Organic versus biodynamic

In the past twenty years organic products have become a selling point, as customers are more and more conscious of their well-being and the need to “make the earth great again”. This is also true in the wine world where it has gained popularity with vintners, as they realise that this is not only good for the environment but also improves the quality of the wines. There are three main currents within the eco-friendly movement.

The first is organic farming, the most widespread and also the only one with legal recognition. It implies that there will be no use of chemical herbicides or fertilisers in the vineyard. This means that the grapes are organic, but some countries have no regulations about what happens in the winery itself. Vinification has been regulated in the EU only since 2012, implying a strict limitation of inputs (sulfur, acidification, industrial yeast etc). A winery must complete four vintages following these regulations before being certified organic.

Then comes the biodynamic culture, a step further than the organic one. It was created in the early 20th century by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. To summarise, Steiner was trying to fuse science and spirituality. So the biodynamic is the quest to find a natural balance in the vineyard by reinforcing its eco-system taking into account the astrological influences and moon cycles.

There will be no use of synthetic chemicals in the vineyard, some homeopathic treatment of the soil, no clonal or mass- produced vines, no use of industrial yeast or acidity adjustments, a minimum use of sulfur, and little to no filtration.

Compared with the organic culture, the biodynamic one has an esoteric dimension which can sometimes provoke a sardonic smile. Some vintners experimented, out of curiosity more than belief, and yet had to admit that the resulting wines are just better.

In biodynamics it is considered that the astral and lunar influences also affect the particular time to drink the wine, that certain days are just not good for it. Do they influence the wine or the drinker? That is the question my dear Watson.

Note that many domains have been making wine following the organic or biodynamic regulations for many years, but just have not gone through the complex process of certification.

There is another movement: the “natural wines”, which pushes this organic enthusiasm even further. The difference with these natural wines is principally in the winery, where only the natural yeasts present on the grapes will be used and the addition of sulfur is avoided. This trend causes wine prices to skyrocket, despite having a product that can be highly unstable.

Any of these branches could be stamped as “sustainable culture”: protecting the environment while being economically efficient.

It is recommended to open an organic or biodynamic wine thirty minutes before serving as they can have a chicken-coop-like smell at first.

A general characteristic of organic wines can be compared to the experience of eating a piece of fresh fruit versus artificially flavoured food. The palate is cleaner giving sometimes the wrong impression that an organic wine would have not so much length.

Here are two affordable Portuguese wines that are certified organic.

Both wines go down very easily, as it is often the case with organic wines, and with little risk of headache the next day.

Wines available at

Julia Kemper Branco 2015 Dão DOC

Blend of Encruzado and Malvasia Fina grapes, this white wine shows a bright gold colour. Nose of peach, apricot and pineapple with a bit of kerosene at first. Very dry with steely acidity, aromas of fresh lemon juice, yellow grapefruit, small white peach and  crushed stone. Long finish on lemon skin, white pepper and oyster shell.

Niepoort Bioma 2013 Douro DOC

Blend of multiple traditional Portuguese grapes, with aging in old barrels to keep a wine as pure as possible. Very delicate nose of sweet vanilla and strawberry puree. Fresh and easy drinking, easy to pair with a wide range of food, the palate shows some smooth licorice, cranberry and a medium finish on Chinese red dates (Jujube). David Rouault

David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part-time wine consultant and full-time wine lover, holding WSET Level 3, Certified Specialist of Wine and Introductory Sommelier diplomas.

Categories World of Bacchus