At Savage Vines, we’re passionate about low intervention wine. We pride ourselves on sourcing the best organic, natural and biodynamic wine from across the world.
Although we’re passionate and knowledgeable about these wine styles, it can be quite daunting and confusing for a lot of people. With this in mind, we thought we would break down the five essential things you need to know about biodynamic wine.
Biodynamic wine is produced from grapes grown through biodynamic principles. This is when the land is seen as part of the planet and solar system, and the vineyard isn’t seen as an isolated piece of land, engineered for the sole purpose of growing grapes.
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association’s definition is “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.”
Despite still making up a small percentage of wineries in the world, the popularity of biodynamic wine is rising. Biodynamic wineries can actually be found all over the world, from Canada to Turkey. In March 2018, there were over 600 wineries worldwide that had vineyards which held bio-dynamic status. We actually ran a piece not too long ago on natural wineries in Catalunya. Click here to give it a read!
No. Both styles prevent the use of synthetic herbicide and pesticides in the vineyard. However, that’s where the similarities end. In organic wine production, there are a number of added sulphites and extra yeast compounds winemakers can add to the wine.
European regulations stipulate that organic dry red wine can have up to 100 milligrams of sulphites per litre and organic dry white or rosé wine can have up to 150 milligrams. Organic wine can also have extra yeast, sugar and tartaric acid added to it when fermenting, to help manipulate the outcome or taste profile of the wine.
We’re not saying organic wine is bad. Quite the contrary. Organic wine has considerably less preservatives and added extras than conventional wine. So we would encourage you to drink more organic as there are considerable health benefits to organic wine.
Biodynamic goes a step further than organic farming. Bio-dynamic farming principles mean that winemakers can’t add any synthetic agents in the grape growing process but also states that in the wine-making process, they can’t add foreign agents like extra yeast or acid. This ensures that the wine is a true representation of the vineyard.
Biodynamic Farming principles were first developed and introduced in the early 20th century by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian anthroposophist. Steiner wanted to create a formula where vineyard plantings followed lunar patterns and respected the earth as a living organism. This formula also highlights the importance of polyculture and animal husbandry. Plants like dandelions, nettles and yarrow are allowed to grow naturally on the land in order to improve soil fertility. Animals also help to fertilise the vines by using the manure of livestock.
A good example of these practices are our friends at Domaine Des Amiel. Aymeric and Jordan Amiel demonstrate bio-dynamic principles in their vineyards. When they took over their grandfather’s old vineyard in 2012, it was a high yielding site for commercial production. Aymeric and Jordan consciously ripped out a large quantity of vines in favour of planting trees and other plant-life. This reduced the yields and improved the quality of the grapes being produced from the remaining vines.
Lunar patterns are the gravitational pull that the moon has on the earth, specifically the tides. This can have a significant impact on the growth of plants and organisms. Believing that there is a clear link between the moon and growth of plant-life, bio-dynamic farmers will prune their vines and bottle their wine in line with lunar patterns.
We believe so. With biodynamic and natural wine, you are getting a true reflection of what the grapes have produced, not something manipulated to appease a broad spectrum of palates. It gives a better representation of the terroir of the area.
If you’ve never tried natural/biodynamic wine before, it can be easy to initially find them ‘strange’. This is because they may smell or look a little different to conventional wine. Biodynamic wines can sometimes look a bit cloudy. If so, it will most likely be that is unfiltered and fining agents won’t have been used in production.
Biodynamic wines generally have a pleasant ‘funky‘ aroma. They are very full and fruity, because there aren’t any foreign elements compromising the aromas. We think this brings more complexity to the wine than conventional wines, and will almost certainly be more intriguing and enjoyable.
Our friend, Peter Hahn of Clos de la Meslerie summed up the difference between bio and conventional wines. He said “Today, a lot of the wine we drink is technology driven, so it’s a standardised process and the wine is made in the winery rather than the vineyard. To me, natural wines are about the vineyard and less about the winery. It’s about the grapes”.
Fortune Magazine ran a blind tasting of 10 biodynamic wines against their conventional counterparts. The judges consisted of a master of wine and head sommeliers. They concluded “On the whole, the biodynamic wines were found to have better expressions of terroir, the way in which a wine can represent its specific place of origin in its aroma, flavor, and texture.”
There are lots of different certifications dictating whether a wine is biodynamic, organic and sustainable. It can get a bit confusing if you don’t know what to look for. Take a look below at the logos to look out for.
Demeter is a German based organisation who provides certifications for agricultural produce that follow biodynamic principles. They focus on the strengthening of the life within soil and produce. They chose the name Demeter as a tribute to ‘Demeter’, the Greek goddess of grain and fertility.
If you see a bottle of wine with the Demeter logo, you can guarantee it is a biodynamically farmed wine.
There are many different governing bodies that have different allowances for additions to wine. If you see a bottle of wine with any of the pictured labels on then them they’ve had minimal to zero levels of artificial or synthetic intervention.
Some wines might not receive biodynamic status because of the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides in previous years. However, the winemakers may have used the these principles in the current vintage.
If this is the case, it takes a number of years for the land to recover properly and be chemical free. It’s always good to ask your vintner about the production style when buying low intervention wine.
Thank you for reading our latest post on biodynamic wine. We hope these five points helped you get a bit more of an understanding the matter.
To really understand the quality and philosophies of biodynamic winemakers, we suggest heading to the next RAW Wine fair. They’re held across Europe and North America and celebrate all things regarding low intervention wine!
If you can’t make it to a wine fair, or still not sure where you can get biodynamic wine, then we have you covered. Click here to see all our offerings of biodynamic and organic wine! We have also written a blog on the best place to buy organic wine online.
Savage Vines imports low intervention wine from small independent vineyards from around the world into the United Kingdom. The wines we source are made by family businesses and by supporting us you are supporting them and that is our mission. Join our wine subscription from £29.95 a month (free delivery) and we will send you two unique, high quality wines which you will not find on the high street or supermarket shelves. Monthly wine subscription boxes come with tasting notes and a podcast talking you through each wine. Monthly subscribers’ also get 25% off wine repurchases. Gift or join the wine subscription today.