Organic, Biodynamic, Biological, minimal intervention, natural wine. They are terms that many of us have heard of or are familiar with and accept, but do we know what they really all mean? And what makes them different from wine?
Well once upon a time Biodynamic or Organic farming was simply referred to as ‘Farming’ and Biodynamic or Natural wine was simply referred to as wine. It is not new although now it is trendy. So how come what was once wine is now ‘a trendy wine’. Let’s hop into our DeLorean and head back in time to find out what happened…
Once upon a time farmers farmed using what they had at their disposal then around 1800, new fertilisers were discovered such as sodium nitrate and phosphates. With booming populations and post war food shortages they became all the rage due to plants yields being dramatically increased and the productivity of the land soaring. BINGO... er not really...
Chemical fertilisers are essentially used to promote growth which increases a plants need for water this however also produces an imbalance in the plants natural state.
Another frequently used type of chemical are herbicides that kill unnecessary weeds and plant life. Unfortunately along with the plants they also destroy the symbiosis that exists between the plants, fungi and insects. These play an important role in plant nutrition, soil biology and soil chemistry. In the case of wine these are massively important to the vine and play a key role in its nutrition, flavours and quality.
Because of this additional disruption, chemical fertilisers are again used to help the plant grow and increase yields. Slowly agriculture becomes dependent on chemicals, not to mention the negative impact these chemical process have. So in this case all that glitters is not gold and the use of chemicals in intensive agriculture over long periods has some substantial downsides such as stripping the soil of it’s natural nutrients, worsening the crops quality and a consequent increase in animal diseases.
Natural wine is not a regulated brand but it rather refers to a movement of winemakers committed to a natural approach – no pesticides, no chemicals, indigenous yeasts, low sulphites, no filtration or manipulation of the wine of any kind and so on. There are no set of fixed requirements or certifications that classify a specific wine as being a natural one, only the ‘natural approach’ adopted by farmers. In essence, natural wine is a self-proclaimed definition used by winemakers who follow a natural approach. As such, ‘natural wine’ can mean different things to different producers.