The popularity of Natural, Organic and Biodynamic wines has been growing in recent years, in part due to the global environmental issues that the world is facing. In the search for something greener and more sustainable, we tend to buy products that have less environmental impact. Therefore, conscious agricultural practices are becoming more and more widespread, not least in the world of wine.

You will find different practices and official certificates all around the world, as well as innumerable personal ideologies that change from winery to winery and from region to region. Even so, many of us are still wondering what exactly these practices entail. For that reason, we decided to give you some simple definitions and introduce you to some of the wineries following different sustainable practices.

What is Natural Wine?

“Natural wine is not new; it is what wine always was, and yet, somehow today it has become a rarity. It is a tiny drop in the ocean, but oh my, what a drop.” –  Isabelle Legeron¹

As Isabelle says, “It is what wine always was…” and yes when we talk about natural wine, we should think of wine in its purest form: fermented grape juice with no additives. Even though natural wine seems to be a recent trend, it is essentially nothing new.  People have been making wine without additives for thousands of years.

What we mean with ‘natural wines’ is that in the production of the wine, winemakers don’t use pesticides or herbicides, grapes are handpicked without using machinery and natural yeast is used for fermentation. And Voilà! Wine finds its own way without adding anything that It did not have naturally. Natural wine might, however, contain sulfites in a tiny amount for preserving and stabilizing wine or no sulfites at all. It is important to note though, that even sulfites are a naturally occurring by-product of any natural winemaking process.

The production of natural wine still doesn’t have a legal framework in a lot of countries, and there is an informal general rule in the community about what is accepted and what is not. When organic wines have a strictly defined legal framework for the cultivation of grapes as well as the winemaking process.

What is Organic Wine?

Organic wine is produced from organically grown grapes that are certified by the local authorities. Wineries that produce organic wines exclude artificial chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides in the vineyard. It is important to note that organic farming does allow the use of organic chemicals and treatments.

Differences in regulations come up when it comes to the winemaking process because being organic doesn’t mean that the wine doesn’t have additives. There are different regulations in different countries on stabilizing additives. While sulfite is fully forbidden in the USA, for countries in the European Union there is a regulation on the amount to be added.  

The philosophies of organic and natural wines are pretty close, but there are still differences between these two. However, the idea of having low intervention and a greener production is fully implied in both cases.

What is Biodynamic Wine?

There are many low intervention wines that are produced biodynamically and here comes “spiritual, ethical, ecological approach to agriculture” that was founded in the 1920s by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. A lot of people still question this ethical method of agriculture and wonder what exactly is the “Biodynamic movement” that a lot of farmers have already put into practice.  

Biodynamic wine is produced with different farming practices that view the vineyard as an organism from a holistic perspective. The ecosystem of the vineyard is self-sustaining and every element of this ecosystem helps the others function as a whole. 

There are no additives used in the production of biodynamic wines and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are forbidden in the vineyard. Most of the farmers use natural fertilizers for the soil and you might also find a range of animals inhabiting the vineyards that help the soil stay fertile.  

Even though science is looking at some of the biodynamic practices with a skeptical eye, this philosophy proves to be sustainable and it brings positive environmental impact by keeping the quality of the soil and the biodiversity of territories almost untouched.

From the wineries that follow sustainable forms of viticulture and winemaking, we found several you might find interesting to visit and experience the effect of their practices yourself: 

¹ Isabelle Legeron in Natural Wine: An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines made naturally.