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Are Organic and Biodynamic Wines Worth It?

by Etty Lewensztain, Wine Expert for the Menuism Wine Blog

Joe Dressner, the revered wine importer and veritable poster child for the “natural wine” movement in the United States, passed away recently, bringing a wash of sadness over the wine world, but also inciting a flurry of pointed discussions centered around natural wine—including what that designation really means, and whether natural wines actually taste better than “un-natural” or commercially produced wines.

I’m an ardent proponent of natural wines not because of the philosophical or environmental connotations that they carry, but because of what’s in the bottle. It’s as simple as that. Mr. Dressner was of the same persuasion.

Gimmicks and shticks are good for marketing, but in the end, the juice in the bottle speaks louder than any sort of larger validation. So what sets natural wines apart from their commercial or “un-natural” counterparts and what makes them taste better—or, shall we say—taste more interesting?

For starters, natural wines are made without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, added sugars, artificial acids or commercial yeasts. Many natural wines are also bottled without shelf-life-prolonging sulfites and with very little or no oak at all. These are “hands-off” wines, wines that reveal their soul as directly as possible without being covered up by other stuff. These are what the wine geeks call terroir wines—made with as little human, chemical or technological intervention as possible in order to let the land and the fruit speak for themselves. Brilliant!

So let’s establish some basic definitions. Here's a look at the differences between natural, organic and biodynamic wine.

Views: 97

Comment by Charlotte Besaw on March 25, 2013 at 6:47pm

Great information!  I am always trying to keep it organic around here, so I appreciated the list!

Comment by Jennifer on March 26, 2013 at 1:59pm

Hi, Menuism: Thanks for sharing this. I have to admit, I know next to nothing about wine (other than that I like it). Your post left me curious: Are there third parties in the wine world who certify whether a wine is "natural," "organic," or "biodynamic"? (When it comes to food, the word "natural" gets thrown around a lot without necessarily meaning much. In order for something to be called "organic" or "certified naturally grown," it has to be certified as such. HOMEGROWN has a primer on food labeling here.) Just curious what weight these words actually carry on wine labels. Thanks for helping educate me! Now if I could just remember what words to use when describing a malbec (um ... oaky?), I'd be all set!

Comment by Menuism on March 26, 2013 at 2:06pm

Hi Jennifer, Etty wrote this in her article: 

Despite the abundance of hippie jokes and skeptical critics, biodynamic wines are actually certified by a formal agency called Demeter International and have acquired an enthusiastic cult following in recent years, particularly among young sommeliers and other forward-thinking members of the wine trade.

As for natural and organic wines, you'd have to ask the expert herself! 

Comment by Jennifer on March 26, 2013 at 2:15pm

Gotcha. Just posted a question to her blog over at Menuism. Will report back here!

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