By definition, every wine is essentially ‘natural’ as they are all made from fruit that has grown on vines, which have evolved naturally in our world. However, whenever these fruits are manipulated in some way, either in the vineyard, or in the winery through the application of synthetic chemicals, and sprays, and the addition of cultured yeasts, enzymes, tannin, acids, sugar, as well as mechanical manipulations, such as the spinning cone and reverse-osmosis, plus fining, and filtration, then you begin to see that this naturalness has actually been manipulated into much more of an un-natural state.
So, here are a few of my own definitions for many of the things I write about, as The Wine Idealist:
Natural wines are wines that are made from wine grapes that have experienced no human intervention or manipulation – nothing is added or removed – other than to encourage a change of state, from a bunch of grapes grown in a vineyard, to a bottle of wine. There are no additives, such as packet yeast, acids, tannin, enzymes, poly-vinyl-poly-pyrrolidone, or hydrogen peroxide etc., no use of new oak, and there is, usually, no finning or mechanised filtration to remove any excess sediment. Instead, the wine is a pure and honest, (sometimes too honest!) expression of the fruit, the season, and the place where it was grown. Only a minimal amount (75ppm or less) of sulphur-dioxide (SO2/220) is sometimes used, as required, in order to help the wine travel safely.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines organic as, “(of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals.” In relation to organic wine, this simply relates to the management of the vineyard itself; that no ‘chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals’ are used in the vineyard to increase yield, and kill pests and disease, weeds and so on. In theory, you could practice organic farming out in the vineyard, and still add to, and manipulate the fruit once it arrives in the winery.
In Australia, an independent certifying body must certify a producer’s wine if that producer’s wines are to be promoted and sold as an organic product.
Put simply, biodynamic viticulture is a philosophy that combines the maintenance of sustainable soil fertility with the recognition of the link between plant growth and the rhythms of the cosmos. It is a method of farming that treats the vineyard as a living system that interacts with the environment to build a healthy living soil, which in turn helps to nourish the vines and general environment.
Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner initially outlined the practice of biodynamics, in 1924. His lectures outlined a new approach to agriculture, which include:
- methods for composting using renewable resources,
- farming according to the natural rhythms and phases of the moon, and planets (working to the lunar calendar),
- a sense of spirituality with regards to the earth, and all living and natural things existing upon it.
With regards to wine, many biodynanmic winegrowers will use the preparations 500-508, as prescribed by Steiner, in their vineyard and conduct their composting, general maintenance, harvesting and so on, according to the lunar calendar.
In Australia, an independent certifying body must certify a producer’s wine if that producer’s wines are to be promoted and sold as a biodynamic product.
You can read The Wine Idealist’s approach to Biodynamics 101 here.
For more information on biodynamics as a farming principal visit Biodynamic Agriculture Australia.