It is Organic September, in case you didn’t know. What does that mean for the world of wine? Let’s find out.
Let’s start with the obvious, even if it is often not thought about. A vineyard – the origin of wine, as it were – is just a farm. It’s a special type of farm, granted, but it’s a farm. The reason I’m reminding you of this is that this is the part of wine-making that the organic (or not) label applies to. Organic wine is wine made from grapes that are grown organically.
I think in talking and thinking about wine, we tend to focus a lot on what the winemaker does. Is the wine fermented in steel tanks or oak barrels? Does it undergo malolactic fermentation? But before you can get to these sorts of questions, you need a crop of grapes.
Grown organically is often described as ‘without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.’ That’s true-ish enough. But let’s clarify a few things. Organic goes beyond what pesticides and fertilizers may or may not be used to include other things, like bans on the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMO). Organic does allow certain pesticides and fertilizers, some of which can be more problematic to the environment than modern equivalents. That’s not to say organic is a bad thing – simply that it can be a very complex topic. Soil shows more microbial (and other) forms of life under organic farming, but some of the allowed pesticides and sprays are toxic, can accumulate in the soil and need more frequent application than their modern counterparts.
To really dig into all the ins and outs of organic farming is well beyond the scope of a short blog piece. Let me mention two more things, and then we can talk about some of the wines we carry.
You may see or hear of the term ‘biodynamic.’ It’s actually an older approach to farmer than organic is. Biodynamic dates from 1924, while organic farming as an organised movement dates to the 1940s, and grew out of the biodynamic movement. (Read more on biodynamics here.) So, if you see a wine certified as biodynamic, it’s also organic.
Certification is the other thing to mention. To get that little green symbol on the back label, a product and the production methods behind it have to be certified as organic. There are inspections and audits that go into the certification, which can get rather expensive, especially for smaller winemakers. What this means is that there are a fair number of producers who follow organic or biodynamic principles, but aren’t certified as such, so they can’t legally call themselves organic or biodynamic. The Danjou-Banessy range doesn’t bother with certifications on the label, to give you an example of the last category (sort of), but are definitely worth trying.
The website has a handy ‘Organic and Biodynamic’ section. This includes some of those that are farmed according to organic or biodynamic principles, but aren’t necessarily certified. It tells me there are currently 127 products in that section. That’s quite a few, so the carousel below has some wines that I can personally vouch for. Or drop into one of our branches, and ask the staff for recommendations. Tell them I sent you. No, seriously, do it. See what happens.