Wines that we class as organic are Organic Certified, meaning that all grapes used to produce the wine are organically farmed, with no use of chemical agents (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers) in vineyard farming. Organic certification is regulated by the government in each country with annual checks to ensure farmers and producers are abiding by these standards. Although government regulations can differ between countries, the main standards of avoiding chemical use in the vineyard is universal.
The use of some additives are allowed during vinification (yeasts, acids, sulphites), with the exception of the USA, where no sulphur can be added if organically certified (although some sulphur will always be present through the natural process). Even with this difference, organic winemakers will try to avoid adding sulphites or only add minimal sulphites, which are seen by some as a cause of bad after effects such as hangovers, even when drinking very little. Sulphites can tend to increase longevity of wine and help it retain flavour, hence their use in the first place. You can always check the label where producers will often indicate 'low-sulphite' or 'no added sulphites'.
All in all, organic certified wine is still a relatively safe option for people wishing to avoid too many sulphites. It is also worth noting that any organic wine can still contain animal enzymes, so are not always vegan. You can find out more on Vegan Certification here.
All wineries and vineyard farmers now work towards sustainable production, attempting to minimise their emissions and any negative impact on the climate and immediate environment surrounding their land. However, only those that are organic certified pass rigorous tests to ensure their practices truly minimise the use of chemicals too. Many wineries now talk in detail about their environmental and organic targets, as well as what they have achieved so far. However, it is worth noting that wine labelled as 'sustainable' is not necessarily organic, which is why we only take official Organic certification to categorise our wines.
BIODYNAMIC & NATURAL
Alongside the category of organic wines, there are additional wines that can also be biodynamic and/or natural. These align to the same organic principles of not using harmful herbicides and pesticides in the vineyard, but will go further, dependent on their ethos. to minimise or avoid adding sulphites or yeasts. Truly biodynamic or natural wines will usually have Organic certification.
Biodynamic farming has been present for long time and is described as a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach that works alongside lunar patterns and views the earth as a living organism. It essentially looks to work with lunar cycles and the natural environment to grow vines and produce wine, prohibiting the addition of anything during vinification and bottling such as yeasts, sulphites or acids. Vineyards are not seen as plots of land separate to their surrounds, and it is common to have natural flora and fauna or livestock inhabiting the grounds that also bring pest control and fertilisation.
Natural wine sources grapes from organic or biodynamic vineyards. Most organic wines are low yield and hand harvested, but natural wines claim to only use hand harvested grapes and tend to use small, independent farmers. Fermentation takes place only with native yeasts, and further production adds no additional foreign agents and is done with as little intervention as possible.
This is the same in result and impact as biodynamic farming, but whereas biodynamic farming can be certified by the Biodynamic Association (BDA) in association with Demeter (USA), natural wine has no officially regulated certification. There is the danger that wine may be labelled as 'Natural' to take advantage of this trend, which is why checking wines with the producer or on our website will help ensure you are getting a truly natural wine.
Natural wine is seeing a recent boost in popularity, but of course has been around for many centuries and is how a lot of traditional wines from the oldest winemaking countries are still made. Georgian orange wines are a good example. They use ancient methods where Qvevri (large clay pots) are buried underground to their necks for perfect fermentation and ageing temperature, often with skins and stems for full concentration. No intervention and minimal filtration prior to bottling provides an orange-coloured, natural wine.