Heard It On The Grapevine: The Differences Between Organic, Biodynamic & Natural Wines

Believe it or not, there is a way you can drink to better the planet! Organic, biodynamic and natural wines all limit the use of synthetic inputs such as chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which are shown to have adverse effects on biodiversity and wildlife.

Organic, biodynamic and natural winemakers source grapes from organic farms, which focus on natural inputs and processes during farming. But there are big differences between these three types of wines – so before you buy your next bottle, you might want to find out how each of these wines is made!

Organic Wine

Source: soilassociation.org

Organic winemakers produce wine from organic grapes while limiting the use of synthetic chemicals during the winemaking process. Instead of using artificial inputs like synthetic fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, winegrowers opt for natural products or methods of controlling pests and disease, for instance using organic fertilisers or introducing predators as a natural way to control pests in vineyards.

Organic winemakers also limit the use of sulfites like sulphur dioxide during wine fermentation; these are usually added during the bottling phase to help extend the lifespan of wines. Depending on who is certifying the organic label, there are some exceptions to this; for example, organic wine standards in Canada and Europe allow small quantities of sulfites to be added.

Organic wine certifying bodies include the Soil Association, the European Union’s Organic Wine Standard and the USDA (United States Dept of Agriculture) Organic Wine Standard.

Biodynamic Wine

Natural Merchants
Source: Natural Merchants

Biodynamic winemaking is based on farming principles advocated by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Like organic winemaking, it focuses on using natural inputs and processes; however, biodynamic winemaking goes beyond organic winemaking and encourages growers to align their practices with living organisms, natural systems and the cosmos.

Biodynamic farmers work according to the astronomical calendar, where sowing, pruning and harvesting dates are determined by the lunar cycle. Some who swear by biodynamic wines also believe that certain wines taste better during specific phases of the lunar cycle. Another key practice is the use of crop rotation, where crops species are rotated throughout the year to revitalise soils and keep pests at bay.

Fun fact: to be at one with the land, some biodynamic farmers might even play music to their vines or bury cow horns packed with fermented dung into their soil!

Biodynamic wine certifying bodies include Demeter International (a global certification) or Biodyvin (for European wineries only).

Natural Wine

Cork Culture Hong Kong
Source: Cork Culture Hong Kong

Natural wine is the lowest intervention winemaking method. In addition to eradicating synthetic inputs and using natural processes, natural winemakers minimise human intervention during the winemaking process too. Compared to organic and biodynamic wines, where additives such as sulphites or native yeast for fermentation might be used during processing, additives are strictly banned in natural wines.

This method of low-intervention winemaking can result in wines that vary widely in quality; some batches can taste heavenly, while others may taste rather bland. Natural wines are also not currently regulated by any certifying bodies.

If you’re curious to taste some organic, biodynamic and natural wines yourself, here are some of our favourite wine stores in Hong Kong to check out:

Cork Culture

Source: @corkculturehk / Instagram

Cork Culture is an online store based in Hong Kong that specialises in organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Those wanting a lighter bodied wine for the summer may fancy The Hermit Ram Skin Fermented Sauvignon Blanc; it’s organic, biodynamic and natural, and is redolent of gooseberry and apricot.

Oz Terroirs

Source: @ozterroirshk / Instagram

Oz Terroirs is an Australian wine importer sourcing artisanal wines from Australia. A crowd favourite is the Dormilona Chardonnay 2019 from a naturally-farmed vineyard in the Margaret River region.

Blue Note Wine

Source: @bluenotewine_hk / Instagram

Blue Note imports wine, spirits, beer and cider from across the globe. Try the Joostenberg Family Red Blend from South Africa, a full-bodied biodynamic wine with a distinctive blend of plum and savoury notes.

Wine Guru

Source: @wineguruhk / Instagram

Wine Guru is an online wine retailer stocking a variety of reds, whites, sparkling and natural wines. Pinot Noir lovers might be interested in the Le Coste, Pinotto 2019, an Italian natural wine that has nuanced flavours of black fruit, earth and spice.

See also: Say Cheers to These Natural, Bio and Organic Red Wines

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