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Organic VS Biodynamic

Key take outs:

  • Biodynamic is organic!
  • Biodynamic is organic farming with additional steps.

What does Organic and Biodynamic Viticulture have in common?

Grapes grown free from chemicals in healthy soils

The grapes for organic and biodynamic wine are grown free from chemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers and GMOs. Organic viticulture means working with the natural environment to combat pests to create an ecosystem where flora and fauna can flourish, and healthy vines grow.

Approved-only inputs allowed in the vineyard and winery

 Under organic practices only approved natural inputs are allowed, as per ‘The Australian Standard 6000-2009 (AS 6000) Organic and Biodynamic products’. Fertilisers are made from organic matter such as animal manure and composts.Disease such as Downey Mildew is prevented through air circulation and natural spray preparations.Weeds are controlled manually by mulching, mowing, slashing and by planting weeds that keep other weeds in check. Pests are controlled through natural predators in the ecosystem or approved natural sprays. No mention of winery

Classification of producers

Organic and biodynamic producers fall into three categories: certified, in conversion or practicing. Certified producers have undergone a three-year certification process and yearly audits by a certifying body, therefore they can guarantee their wines are free from synthetic chemicals. In-conversion producers have commenced official conversion and can display this WHICH LABEL? label on their product after one year.

Certification is met with varying degrees of attitude, there are producers farming organically because it’s their philosophy and way of life but choose not to go through the certification process. Their reasons for not certifying are varied – financial, political or philosophical or just too time poor to keep up with the paperwork and yearly audits. These producers are labelled Organic Practicing or Organic Principles. Without certification, we rely on the creditability of the producer and trust they are doing what they say they are doing. It’s important to do your research.

Certification for guarantee

Certification means transparency and a guarantee that the wine you buy is grown free from synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or GMO’s, and in addition, the winemaking process must follow specific requirements. For example, physical processes that alter the wine’s colour and flavour are limited, and additions such as sulphur dioxide are capped lower than conventional wine.

‘The Australian Standard 6000-2009 (AS 6000) Organic and Biodynamic products’, is the national compliance guideline for Organic and Biodynamic certification. The federal government has appointed certifying organisations to act as regulatory bodies to implement the standard with participating producer and ensure ongoing compliance through yearly audits. Each certifying organisation has a distinct trademark logo, which is displayed on the back of the wine label to identify certification.

The key certifying organisations are:

Australian Certified Organic and Biodynamic (ACO)

Australian Certified Organic is the largest certifying organisation, and operates under a not-for-profit structure. The certification is highly recognisable by the green bud. They have their own Standard, Australian Certified Organic Standard 2017 (ACOS), based on the AS 6000 – 2000; the ACOS incorporates marketing requirements under the ACO label. ACO also certifies producers meeting biodynamic standards.

From 1st July, ACO de-merged from its parent company and will now operate under a new name, ACO Certification Ltd.

National Association for Sustainable for AgricultureAustralia Limited (NAASA)

NAASA is committed to developing and maintaining organic standards; assisting operators in gaining organic certification; and developing the organic industry in Australia. NASAA’s Organic and Biodynamic Standard covers the organic supply chain, ensuring integrity from ‘paddock to plate’. NASAA also certifies producers meeting biodynamic standards.

The Bio-Dynamic Research Institute

The Bio-Dynamic Research Institute is involved in research and practical development of the Australian DEMETER Bio-Dynamic Method of Agriculture. It also owns the DEMETER Bio-Dynamic Trademark in Australia; operators that meet exacting quality of The Australian DEMETER Bio-Dynamic Standard may apply for certification to use this prestigious quality mark on their products.

 

Reduced maximum sulphur dioxide levels to about half of what’s allowed in conventional wine

Maximum sulphur levels allowed as per the Australian Certified Organic Standard is about half that of conventional wine. Sulphur levels are capped at 100 ppm for red wine and 150 ppm for white and rose wine. In comparison, conventional wine is capped at 250 ppm for dry wine and 300 ppm for sweet wine. However, there is a clause that additional sulphur dioxide may be used in the exceptional circumstance where there is poor fruit quality due to climatic conditions. In this case, sulphur dioxide levels may not exceed European Union levels for their conventional wine of 150 mg/l for red wine and 200 mg/l for white wine.

Long-term positive impacts

Organics has a total focus on implementing practices that are building a well-balanced environment with healthy and resilient soils. Practices may also include energy and water conservation, and the use of renewable resources. This is a long-term strategy to ensure its ecosystem is sustainable and remains strong for future generations.

Great wine starts with great fruit

In the vineyard, there are many variables that affect a fruits flavour such as climate, weather and winemaking techniques. Another factor, organic soil contributes to increased vine quality and improves the fruits natural acidity and tannin structure. Whilst there is no scientific evidence to quantify, long term organic and biodynamic farmers such as Geoffrey Grosset, declare their fruit flavours are more refined and delicate.

How does Biodynamic differ?

Organic plus holistic farming

Bio means ‘life’ and dynamic means ‘energy’. Biodynamics is truly holistic and aims to harmonise the farm to produce a healthy closed system of biodiversity. In a biodynamic farm everything is considered living, at the heart of farm is the soil.

Based on Rudolph Steiner principles

Rudolph Steiner, considered the Grandfather of Biodynamics, was an Austrian philosopher who advised farmers on agricultural methods to improve soil fertility and decrease diseases. He believed that every plant is influenced by two major energy forces – the earth and the cosmic.

In 1924, he gave a series of lectures on ‘the spiritual foundations for a renewal of agriculture’, and from here Biodynamic principles were formalised.

Follows the natural rhythms of earth, sun and moon

Biodynamic farming, as set out by Steiner, considers the farm to be a living natural ecosystem, which follows the natural rhythms of earth, sun and moon and as such should be treated in its entirety. For example, as the moon is descending all energy goes to the roots, and as the moon is ascending the earth all energy concentrates on the plants.

Biodynamic producers, such as KrinklewoodNgeringa and Gemtree  plan farming activities around the lunar calendar, including winemaking.

Prescribed preparations

Like organic farming, no synthetic chemicals are used however, prescribed natural field and compost preparations made with manure, herbs, mineral and organic matter are applied to nourish and stimulate the soil. These preparations are labelled as 500 – 507 and are:

500 – Horn Manure prep is for the health of the soil and is cow manure placed into cow horns and buried in the soil over winter. What it does – it helps the soil develop structure, attract good bacteria and increase water holding capacity of the soil.

501 – Horn Silica prep is for the health of the plant and is ground quartz crystals placed into cow horns and buried in the soil over summer. What it does – it improves the plant’s health do that it can improve uptake of nutrients and increase its resistance to diseases.

502 – 507 are compost or liquid compost preparations made from manure, fish, seaweed.

Biodynamic preparations at Gemtree Wines cellar door, McLaren Vale, SA
 Further reading recommendations:

What is Biodynamics? A way to heal and revitalize the earth by Rudolf Steiner, Steiner Books, 2005.

Biodynamic, Organic and Natural Winemaking, Sustainable Viticulture and Viniculture by Britt & Per Karlsson, Floris Books, 2014.