Have you heard that April 22nd is Earth Day, celebrated every year to remind the importance of protecting the environment.
This is the perfect occasion for us to take a look at the different types of eco-friendly wines, produced by men and women who care about the soil, their vines, the quality of the grapes they produce and eventually the health of the people drinking their wines.
Broadly speaking, there are three families of eco-friendly wines following sustainable agriculture practices : organic wines, biodynamic wines and natural wines. These are opposed to conventional practices, which often include the use of chemicals, such as pesticides, fungicides or herbicides, in the production of wine.
What are organic wines ?
This is the most generic term and designates a wine which is obtained from vines that have not been treated with the chemicals mentioned above. However, different winemaking processes such as the adding of sulfites, acidification, and more are allowed.
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This type of wines are regulated by European law since 2012 and by national laws in most wine producing countries.
What are biodynamic wines ?
Biodynamic farming is a method started in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, based around an astronomic calendar : fruit days (grape harvesting), root days (pruning), leaf days (watering) and flower days (resting).
On top of that, special instructions are followed regarding the soil management, which is fertilized by natural preparations, such as cow horns filled with compost or herbal infusions. Compared to organic wines, a lower amount of added sulfites is allowed. Biodynamic wines are not regulated by law but instead by certifications such as Demeter or Ecocert.
What are natural wines ?
More recently, this term has appeared for wines that are made with very limited intervention from the winemaker : no added yeasts during fermentation, no added sulfites, no filtering or no fining. This kind of wine often appears cloudy since some dissolved solids remain in suspension. Other techniques such as skin maceration in white winemaking (giving birth to orange wines) are also often related to natural wines.
Although this type of wine is close to what our ancestors used to produce in the past when chemicals did not exist, it has not been considered a thing in the wine world until recent years. In 2020, France has launched the first official regulation and label for these wines, called Vin méthode nature.
How do these wines taste?
Musigny from Domaine Leroy, one of the most expensive wines in the world, is biodynamic
On top of being respectful of the environment, these wines, when made by people who know what they are doing, can be quite magical, very complex and can age for a long time. Most of the most prestigious wines from Burgundy (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Leroy...) are following biodynamic practices, and several crus classés from Bordeaux are also moving towards this way, organic or biodynamic (Château Palmer, Château Montrose...). Eventually, most top wineries in the world will follow such sustainable farming, as it not only protects the environment but also creates more concentrated and expressive wines.
That being said, « eco-friendly » does not always mean « good quality », and for that you’ll have to figure it out by tasting !
We wish you a happy Earth Day and don’t forget to drink responsibly, both for the planet, and for your body. Santé !
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