Close this search box.

Organic And Biodynamic Viticulture

Organic wine grapes are produced without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilisers. It is most often the best expression of both the grape and the terroir – the land and environment in which it is grown. The organic principles that govern organic viticulture and wine are:

  • Production of naturally safe, high quality, nutritional grapes
  • Optimal production output, with rational and minimised use of inputs
  • Use of recycling and biological cycles within the farming system
  • Biodiversity protection and enhancement within the winery and surrounding areas
  • Regeneration of lands and soils and best environmental practice of farming activities
Organic and biodynamic viticulture require adherence to several key principles.

Organic Viticulture

Organic wine production, or organic viticulture, should reflect the sustainable practices used to improve the soil quality with minimal winemaking intervention. Soil cover (pasture, residues, crops) should aim for 70% coverage year-round to prevent soil degradation and to enhance biological activity within vineyards. A diverse ecosystem should be created and maintained by such means as companion planting, mixed cropping and creating wildlife refuges. This, in turn, encourages beneficial insects, mixed opportunistic weed grazing and ecosystem services. In this way, the vineyard becomes a self-regulating, natural ecosystem, that combats problems intrinsically and eliminates the need for artificial, and potentially toxic, chemicals such as synthetic herbicides and fungicides.

Organic Viniculture

The allowed inputs for organic wine processing are substantially reduced compared to non-organic wine. However, winemakers still require aides to ensure the full fermentation process is completed and wines mature correctly. Sulphur dioxide is often used to aide fermentation in organic wine; however, it is restricted to half that allowed within non-organic wine; and many organic producers using only minimal amounts. Grapes naturally produce sulphur dioxide as part of the fermentation process in varying amounts. Preservative free organic wine, or natural organic wine, does not contain additional sulphur dioxide. Reducing the sulphur dioxide content has been shown to lessen hangovers associated with wine, just another reason to choose organic.

Organic wine contains significantly less sulphur dioxide than non-organic wine.

Allowed Inputs for Organic Wine in Australia

Listed below are just some of the allowed inputs for organic wine processing in Australia. For a full list, see the Australian Certified Organic Standard (ACOS).

Activated carbon Lactic acid bacteria
Argon Malic acid
Ascorbic acid Membrane filters
Bentonite Milk – skim
Calcium alginate/Chitosan Milk – whole
Calcium carbonate Mistelle (fortified organic grape juice)
Cane sugar (for sparkling wine & vermouth) Nitrogen
Carbon dioxide Oxygen
Casein Oak pieces
Citric acid Pectolytic enzymes
Concentrated grape juice (organic) Potassium caseinate
Copper sulphate Potassium carbonate
Diammonium phosphate (EU Only) Potassium hydrogen carbonate
Diatomaceous earth Potassium metabisulphite
Egg white Potassium tartrate
Evaporated milk Silicon dioxide
Gelatine Sulphur dioxide – gas
Grape alcohol Sulphur dioxide – aqueous
Grape juice – organic Tannic acid
Ion exchange resins (inert) Tartaric acid
Isinglass Thiamine and other vitamin supplements
Kaolin Water (to a max. limit of 3% for mixing additives)
Lactic acid Yeast

Health Benefits

Organic viticulture and production relies on keeping plants in optimum health to minimise plant disease. This translates to organic wine grapes having thicker skins and higher concentrations of beneficial anthocyanins and antioxidants, including polyphenols and cardio-friendly resveratrol. Organic wines are also free from residual traces of agricultural additives such as synthetic pesticides and herbicides. With all organic food and beverage products, agrichemical maximum residue limits (MRLs) should be no more than 10% of that allowed within Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) guidelines.

Read our Health Benefits of Organic article for more detail on organic food in general.

Biodynamic Wine

Biodynamic standards are additional requirements that need to be fulfilled on top of certified organic requirements. The aim, through time, is to limit external inputs into the farming system, most particularly fertilisers and manures, such that the farming system becomes a ‘closed’ or ‘self-sustaining’ ecological system, whilst ensuring sustainability and nutrient maintenance of the overall farming system. It is anticipated that use of brought-in composted materials to Biodynamic farms shall cease by the time full certification is achieved.

In biodynamic viticulture, the use of compost made using biodynamic compost preparations is essential for soil and plant health. Several preparations are used for different purposes and must be prepared correctly and applied at certain times. Horn manure, or Preparation 500 is the most important of these as it is full of beneficial microbes that are spread on the land each year.

Biodynamic Preparations Allowed for use under Organic Certification

Horn silica (501) Horn manure (500)
Yarrow (502) Chamomile (503)
Stinging nettle (504) Oak bark (505)
Dandelion (506) Valerian (507)

In-Conversion Organic Wine

It can take between 1-3 years for a vineyard to achieve organic certification, depending on its chemical usage history. Vignerons can sell organic wine as ‘in-conversion’ to indicate they are fulfilling all the requirements of certified organic, however have not yet completed the process.

Why Choose Organic?

Organic wine contains fewer synthetic chemicals, can have higher amounts of antioxidants than non-organic wine, and is a better choice for the environment. It’s these reasons and more that organic is the better choice when it comes to wine.

There are health and environmental benefits associated with choosing organic wine products.

Organic Wine Glossary

Terroir: Environmental factors that affect the quality of grapes and wine.

Vigneron: A person who cultivates a vineyard and grapes for winemaking. A vigneron may also be a vintner or viticulturist.

Viniculture: Winemaking and the art or science of making wine. Also called enology or oenology.

Vinification: The process of making wine.

Vintner: A wine merchant or a person who sells wine. A vintner may also be a winemaker.

Viticulture: Winegrowing, cultivation and harvesting of wine grapes.

Viticulturist: A person who specialises in viticulture or winegrowing.