements from vineyard to the winery. USDA also certifies wines as made with organic grapes, usually indicating that sulphur was added during the winemaking process. Sulphur dioxide has been used for centuries as a key preservative in the making of wines; so even if the grapes are grown organically, in some countries the wine cannot be called organic if sulphur is used.

Biodynamic Wines

The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association defines biodynamic farming as “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition”. Biodynamic winemaking takes organic to a whole new level by incorporating homeopathic treatments, as well as astronomical and astrological considerations into the organic process. A biodynamic wine means that the grapes are farmed biodynamically, and that the winemaker did not make the wine with any common manipulations. A wine “made from biodynamic grapes” means that the winemaker used biodynamically grown grapes, but followed a less strict list of rules in winemaking.

Sustainably Farmed Wines

Sustainability refers to a range of practices that are based on farming that is not only good for the environment, but also makes economic sense for the winery. This means that a farmer may largely use organic or biodynamic practices, but if some of those practices don't make economic sense (eg, they're too expensive), the farmer might skip some of them. There are some recent industry organisations offering sustainability certifications, but there is no official standard and some folks have an issue with that. Some argue that it “fuzzies” up the strict organic requirements ultimately for the benefits of marketing. So depending on who you listen to, sustainable farming is either at the top or bottom of the pyramid.

Organic Wines in Jamaica?

I went into Loshusan Supermarket in Barbican and found a number of wines made by wine producers that practise sustainable farming; these include Villa Maria, New Zealand; King Estate, Oregon; Wente, California and Santa Rita, Chile. Not seen in that supermarket but also available in Jamaica are: Bonterra Vineyards — 100% organically grown grapes, DeLoach Vineyards — certified organic and biodynamic, Kendall-Jackson Winery — organic/SIP certified and Lapostolle Winery — 100% organically grown/certified sustainable.

Do visit the wine producers' websites to confirm exactly which of their wines have been certified or accredited.

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