Organic, biodynamic, what does it all mean? Here’s Toni Paterson’s guide to deciphering wine labels.
The complexities of organic and biodynamic wines.
Are you a little puzzled by the terms ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’ on a wine label?
Organic viticulture is essentially an environmentally conscious philosophy that puts the health of the soil and the vines at the forefront of all decisions.
For a winery to call its wines organic, or biodynamic, it must adhere to the minimum requirements outlined in the 2015 National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce.
Excluding synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and artificial fertilisers, as well as banning the use of genetically modified products, is central to the organic method. Sulphur dioxide is permissible at moderate levels to prevent grape juice, and wine, from spoiling.
Native vegetation on the property is important, as is biodiversity. Energy, soil and water conservation, and the use of renewable resources, is encouraged.
Biodynamics is an organic farming method with additional requirements, based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. He believed that farms have the potential to be self-sustaining on soil fertility and disease management and suggested the application of natural ‘preparations’, such as manure, herbs and minerals.
Accreditation by a certifying body is based on the national standard and relates to the production and marketing of the product domestically and abroad.
Certifiers of wine include Australian Certified Organic (ACO), The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) and the Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI), which uses the Demeter trademark. The process takes a number of years and, partway through, producers are allowed to state that they are ‘in-conversion’. All organic and biodynamic wines must meet all the criteria in the accreditation standard. The presence of the certifier’s logo is a stamp of integrity.