Organic or sustainable? A wine lover's guide to sustainable wine

Organic, Biodynamic, Minimal Intervention, Sustainable & Preservative Free.
What they mean and how they all intertwine!

ORGANIC (O)

Organic wines are produced with organically grown grapes.  These grapes that have been grown without the use of artificial or synthetic chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides.  In Australia, organic wine needs to be certified by an independent third-party organisation.  Vineyards apply for organic certification and annual audits are carried out to ensure that the grapes they grow comply with the strict standards of the certifying body and the department of agriculture. It is against the law for a wine producer to sell or promote their wine as organic if it is not certified. 

In addition, organic wine contains half the maximum legal limit of sulphur dioxide.  Sulphur Dioxide (a common preservative in wine) is used in wine making to inhibit or kill bacteria and yeasts. It is also usually responsible for headaches and hangovers the following day.

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BIODYNAMIC (BD)

Biodynamic is similar to organic, in that both take place without synthetic chemicals, but biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an entire ecosystem.  This holistic approach uses interconnected and harmonious wine making, from planting, pruning, to harvesting, and to the surrounding environment, .  A biodynamic wine also means the winemaker did not make the wine with any common manipulations such as yeast additions or acidity adjustments. 

 
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MINIMAL INTERVENTION (MI)

Minimal Intervention wines are from organic or biodynamic grapes, where winemakers use as few chemical and artificial processes as possible (nothing is added and nothing is taken away) from grape growing to the bottling.  Minimal Intervention wines are more rustic, pure and authentic, often ranging from very pale to almost black (depending on the grape variety).  

So like organic and biodynamic, this means no chemicals are used in the vineyard, no inoculated yeast is used for fermentation, there is no filtration or fining agents, and no added sulphur (although traces of sulphur will arise naturally).  Currently, unlike organic, there is no legal definition or certification board for Minimal Intervention, however we scrupulously check the wineries and winemaking of our chosen wines that are MI.  

 

SUSTAINABLE (S)

Sustainable refers to winemaking using eco-friendly methods, that are ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible.  Sustainable vineyards mostly grow organically or biodynamically grapes.  They may also focus on waste minimisation, pollution prevention, energy and water conservation, and the use of renewable resources.  

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PRESERVATIVE FREE (PF)

Preservative free wine is wine that does not contain any sulphur or sulfur dioxide, the preservative used in wine. Sulphur dioxide helps to protect wine from spoilage by bacteria and oxidation.  

However, sulphur is not all bad.  In small amounts it can be useful or even essential in preventing wine spoilage. Most minimal intervention winemakers will not use sulphur throughout the vinification process, and only add a tiny amount at the point of bottling. This gives the wines a better ageing potential, and lessens the risk of any unwanted flavours or faults developing in the bottle. However if you are particular sensitive to sulphur, sticking to preservative free or minimal sulphur (as it does arise naturally even when not added manually) is recommended.  

 
Words by Trevor Knaggs