Wines on a Mission - What are Organic, Biodynamic, Natural, Sustainable & Vegan Wines?

Wines on a Mission - What are Organic, Biodynamic, Natural, Sustainable & Vegan Wines?


Organic Wine

What is it? Organic wine is wine made from grapes grown according to organic farming methods.

How do they do it? The exact rules vary from country to country, but generally this means that the grapes have been farmed without the use of artificial herbicides, pesticides or fertilisers. Organic wines are typically made with reduced levels of sulphur dioxide. This is a widely used preservative (commonly used in the food industry) which many people claim to be allergic to. By avoiding artificial chemicals there is an effort to promote biodiversity through the use of natural yeasts, traditional fertilisers and controlling the way the vineyard is set-up and managed.

What are the benefits? We live in a world where people are increasingly more careful about the things they put into their bodies, and the environment. By drinking organic wines, you reduce your exposure to potentially, harmful chemicals, as well as promoting an industry that is kinder to the planet. Many drinkers believe that the quality and taste of organic wine is better because the wine is more in balance with the traditions and practices of nature.

Why go Organic? You choose to protect your body, the environment and promote a better world.

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Biodynamic Wine

What is it? If Organics is a methodology, then Biodynamics is a philosophy. It’s all about the farm (not just the vine) and it follows a set of practices established by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, back in the 1920s. He believed in a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to agriculture. One that treated the land as a living being, connected and affected by the whole world around it.

How do they do it? This is like a hard core version of organic wine. The health and fertility of the soil are at the centre of this method where the plant is part of a bigger ecosystem. It includes the use of specially prepared composts, herbal & mineral sprays. These treatments are done - as is planting and picking - with the phases of the planets and moon. Plant and animal life is encouraged around the vineyard, to improve the cycling of nutrients through the soil.

What are the benefits? A lot of work is needed in the vineyard, but it's claimed that the quality of the soil - and thus the grapes - will improve, making it well worth the effort. Most producers who practice biodynamics winemaking say their fruit is more vibrant, more balanced and more complex and believe it will last longer in the cellar. Many are not sure how, or why, it works but simply love the results.

Why go Biodynamic? You support a system that respects the spiritual relationship between the soil, the plants and the cosmos, and one that heals the earth, along the way.

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Natural Wine

What is it? There is no legal or official definition of what a natural wine is, so it’s sometime hard to say what one is. Winemakers who have joined this particular movement believe mostly in wines made with low intervention and without additions or corrections.

How do they do it? Here it’s more a case of what not to do, rather than what to do. No artificial products are used in the vineyard or the winery, no commercial yeasts, no added sulphur, no added sugars, no added tannins, no filtering.

What are the benefits? You are said to taste the pure, raw expression of the grapes, as close to the essence of the vineyard as possible. Wine made without additives can also be better for your health. There’s less chance of an allergic reaction, or an extreme headache from things like sulphur, pesticides and artificial products that are used to stabilise and filter the wine.

Why go Natural? It’s a return to the past; the way wines were made ‘naturally’ and a rejection of ‘industrial’ wines with no sense of character or place.

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Sustainable Wine

What is it? This is about practices and concerns that go way beyond the vineyard itself. There is a desire to make wine in a sustainable way that balances environmentally impact, economic viability and social responsibility. There is no industry-wide certification for being sustainable, but there are lots of associations that recognise and award prizes for good work in this area. Establishing your credentials in this field can help tap into a like-minded market of wine drinkers.

How do they do it? In the vineyard, and in the winery, care is taken to deal with the potential negative effects of wine production. Water conservation, energy efficiency, reducing carbon footprint, recycling, cutting down on packaging, reducing shipping costs; these are all key issues to address. So too is the relationship with the local community and issues of worker equality. This has to be balanced with the need to turn a profit and to sustain the business’s long term future.

What are the benefits? If you’re concerned about the effect humans are having on the planet and the impact of this on future generations, sustainable wines are great for you. Welcome to guilt-free wine drinking! Sit back with a deep sense of pride, knowing that you’re choosing to support a business that cares about its responsibility to protect and preserve the viability of the land and its people.

Why go Sustainable? You want to make a positive in the difference in the world... one sip at a time.

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Vegan Wine

What is it? This is, essentially, wine made without the use of animal products. It may sound crazy, but these products are regularly used in the winemaking process. They're role is to clean up the wine before bottling in a process called fining. This stabilises the wine by removing unwanted sediment, or leftover yeast, that may affect the final wine. It's common practice to use Isinglass (fish bladders), Gelatin (cow or pig body parts), Albumin (egg whites) or Casein (milk protein) to do this job as they bond with the sediment which can then be removed.

How do they do it? To make sure the wine is suitable for vegans, an alternative fining agent needs to be used. The most common one is Bentonite which is a type of volcanic clay found in the earth. It does the same job of clarifying the wine, but without leaving trace elements of animal substances.

What are the benefits? Strictly speaking, there’s very little chance of detecting, or ever tasting, these animal particles. They are removed after their work is done. But becoming a vegan is about so much more than just taste. It’s an ethical, environmental, and health decision. So choosing a vegan wine is the only way to stay true to these beliefs.

Why go Vegan? It’s an animal welfare choice. You want to drink wine but without exploiting living creatures in any possible way.

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Have you had any experience with any of these wines? Are they wines you feel you're more interested in? Do you ever get asked about these wines? Would you like to see more producers labelling wines in this way?

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