It’s been a while since I have blogged, but now I’m back! The past few months have been full of changes for me, but one of the biggest is that I have started working at Foragers Wines. Foragers is a wine shop focused on organic, biodynamic, natural, and sustainable wine, so for this first blog post of 2018, I wanted to provide a quick guide on all of this “green” terminology.
Organic Wines: Wines are often labeled as “made with organic grapes”. This means that the grapes were grown organically, and usually implies that additives (such as yeast and fining agents) were also organic. However, depending on the country, there may or may not have been sulfur added as a preservative. USDA certified organic wines are not allowed to use sulfur in the winemaking process, but the rules for organic vary by country, so many organic wines have minimal amounts of sulfites.
Biodynamic Wines: Biodynamic is a method of farming that views the farm (or vineyard) as a living, interconnected system that must be kept in balance through ecological and spiritual practices, such as making your own fertilizer and scheduling planting and harvesting according to the cycles of the moon and planets. The theories of biodynamic farming were laid out by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, and the current certification for biodynamic farms is the Demeter certification.
Natural: Natural wines take things a step further. Natural wines are organic (or biodynamic) wines that are produced with minimal intervention during the winemaking. Currently there aren’t any official certifications, but some commonly accepted criteria for a “natural wine” are as follows:
- grapes are grown organically/biodynamically and are hand-picked
- use of wild yeast fermentation (aka spontaneous fermentation)
- no additives (sugar, acid, flavors, sulfites)
- minimal or no fining or filtering
Natural wines are not meant to be aged and extra care should be taken to ensure that the wines are stored at the appropriate temperature. Since they do not contain any preservatives, there may be some ongoing fermentation, which can lead to a slight effervescent quality in natural wines.
Sustainable Wines: Sustainable vineyards expand their purview beyond the grapes and place an emphasis on environmental and social responsibility. Sustainable vineyards may follow some organic and/or biodynamic practices, but the focus is on preserving natural resources such as soil, water, and energy to ensure the sustainability of the farm and long-term viability of the environment, while producing high quality wine. The rules are varied, but many regions are establishing certifications for sustainablilty:
- Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW)
- Sustainability in Practice (SIP)
- Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE)
- Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)
- Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile
- South Africa Integrity & Sustainability Certified
- Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW)
- Bodegas de Argentina Sustainability Protocol
Overall, there are many different certifications, and the rules may vary by country, but hopefully this overview provides a better understanding of “green wine”.