An organic wine is a wine made from grapes that have been grown without the use of artificial or synthetic chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides. To keep the weeds and bugs at bay, organic farmers work with nature, rather than against it, by boosting their vineyard’s biodiversity. For example, they introduce cover crops to provide a habitat for beneficial insects that are the natural enemy of problem species, or have small sheep graze between the vine rows, eating the grass and weeds. In this way, the vineyard becomes a self-regulating, natural ecosystem, which is able to combat problems intrinsically and eliminates the need for artificial, and potentially toxic, chemicals.
Organic certification is a reliable stamp of approval that the wine has come from this type of vineyard. The regulations for certification differ from country to country and the application and certification process is expensive and time consuming (up to 7 years in some countries). Hence we have included wines which are organic but have either not yet been formally certified OR have chosen not to apply for certification. We know the growers and their importers well and have full confidence in the way that they work.
Biodynamic wines are all organic but follow a more complex set of agricultural practices first put forward by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, well before the rise of the organic movement. The official definition of biodynamic farming according to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association is “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.” Biodynamic wine is made with a set of farming practices that views the farm or vineyard as one solid organism. The ecosystem functions as a whole, with each portion of the farm or vineyard contributing to the next. The idea is to create a self-sustaining system. Natural materials, soils, and composts are used to sustain the vineyard. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are forbidden for the sake of soil fertility. A range of animals from ducks to horses to sheep live on the soil and fertilize it, creating a rich, fertile environment for the vines to grow in. Biodynamic farming also seeks sustainability, or leaving the land in as good or better shape as they found it for future generations.
Another "organic type" practice in France is called "lutte raisonee", literally “reasoned fight” (in French), or “supervised control” (in English). The proliferation of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in the 1950s has made France the single largest consumer of phyto-chemicals in Europe today. The subsequent degradation of the soil has ensued, killing off the necessary microbiotic life forms that support healthy soils. Lutte raisonnée is a reaction to the use of such chemicals, regarded as a pragmatic approach to farming, where chemical treatments are used only when absolutely necessary. Biodiversity in the vineyards is encouraged through the planting of cover crops, rigorous plowing of the soils, and the use of manures and natural composts to fertilize the vines. Some growers use this as a first step towards full organic farming. Others find it a happy medium between conventional methods and the stricter demands dictated by organic certifying agencies
At the Good Wine Shop we currently include Biodynamic wines under our Organic classification but will be enabling search for biodynamic wines shortly. We do not label Lutte Raisonee wines as Organic. Visitors who are interested in learning more about the winemaking practices of each producer can find lots of information in our producer profiles.