While more and more people around the world are consuming organic products, winemakers finally decided to follow the trend and produce organic wines. Respectful of the environment and consumers’ body: what are the differences with normal wine? How to identify organic wine? What are the differences between organic and natural? No worries, I’ll reply to all your questions today.
[Please note I’m writing here about French/European wines, as I’m not sure about regulations and processes within the rest of the world. Be careful as some countries don’t have specific regulations about organic products.]
WHAT ARE ORGANIC WINES?
Organic wines are produced in a way to respect more carefully the Earth and the body. In order to get the organic appellation, winemakers have to follow strict rules. Here is the first point to be careful about: most big ‘domaines’ have some organic wines while the rest of their production is normal wines. It is generally a sign of poor quality, and most of the time, these winemakers only propose organic wines to follow the trend and are not honest in their engagement. Please have a look at the full range of wines sold by the Domaine in order to check this point!
Producing organic wines is a long and difficult process for winemakers. That’s usually why prices are a little higher. This difference mainly relies in the efforts that are put into the process, and the risks which are higher. Let me explain in a few points.
In order to ‘purify’ the Earth that received chemical products for decades, it has to go through several steps. The full conversion lasts 3 years. It mainly relies on the use of natural products on the vines. It is risky for the wine maker who is going through the process because the vines can unexpectedly react to the new organic products, and they may loose some parts of the production. Moreover, as chemical products are prohibited: it means that vines are weaker during this transitional period as they need to adapt (bugs attacks and spread of disease can lead to a loss of production). Using less products also means taking more care of the vines, and then more work in the vineyard. It requires higher technics, and so training for the workers. Last but not least, as less chemical products are used, productions are better but also smaller.
Vineyard with chemical products Organic vineyard
Pictures taken during winter time
As most of fruits, having an organic production will result in smaller grapes, but with higher quality.
But the organic process doesn’t rely only on the vineyard. There are many rules to follow during the vinification. Here again, chemical products are prohibited. Yes, there are some wines with a lot of chemicals in it! The main product used is SO2 (sulfits) that are important to balance the taste of the wine. There are many kind of sulfits (more or less chemicals). For an organic wine, there is a limitation of the use of sulfits. Interesting point: if you get headaches after drinking wine, it is because of this SO2! Drinking organic wine will then be a relief for you: say goodbye to headaches!
HOW TO IDENTIFY ORGANIC WINES?
There are several labels which ensure the respect of the rules. In order to obtain the right to add these pictograms on a bottle, the wine is controlled in laboratories and specialists visit the vineyard every year to make sure all regulations are followed. It’s important to remember these little drawings as it will help you to easily recognize organic wines.
AB (organic agriculture): French certification Eurofeuille (euro leaf): European certification
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ORGANIC AND NATURAL WINES?
‘Natural wines’ are a new kind of wines that slowly become more and more trendy these past years. You have to be very careful about these as there are no official regulation yet (there are several labels as Demeter but none has been officially adopted yet). Organic wine means you use organic-based products. As for SO2 for example: only a very small amount, and organic only. Natural wine mean no additives at all: in the vineyard, and during the vinification. It means that there are no control of the quality and the taste. It is just how the wine should taste naturally, with the least human interaction possible.
To be totally honest with you, I never ever tasted a good natural wine. I’m not saying all natural wines aren’t good. However I think it requires clear regulations and processes to obtain a better quality. If by any chance you know a nice natural wine, please share it with me!
WHY ARE ORGANIC WINES THE FUTURE?
As you would have understand, organic wines are better for the Earth, and for the Health. Like the organic agriculture all over the world, there are more and more wine makers who are taking this topic very seriously. They sometimes do more than the regulations: working with horses instead of machines, harvesting with only human work,… There are more and more clever uses of natural tools too: for example, roses are implemented into the vineyard to repulse some bugs, or even ladybugs are used for the same reasons.
Organic wines are more and more consumed: in France, one out of three wine consumers only drink organic wine (2019 survey). However, as the transition requires a long time and a lot of efforts, there were only 2,3 millions hectares of organic vineyards in France in 2019. It represents 8,5% of the national explotation, but 11% of the market shares in term of revenues!
Now that you are an expert, what about organizing a blind tasting? One organic bottle, and one normal bottle. You will quickly recognize that the quality of the first one is drastically higher!