Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Have you ever tried an organic wine?  How about natural?  How about biodynamic?  Do you even know the difference?

I don't think most people do, and with all of these labeling gimmicks it's hard to distinguish which sticker means what.  So here's a little help.


First of all, an 'organic' wine doesn't necessarily mean the whole process is organic, just the growing and harvesting of the grapes.  There can be no industrial synthesized compounds used in the vineyard, only natural occurring fertilizers like manure or compost.

This is where 'organic' gets blurry.  Depending what country or wine region you're in, organic can mean different things.  These differences are by in large due to the use of SO2, a preservative, in vinification (wine-making).

Wine naturally produces SO2 during fermentation, so there will never be a 100% sulphite free wine.  Sorry head.  But, the winemaker is in control of how much is added.  Sulphites are necessary (or not one may argue) to preserve the integrity of the wine.  In these modern times, wine is commonly not consumed in the region of production.  Wines are shipped all over, undergoing temperature change and all sorts of other nonsense, and sometimes these actions can alter the state of the wine rendering it undrinkable or, at the very least, unattractive.  Who wants clouds in their coffee wine?

Different countries and different regulators allow different amounts of S02 to be present in the wines.  So this can be tricky!


Natural, like organic, doesn't permit any use of chemicals in the vineyard.  Natural also requires the use of natural yeasts from the vineyard to be used for the fermentation.  In most winemaking, the winemaker selects a yeast that will work best for each variety and will use that for the fermentation, and usually uses SO2 to kill the natural yeasts, as they may produce an undesired result.  The wine is generally unfined and unfiltered as well.  The idea is that nothing is added or taken from the wine, it is what it is, and that is all.

There is no guarantee with 'natural' wines as they are completely unregulated.   These also tend to get a little cloudy and to me can have a gritty taste.  I'm totally into it, but i can see how it may be displeasing as it's not what we're used to.

I have tried several at La Cabane in Central, and some can be delicious, whereas some others leave a little to be desired (ie thin and lacking fruit).  Definitely pop in and see what it's all about!


Biodynamic is a whole other beast.  This is the most extreme of our three approaches and let me explain why.

Biodynamic means that grapes are grown organically, but then it goes and takes it another step further as per the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner.  Basically you have to take ecologocial, energetic, and spiritual factors into consideration.  This means taking account the movements of planets and cosmic forces into account. 

There are very specific rules about which compost and fertilizers (quartz, horn, dung, etc) can be used, and there are even more far out there requirements about where to bury your cow horn.  That's right, folks.

Basically it means you have to pay incredible attention to vines and soil, and hopefully within three years you will be able to taste the difference.  The difference hopefully being a truer tastse of terroir!

This sounds a bit out there to me, but apparently it promotes good health and more importantly sustainable agriculture.

So are they worth all the hype, or is it just a marketing ploy to make you think boozin it is good for you (no doubt it is!)?  Any war stories??

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