101 Guide To Organic & Biodynamic Wines
Organic and biodynamic wines are really having a moment, but how much do you actually know about them? Wineries all over the globe have been growing wine organically since the early days, so no, they’re not just a fad. In fact, many of the finest, most authentic wines happen to be organic and biodynamic (read our interview with Champagne Tarlant). This short guide will give you a short introduction into them, the processes involved, and some of the wineries doing it best.
Organic wine is wine made from grapes that are farmed organically — that is, only natural fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides are used, with no artificial chemicals added. The certification criteria differ from country to country: for example, to be organic in the US, the wine must have no added sulphites, while sulphur dioxide as a preservative is permitted in Australia.
Hence, organic farms have rather different management practices in the vineyard compared to non-organic wines, but this also means you’ll get the true flavour and be able to taste the terroir.
Biodynamic wines take this a step further by planning their farming practices (e.g. harvesting, pruning, watering, and even) around nature and moon cycles. Like organic, no chemicals or manufactured additions are allowed, and instead, winemakers use natural compost to boost their vineyards.
Check out this quick infographic for more information about biodynamic wines:
You won’t always find a marker or certification for biodynamic wines like there is for organic, but you can almost always be assured of their quality. A fully-certified biodynamic wine is hard to come by, with less than 1000 producers in the world.
Some organic wineries we love
Four generations have worked at the Pieropan family estate since its foundation in 1890, each contributing something different depending on their generation. A belief in the central importance of the vine, an unceasing pursuit of quality, and innovative winemaking processes are the key characteristics of the Pieropan identity.
Alvaro Palacios, Spain
If anyone embodies the promise and spirit of “The New Spain,” it’s Alvaro Palacios. He acquired his first vineyard, Finca Dofí, in 1990. Then, in 1993, he located what is now regarded as the crown jewel property in Priorat, a Garnacha vineyard that had been planted between 1900 and 1940. Today, his L’Ermita is widely considered to be one of the most important Spanish wines in its generation.
Domaine Michel Caillot Volnay, France
Maison Caillot was founded in 1961 by Roger Caillot, the father of the current proprietor Michel. The vineyard area covers approximately 13 hectares, and it’s been moving towards controlled cultivation of vines and biological farming since the 1980s. Known for its production of Meursaults, Batard-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Santenay, and Bourgogne Blanc, it is also worth noting its red wines from Pommard, Volnay, Monthelie, and Bourgogne Rouge.
Didier Belondrade produced his first vintage in 1994 from rented vines, using the corner of a friend’s winery to store his small quantity of barrels. He steadily built up his own estate, and in 2000, constructed his own winery and honed his innovative winemaking techniques with the help of Marta Baquerizo from 1999, to create one of Spain’s most complex and refined whites. Belondrade obtained its organic certification in 2020.
The Jurtschitsch winery in Langenlois has grown over the years to become one of the most prominent wineries in Austria. Now, the family-owned winery is run by second-generation Alwin Jurtschitsch and his partner Stefanie Hasselbach, who gathered experience in New Zealand and Australia and worked in famed wineries in France, where they learnt the French school of the ‘Old World’.
Some biodynamic wineries we love
Gramona is widely acknowledged as one the finest of all Cava houses across Spain, voted 26th in the World’s Most Admired Wine Brands by Drinks International 2016. Located in the Alt Penedes region, 30km south of Barcelona, Gramona has formed an alliance with a unique grape variety: the Xarel-lo, the backbone of their Cavas. The fifth generation of Gramona has also started making still wines and sweet wines which aim to express the character of their local terroir.
Domaine d’Ardhuy, France
Domaine d’Ardhuy is a substantial Domaine of 42 hectares on the Clos de Langre, which takes fruit from at least 36 individual vineyards, five grand crus, one Clos de Vougeot, and 15 premier crus. The owners are Gabriel and Elaine d’Ardhuy (daughters of the originators), who are dedicated to sustainable viticulture and winemaking. All fruit is hand-harvested, de-stemmed, and no cold soaking or enzymes are added prior to fermentation.
Domaine de Cébène, France
In 2006, the well-known oenologist Brigitte Chevalier hunted down and purchased parcels in the heart of the Haut-Languedoc Parc Naturel for the quality of their terroir, grape varieties exposure, and altitude. In a short time, she’s developed Domaine de Cébène in her own highly individual way, and her organically farmed estate of 11 hectares has established itself as a leader in winemaking circles in the South of France.
E. Foradori, Italy
Elisabetta Foradori winery is situated in Trentino, where the mountain ranges make up the Dolomites, a World Heritage Site. Foradori has been using biodynamic practices in their vineyards for over 10 years, working in a closed-cycle farming organism with nothing artificial added. They harvest their grapes from vineyards covering 26 hectares: 80% of Teroldego, 15% of Manzoni Bianco and 5% of Nosiola – to produce an average of 160,000 bottles per year.
Domaine Breton, France
Catherine and Pierre Breton have been running their 15-hectare vineyard along organic standards since 1991, and they’ve been biodynamic since 1997. Located between Tours and Samur in the Loire Valley, they specialise in red wines from the Chinon and Bourgueil appellations. They use indigenous yeasts for their fermentations and all wines are unfiltered to best express their vintage.