The terms organic and biodynamic have been trending in the wine world for a while now, yet it's still easy to get to two confused. Here's a quick look at biodynamic and organic wine and the man who's leading the way.
Biodynamic wine practices date back just over a century. Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and self-proclaimed clairvoyant, first put together his collection of recommendations back in the 1920s, advising farmers to plan everything from planting to harvest around an astronomic calendar. The idea is to grow crops while honouring the surrounding ecosystem. According to Steiner a farm should be a largely self-sustaining system, with materials from one area or organism used to nourish the other.
Biodynamic winemakers may plant or prune according to the position of the sun and certain planets or take the lunar cycle into account before scheduling harvest. Another iconic practice is to bury a cow horn in the soil to introduce cosmic sources into the soil before the decomposed horn is later dug up and used as fertilizer.
A non-profit organization called the Demeter Association is the undisputed authority in biodynamic wine, overseeing certification in a whopping 45 countries.
Organic practices are far more regulated, and whereas the concept of biodynamic farming is pretty much universal, the benchmarks vineyards must reach to be certified organic change from country to country.
In the United States, organic wines are those that are made using grapes that have been certified organic and bottled without additional sulfites. The level of sulfites is actually measured, with the cap set at 100 parts per million or less, all of which must be a naturally occurring. But the biggest factor is how the land itself is farmed. To qualify as organic, a farm or vineyard must rely solely on organic practices which means no chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.
Wineries in the U.S. go through the Department of Agriculture to receive their certification, at which point they may mark their wines with an official USDA organic seal.
You may see the term "made from organic grapes" as well — that label refers only to the status of the grapes, not of the wine itself.
Meet Gerard Bertrand
Gerard Bertrand is the leading winemaker in the quickly growing niche of biodynamic and organic wines. Bertrand, who was named Green Personality of the Year 2020 by the Drinks Business Green Awards, is renowned for his eco-friendly initiations and contribution to sustainable winemaking, concepts he's dedicated his life to for over 20 years.
The dedication is evident in the way Bertrand and his close-knit team treat the land and the grapes they grow. In 2002, Domaine de Cigalus became the first of the Bertrand family's first estate to complete convert to biodynamic farming. This switch came at the behest of the winemaker himself, resulting from his unflagging belief that biodynamic agriculture improves quality by creating wines that are more aromatic, more balanced, and more expressive overall.
Now, all 16 Bertrand estates are biodynamic, with several wines also receiving Demeter certification. It's no surprise, then, that Gerard Bertrand has become the benchmark for biodynamic farming in the Languedoc-Roussillon.
What to Buy
The best way to understand the power of biodynamic and organic wines is to try them for yourself. We recommend starting with three of Bertrand's best:
- Gerard Bertrand 'Orange Gold' 2020 – A complex yet expertly balanced wine that combines stone fruit, white flowers, and a hint of white pepper. Expect a long, velvety finish with just the right amount of bite.
- Gerard Bertrand 'Source of Joy' Rose 2020 – Gorgeous in color, aroma, and taste, this rose exudes elegance with plenty of strawberry and cherry and a surprising hint of licorice.
- Gerard Bertrand Chateau L'Hospitalet Grand Vin Rouge 2018 – A phenomenal example of a Rhone Red, this wine is smoky yet smooth, savory and sweet, and beautifully full-bodied.