The organic wine sector is a relatively small one, accounting for only 3.6% of global consumption. But it’s a category that’s growing significantly each year. By Ali Devine
It’s estimated that by 2022 more than one billion bottles of organic wine will be consumed annually. But just because a wine is labelled organic doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you and the environment. Here’s why you should rather be on the lookout for biodynamic wines.
The health benefits of wine
It’s a long-established fact that wine can be beneficial for your health as it’s rich in antioxidants, most notably resveratrol. But not all wines are created equal. Unlike white wine, grape skins are used in the production of red wine. Because the antioxidants in wine come from grape skins, red wines are better for your health than white wines.
Drinking small amounts of red wine every day is believed to help prevent heart disease, cancer and even skin ageing. But because grape skins are used to make red wine it’s also more likely to contain pesticides. Widely used in South Africa, pesticides have been linked to cancer, infertility and Parkinson’s disease, among many other health dangers. And in a water-poor country such as South Africa pesticides that contaminate the aquatic environment can have a huge impact on both humans and wildlife.
The danger of pesticides to environmental and human health is precisely why more and more people are choosing to drink organic wines. Besides containing no pesticides, organic wines don’t contain any added sulphites, which have long been used as preservatives to prevent wines from ageing too quickly. Some people have allergy-like reactions to sulphites, so organic wines also make fantastic options for those with food sensitivities. While conventionally processed wines contain 350 parts per million (ppm) sulphites, organic wines may only contain up to 10 ppm.
What’s the difference between organic and biodynamic wine?
While all biodynamic wines are organic, not all organic wines are biodynamic. In organic farming synthetic pesticides and fertilisers are simply replaced with natural alternatives, which may not necessarily be better for the environment. Biodynamic producers, on the other hand, use holistic agricultural practices in their vineyards to create a self-regulating ecosystem. Instead of using potentially harmful methods to keep pests at bay, they work with nature. For instance, they grow crops that cultivate insects that are the natural predators of pests. They also use small sheep to graze between vines. They’re also conscious of how they use resources such as water and soil on their farms.
To check if a wine is biodynamic, look for the Demeter International seal on the bottle. It indicates that both the vineyard and final product have been certified biodynamic. For wines to gain this certification, no synthetic chemicals can be used on the vines, nor can any acid, sugar or enzymes be added to the wine during production.
Many oenophiles also believe organic and biodynamic wines taste better than conventionally produced wines. Even in blind tastings wines made from organic grapes score higher than conventionally produced wines. This should come as no surprise, especially when you consider a biodynamic vineyard. Because these farms work with nature, the soil is healthier, yielding a fresher and more flavourful product that’s good for you and the planet.