In the world of wine there are many terms that are not always clear what they are actually about. Some wine drinkers use the terms organic wine, biodynamic wine or natural wine (orange wine). What is the difference between these types of wine and what is special about them? Lets’ see !
Organic wine (ecological wine)
In contrast to a wine from normal cultivation, an organic wine can always be recognised by its green seal, which contains an indicated leaf of small white stars, and by its eco-certification number. If the wine is marked with this label, this means that all work processes from the vineyard to the cellar are subject to strict regulations. These include, among other things, the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. The fact that these specifications are adhered to is checked annually by the responsible control authority of the winery.
But even so, at least on our previous trips to wineries in Spain, we have noticed that more and more wineries – even without certification – are approaching organic farming. During our visit to Bodegas Ruberte at the beginning of January, we noticed during a visit to the vineyards that pheromone ribbons are also used in farms without certification – a classic method from organic viticulture that successfully keeps pests away from the vines through a “confusion tactic”.
The aim of organic viticulture is to increase biodiversity and sustainability in the vineyard and wine cellar. Greening between the rows is therefore expressly desired, even if this means additional competition for nutrients and water for the vine.
Even without weeds in the rows, which are only scarce in the hot Spanish summer anyway, it is possible to tell from the vineyard whether the winegrower cultivates according to ecological principles. If there is a rose bush at the beginning of all one or two rows, this is already a good indication. Roses are more susceptible to mildew, the main disease in the vineyard, than the vines. If the winegrower sees that the rose bush has the disease, he can also apply natural sulphur or copper-based remedies in organic farming to combat mildew. Copper and sulphur are elements that occur naturally in all soils, sometimes more and sometimes less. Nevertheless, the maximum quantities are strictly specified here! The decisive factor, however, is the time: the sooner the danger is recognised, the less resources have to be used.
Organic winegrowing therefore requires one thing above all else: the organic winegrower must control his vineyards much more often than the conventional winegrower in order to guarantee the quality of his wines.
Biodynamic viticulture, in contrast to organic viticulture, has even stricter requirements and is controlled by independent private organisations such as DEMETER or ECOVIN. The basis is Rudolf Steiner’s teaching, which takes a holistic view of the field and the vineyard. In it, the vineyard is a natural system in which diseases occur when the natural balance is disturbed. This would happen, for example, through the use of artificial fertilizers. The aim of biodynamic farming is to maintain the natural balance. All work, whether sowing or harvesting, is carried out according to the lunar calendar. The aim of reconciling the earthly with the cosmic may sound esoteric, but the results prove the winegrowers right.
An important part of biodynamic cultivation is the use of natural preparations to strengthen plants and soil. These include cow horns that are filled with pebbles or cow dung and buried in the soil of the vineyard. After a certain time they are dug up again and the contents of the horns are dissolved in water. The mixture is energised by turning it counterclockwise first and then clockwise 20 minutes later and then spread in homeopathic doses in the vineyard. This is only a few grams per hectare.
Only manure is used to fertilize the areas – preferably from our own farm. Depending on the type of soil, this is enhanced by the addition of herbs.
Among our wineries it is the Celler Ronadelles from the D.O. Montsant, who also produces his wines without an official certificate according to the guidelines of biodynamic viticulture. These include the strong red wines Cap de Ruc (Catalan for donkey’s head) and Cap de Ruc Crianza as well as the velvety soft Cap de Ruc blanc with floral notes. The Cap de Ruc rosat range also includes a strong rosé wine made from the Syrah grape variety.
Natural wine (also Orange Wine)
The latest trend among wine producers is to produce wines that do without almost any modern aids – wines that are produced as they were centuries ago. The basis for such a wine should, of course, ideally be a vineyard managed from an ecological or biodynamic point of view. But it does not have to be, because there are no legal requirements for this type of wine.
It is crucial that the intervention in the vineyard is minimal. Therefore no commercial yeasts are used, it is not clarified, not filtered and at the end no sulphur is added to stabilize the wine.
The grapes are fermented as a whole over a longer period of time. This is also practised in the production of natural white wines (these are normally separated from the must after a short period of time) and so – as with red wine – the colour of the white wine is washed out of the skins of the white wine grapes. This process in combination with oxidative processes as well as the absence of filtering and fining results in a sometimes more, sometimes less pronounced orange colour of the wine – this is why it is also called orange wine or orange wine. However, the term orange wine is used quite differently. Some also use it as a term for the whole genus of natural wines, for red as well as for rosé and white wines. Strictly speaking, the term natural wine or natural wine may not be used. This means that other winegrowers are accused of not producing natural wines. To this day, there is still a passionate discussion between supporters of both camps.
The result of all these processes are wines rich in tannins, tannins and unpolished, which have a special character. Often these wines show typical characteristics in the glass, which are regarded by many as faults in the wine. These include, for example, the turbidity of the wine or also idiosyncratic odours. For lovers of natural wines, these are simply further facets of nature. Perhaps in the end it is exactly what they are looking for. The quality of the harvested grapes is decisive – as so often, but especially with natural wine.