It is not necessary for an organic or biodynamic wine grower to be certified in order for them to sell their wines within Australia, or New Zealand. There are many wine growers who do not have certification, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t practice organic, or biodynamic viticulture in their vineyards.
From a consumer standpoint, certification acts as an easy identifier that helps them choose a wine they can be certain stands up to the rigorous annual reporting and audits that these winegrowers are made to do each and every year in order to be recognised as organic, or biodynamic.
Currently, there are several organisations in Australia that are accredited to provide inspection and certification services for a range of organic and biodynamic commodities and production practices, including wine.
The two most prominent organisations, in Australia, you are likely to encounter on your bottle shop shelf are:
- Australian Certified Organic (ACO), and
- NASAA – National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia
and in New Zealand:
- BioGro Certified Organic
For the consumer, certification provides a system of traceability, assurance of quality, and integrity of the organic product all the way from the paddock to the plate. Each organisation will adhere to a national standard, as outlined by AQIS, which is agreed upon by a panel of experts, and reviewed regularly, but each will also have their own individual requirements for the producer that wishes to be certified by them.
Not to be confused with the French regulatory body AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée), which controls the French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, Australia Certified Organic, or ACO, is Australia’s most recognised organic and biodynamic certification body.
A subsidiary of the Biological Farmers of Australia, ACO is most recognised through its ‘Bud’ logo, which is prominent on every product they certify. According to ACO, “the Bud reassures consumers that all the product ingredients have been certified to the ACO Standard and meets the rigorous certification checks”.
A property needs to go through a conversion process whereby the land is organically managed for a minimum of three years. This includes crop rotation and the use of green manure crops, compost and natural mineral products to maintain natural soil fertility. Natural and some mechanical methods of weed and pest control are used on the property and all artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides are strictly prohibited.
GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) are strictly prohibited.
Australian wine growers who are currently certified under ACO include:
Nothing to do with the monetarily neglected American space agency, the National Australian Sustainable Agriculture of Australia is one of Australia’s oldest organic certifiers, having been established in 1986.
NASAA is nationally audited and accredited under the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) Organic and Bio-dynamic Program, which commenced in 1994, and is open not just to producers seeking certification, but to anyone wishing to support the aims and objectives of organics and biodynamics. They are also accredited internationally by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, which can assist when trying to export organic produce outside of Australia.
They have very similar requirements to ACO, requiring three consecutive years of rigorous organic/biodynamic land management, and compliance with the annual NASAA property inspections in order for full certification to be granted.
Australian wine growers who are currently certified under NASAA include:
Similarly to Australia Certified Orgnaic in Australia, BioGro is one of New Zealand’s most prominent organic and biodynamic certifiers, with over 1000 producers currently certified.
In order to be certified organic/biodynamic for BioGro, it takes a minimum of three years to fully convert the property with annual checks and inspections carried out throughout the conversion process.
Once certified, a producer is able to legally sell, market and export their product throughout New Zealand and the world, as BioGro is internationally aligned with various organic certifiers from the USA, Canada, and Japan, amongst others.
New Zealand wine growers who are currently certified under BioGro include:
Demeter is the oldest biodynamic certification program in the world, commencing in 1928, 4 years after the first Steiner lectures on biodynamic agriculture.
Consisting of an international network of individual certification organisations spread throughout the world it has branches in both Australia and New Zealand, as well as the United States, and Africa. They represent more than 3,500 producers across nearly 40 countries.
It is one of the most rigourous and demanding of all the certification programs, and unlike many of the other certifiers, Demeter have strict and specific guidelines to do with wine, as outlined in their ‘Standards for Demeter Biodynamic Wine‘.
Australian and New Zealand wine growers that are currently Demeter certified include:
- Millton Vineyards – NZ
- Carrick (in conversion) – NZ
- Pyramid Valley (pending certification) – NZ
- Sorrenberg – VIC
- Hochkirch – VIC
These are only four of approximately 10 recognised certifiers of organic and biodynamic agriculture practices that are currently operating in Australia, and New Zealand.
Each one has their own particular standards that they expect their primary producers to abide by, and factors such as specific benefits, international recognition for export opportunities, differing auditing procedures, and lastly cost, will all affect how a wine grower will decide on who to align themselves with.
While I don’t necessarily make my own organic/biodynamic drinking choices based on certification (and there are plenty of delicious organic and biodynamic winegrowers that do not have certification), for a consumer new to organics and biodynamics, these logos are your guarantee that what’s in your glass 100% honors the Australian and New Zealand agreed standards, and further adheres to the individual standards of the specific certification body that is printed on the wine label.
D// – The Wine Idealist