Organic versus biodynamic wine: similarities, differences, and everything in between
As far as the wine industry goes, ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’ are up there amongst some of this century’s most common buzzwords.
But these terms are more than just a glitzy string of letters wine producers can affix to their bottle labels. From handpicking organic wines in boutique cellers to ordering boxes of biodynamic wine online, these categories of vino have garnered strong leverage on the Australian wine scene, and for good reason. Here’s why.
First things first: understanding organic wine
At its crux, organic wine is made from organically grown grapes. Pretty simple, right? Just like today’s consumers are increasingly on the hunt for organic foods, organic wines are seeing a similar trajectory.
Without all those nasty chemicals found in herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and synthetic fertilisers, organic wines are evidently more beneficial for both the environment and the consumer. However, to be able to claim that a wine is truly organic, a lengthy and finnicky certification process is involved.
Does this mean organic wine is completely natural, vegan and preservative-free?
Not necessarily. Though many natural wines are indeed organic, the terms are slightly different in meaning: natural wines are called such for their traditional processes which are grounded in low interventions and minimal or no additives.
As for vegan wines, these products earn their title when earth-based agents are used instead of usual fining agents, which typically contain milk protein, egg whites, fish or gelatin.
Lastly, organic wines do not automatically tick the ‘preservative-free’ box – herein, the limit of preservatives found within a wine to render it organic must not exceed approximately half of what can be used in conventional wines. This is because sulphur dioxide – a preservative which is created naturally during the fermentation process – is commonly found in organic wines, or added to help preserve the quality.
Biodynamic wine as an extension of organic wine
Perhaps the easiest way to describe biodynamic wine is to consider it as an organic wine that takes things a step further. In essence, the production of biodynamic wine is firmly entrenched in a belief system that views the vineyard as one solid organism.
As such, biodynamic winemaking follows a gamut of farming practices whereby natural soils, composts and animals are employed to sustain the vineyard and create a rich and fertile environment. The idea is to ultimately leave the land in an equal or better condition, thus fostering sustainability for future generations.
The philosophy of Rudolf Steiner: founder of the anthroposophy movement
This whole idea of treating the land as a living entity stems from founding father, Rudolf Steiner: a scientist and philosopher who believed in following the lunar cycle to dictate the timing of harvesting.
To unpack this ideology a little further, it can help to look towards the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, wherein biodynamic farming is considered a ‘spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture’. Hence, this sense of holistic farming manifests in a well-oiled ecosystem, wherein each portion of the vineyard contributes to the next.
So, in summary…
Simply put, where all biodynamic wines are organic, the same cannot be said vice versa. Biodynamic wine is a niche yet rapidly progressing area of Australia’s winemaking industry, wherein principles of organic processes are interwoven with the philosophy of nurturing a united ecosystem. The result? Unconventional wines that start out with an eco-friendly approach to production and culminate in a one-of-a-kind drop reflective of the time and region the grapes have grown.