Cultivated with Passion : Organic Wines in the Spotlight
The art of organic viticulture
In the world of wine, more and more consumers are turning to more natural, environmentally-friendly products. Organic wines meet this growing demand, offering a healthy, sustainable alternative. In this blog, we’ll explore what the term “organic wine” really means, the techniques used in their production, and highlight a few examples of our French organic wines.
What is an organic wine?
An organic wine is produced from grapes grown according to organic farming practices. This means that vineyards avoid the use of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Instead, organic winemakers use natural methods that respect the ecosystem, preserving the health of the soil, vines and workers.
Techniques used in organic wine production: 1. Organic farming: Organic vineyards use environmentally-friendly farming practices to grow grapes. This includes the use of natural compost, organic fertilizers and integrated pest management methods. Additionally, they’ll use inter-row native weed growth to help with water retention, soil erosion, and attract local pollinators. 2. Disease management: Rather than using chemical pesticides, organic winemakers adopt preventative approaches to minimize vine diseases. They encourage biodiversity by planting hedges, promoting natural predators of pests and using biocontrol techniques. 3. Vinification: During the winemaking process, organic winemakers also minimize the use of chemicals. They prefer indigenous yeasts for fermentation and limit the addition of sulfites, preservatives often used in conventional wines. Organic wines are often characterized by a purer expression of terroir, reflecting the specific characteristics of grape variety and climate.
Certification and Labeling:
Certification and labeling of organic wines in France are governed by strict regulations that guarantee consumers that the wine has been produced to specific organic standards.
Here’s some information on the certification and labeling of organic wines in France:
Organic certification: In France, winegrowers wishing to produce organic wines must comply with specific specifications drawn up by the Ministry of Agriculture. These specifications define the standards and organic farming practices to be respected throughout the production process, from grape cultivation to vinification. Winegrowers must work in accordance with the principles of organic agriculture, avoiding the use of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and GMOs. They must also comply with strict rules on soil management, biodiversity protection and waste treatment.
Inspection and certification: To obtain organic certification, wineries must work with accredited certification bodies. These bodies carry out regular inspections to ensure that wineries meet the required organic standards. Inspections focus on compliance with organic farming practices, accurate record-keeping and the absence of chemical contamination. Once certification has been granted, it must be renewed regularly, and inspections continue to be carried out to ensure that wineries maintain organic standards throughout their operations.
Organic wine labelling: Bottles of organic wine must bear specific labelling to enable consumers to identify them easily. In France, the “AB” (Agriculture Biologique) label is generally used to indicate that a wine is certified organic. This label is approved by the French Ministry of Agriculture and guarantees that the product complies with current organic standards. In addition to the AB label, some winemakers may also choose to use other recognized organic certification labels, such as Ecocert, Bio Cohérence, Nature & Progrès, or specific regional labels.
The emergence of organic wines:
Organic viticulture in France has a fascinating history dating back to the early 20th century.
Conversion to organic viticultural practices began to gain momentum in the 1960s and 1970s in France. The first French winemaker to adopt biodynamic practices was Alsatian Eugène Meyer. He converted his estate in 1969 after a chemical spraying accident damaged his optic nerve. His vineyard was certified Demeter in 1980, and is recognized as the first to have achieved this distinction. In the same year, Nicola Joly, owner of the Coulée de Serrant monopole in the Loire Valley, switched to biodynamics after realizing the deleterious effects of agrochemicals on his estate. In Burgundy, microbiologist Claude Bourguignon promoted the concept of living soil to Burgundy’s top winemakers in the late 1980s. Since those modest beginnings, the number of winegrowers practicing biodynamics and certified biodynamic in France has grown steadily.
From the 1980s onwards, consumers became increasingly aware of the impact of agriculture on health and the environment, and this rise in demand was accompanied by an increase in the production of organic products, such as organic wines. As for the regulations explained above, they were drawn up between 1980 and 1990.
Today, there are many wineries in France that are certified organic, with techniques and know-how that rival conventional wines.
