M Raynor, Tumbridge Wells, asks: Is there an official certification for biodynamic wines? Are they much better than organic wines?
Lance Pigott, for Decanter, replies: Biodynamic wines are generally certified by Demeter (www.biodynamic.org.uk/certification/demeter-certification/). But as they also certify a large array of vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat products, many French biodynamic vineyards also seek certification by Biodyvin (www.biodyvin.com). Both Biodyvin and Demeter have rules on growing and vinification that can be stricter than organic alone – for example, less use of copper sulphate per hectare, and the requirement for natural yeasts for fermentation. With biodynamics, the homeopathic preparations used on the compost and on the vines are key, and the vineyard must strive to be as self-sustaining as possible, with minimal external inputs. The planets’ influence on the growing season and on vineyard and winery operations is also taken into account.
Some wineries that use biodynamic methods in all or part of the vineyards aren’t certified at all. This is a personal choice. There are also those who are using, or trialling, biodynamic methods in their vineyards, who just use EU organic certification. But only a very small proportion of certified organic producers can be considered fully biodynamic.
Are biodynamic wines much better than organic wines? This is debatable, and it comes down to personal taste. Many proponents of biodynamism will say that the wines show clearer/brighter fruit and stronger terroir character. The vines and vineyards are healthier, but as for the final bottled wine, it will come down to the skill of the winemaker and vinification methods used.
Lance Pigott is the owner/director of Vintage Roots, a UK wine merchant that specialises in organic and biodynamic wines.