With wine at the forefront of our minds, words like ‘biodynamic’ and ‘natural’ are a topic of many happy hour conversations. But do you know the difference and more importantly, what it means for your next glass of wine. Are these a passing trend or a true expression of terrior?
Here is a breakdown according to some of our favorite wine experts:
“At its core, Biodynamics is an energy management system.” –Mike Benzinger, Benzinger Family Vineyards
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association is “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.” According to Vinepair.com, “Biodynamic wine is made by farming all components of the vineyard as one whole entity, eliminating the use of chemicals and using natural materials and composts. Following the biodynamic calendar is another integral part of the process.”
WineFolly says, “Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing the resonance between vine, man, earth and stars.” Essentially, biodynamics is a holistic view of agriculture. It is the oldest, anti-chemical agricultural movement that predates organic farming by about twenty years.
Most biodynamics happen in the vineyard, before the winemaking takes place. Planting, pruning, and harvesting, are regulated by a special biodynamic calendar. Besides the biodynamic calendar, no chemicals or manufactured additions are allowed.
Are biodynamic wines also organic wines? If not, what’s the difference? Food & Wine describes them as “The concept of biodynamic farming is something many have heard about, but few fully understand. If you think that biodynamic is something akin to organic farming, you’re half right. While both types of agriculture eschew chemical fertilizers and pesticides, biodynamic farming also incorporates aspects of astrology. Among its central precepts is the idea that hidden elements connect a vineyard with the farmers who care for and cultivate it—and with the wider world and universe.”
We won’t dive into the cow horns and their place in biodynamics.. you can tackle that on your own.
“Natural Wine is farmed organically and made without adding or removing anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and ‘intervention’ in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. As such neither fining nor filtration are used. The result is a living wine – wholesome and full of naturally occurring microbiology,” says, Raw Wine
While no legal definition of natural wine currently exists, various groups of growers in different wine making region have created their own. These self-regulated charters of quality are usually much stricter than regulations imposed by official organic or biodynamic certification bodies. All require a minimum of organic farming in the vineyard but prohibit the use of any additives, processing aids or heavy manipulation equipment in the cellar, with the exception of gross filtration, which most tolerate and sulfites, which varies according to association.
Some wine experts prefer the phrase “low-intervention” wine, or “naked” wine. Essentially, natural wine is made from grapes not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Natural winemakers handpick their grapes instead of relying on machines to harvest them. When it comes to turning those handpicked grapes into juice, natural winemakers rely on native yeast to set off natural fermentation. Unlike most conventional winemakers, they don’t use any additives (like fake oak flavor, sugar, acid, egg white, etc.) in the winemaking process.
Occasionally, some natural winemakers will add some sulfites, a preservative and stabilizer that winemakers have been using longer than any other additive. Sulfites ensure that the wine you drink tastes roughly the same as it did when it went into the bottle. Natural winemakers either use no added sulfites or use it in small quantities, while conventional winemakers use up to 10 times as much.
So, now you know. Drink wisely.