The differences between organic and biodynamic wines:
Organic wine is subject to European specifications that govern grape production, excluding the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, as well as GMOs. Prior to 2012, there were no rules governing the vinification phase. The 2012 legislation established rules limiting the raw materials and additives that can be used, banning certain techniques and setting thresholds for the use of sulfites. However, the list of permitted additives remains long, meaning that an organic wine can contain various natural acids, sulfites, yeast, sugar, even oak chips to give a woody taste. In short, an organic wine can vary from one with a more industrial approach and relatively high levels of additives, to a craftsman’s wine made with a concern for accompanying nature’s work from the vine to the cellar. Biodynamic wine goes beyond the rules of organic farming. Independent labels such as Demeter, Biodyvin and Nature & Progrès have been created to establish more demanding specifications, based on the balance between the ecosystem of the vine and man. Vinification respectful of biodynamic practices aims to eliminate all oenological inputs and practices designed to modify the grape’s natural balance. In other words, no additions, withdrawals or modifications are allowed in the production of biodynamic wines: unlike organic wines, biodynamic wines aim to totally abolish oenological inputs and practices that alter the grape’s natural balance.
Discover SomMailier’s organic wines:
CAVE SAINT-DESIRAT – CUVEE LA CROIX MAURICE:
Cave Saint-Desirat – Cuvée La Croix Maurice – Saint-Joseph is a wine from the Northern Rhone region in France. This vineyard implements environmentally-friendly farming practices, including the use of birds of prey, notably kestrels, to naturally combat invaders that can damage grapes in the vineyards.
The use of birds of prey in vineyards is an organic and sustainable method of pest control. Kestrels are birds of prey that actively hunt small pests such as mice, field mice and insects in vineyards. Their presence also deters small birds from feeding on the grapes, helping to protect the harvest.
This natural, biodiversity-friendly approach avoids the use of chemicals or aggressive pest control methods. By using kestrels, Cave Saint-Desirat’s winemakers promote an ecological balance in the vineyards, where natural predators help maintain the health of the vines.
Château Puyfromage – Cuvée Albert Signature – Bordeaux is a wine that puts sustainable viticulture into practice, adopting a number of environmentally-friendly techniques. These include tillage, grassing between the rows and the use of organic fertilizers.
Soil tillage consists in maintaining and preparing the soil in a natural way, without the use of aggressive chemical products. This maintains the soil’s structure, promoting aeration, drainage and the microbial life beneficial to the vines. Grassing between the rows is the practice of letting grass or other beneficial plants grow between the rows of vines. This promotes biodiversity and creates a balanced ecosystem in the vineyard. Grass helps to regulate soil moisture, prevent erosion and encourage the development of beneficial microbial life. The use of organic fertilizers is another sustainable viticulture practice implemented by Château Puyfromage. Organic fertilizers, such as compost or fertilizers of natural origin, are used to bring the necessary nutrients to the vines. Unlike chemical fertilizers, they are gentler on the environment and help maintain a natural balance in the soil.
Our Domaine Vincent Girardin fine wines are renowned for their environmentally-friendly approach and sustainable viticultural practices. These practices include refusing to use chemical pesticides or herbicides, harvesting grapes according to the lunar cycle and using natural composts.
These wines are made without chemical pesticides or herbicides to preserve the health of the soil, vines and surrounding ecosystem. Instead of using these aggressive chemical products, the estate opts for alternative methods to combat pests and diseases in the vines.
Another special feature of Vincent Girardin’s work is that the grapes are harvested according to the lunar cycle. Following the principles of biodynamic viticulture, he takes into account the phases of the moon to decide on the optimum time for harvesting. He believes that lunar influences can have an impact on the quality and aromatic characteristics of the grapes, so he adjusts his planning accordingly.
When it comes to fertilization practices, Vincent Girardin favors the use of natural composts to enrich the soil. This brings essential nutrients to the vines and improves soil structure and fertility in a natural way.
Vacqueyras is a region located in a prestigious region right next to Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Lirac. It’s considered an organic wine because it is produced using certified organic farming practices.
Domaine Miramont does not use chemical pesticides, synthetic herbicides or chemical fertilizers to cultivate the grapes. Instead of synthetic fertilizers, the estate uses natural compost and organic fertilizers to nourish the soil and promote the health of the vines.
These are just a few of the notable wines that are produced sustainably, however organic and sustainable viticulture is growing rapidly, especially with small producers that can make the changes more easily. The majority of wines from Alsace, Rhone, and Burgundy are grown sustainably with organic practices!
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