For a long time, an organic wine producer simply had to cultivate his vines organically to qualify for the AB label. Since 2012, the certification specifications have tightened, and organic winemaking must now also be ensured. Find out what European regulations impose on organic winemaking .
Organic viticulture: the first step in making organic wines
Organic wines necessarily come from organic farming, and have done so for a very long time. Winegrowers must therefore respect the commitments of the AB label , by refusing to use any kind of synthetic chemicals, whether they are phytosanitary products, pesticides, herbicides, or even GMOs.
Basic organic viticulture therefore relies more on prevention, because the means tolerated to fight against pests or diseases are rather limited in organic agriculture. Professionals then use gentle and natural techniques to fertilize the soil and protect the soil.
Organic viticulture, like organic farming more generally, aims to let nature express itself and find its own balance. The man is only there to monitor the progress and give light, non-intrusive nudges, if necessary. This mode of production helps preserve biodiversity , but it requires more work and perfect knowledge of the soil.
Maintenance of organic vineyards: strict specifications
Even before the harvest and the passage through the cellars, the organic wine producer must meet numerous requirements ensuring the quality of the organic vines and compliance with production rules. Thus, throughout the growth of the vines and the work of the winegrower, strict and regular checks take place.
Firstly, an organization certified by the State must come and authenticate the wines and grapes from the organic wine estate . These products can only be authenticated by impartial, independent certifying bodies with the necessary capabilities.
Then, inspections of the vines take place regularly, but also in the wine cellars, to ensure strict compliance with the rules for vinifying organic wines . The objective is to ensure the traceability of the product so that it can be marketed.
Finally, analyzes are also carried out regularly, both on the vines and on the wines, to ensure that the winegrowers do not use any product prohibited by the specifications for organic wines .
These stages are particularly frequent during the first 3 years of the organic vineyard. Indeed, for a vineyard to officially produce organic wine and obtain the AB label, it must first observe a period of 3 years, where the vineyard is classified " in organic conversion ". It is estimated that this is the time necessary for the terroir and the wine to completely eliminate chemicals, and for the winemaker to make his mark.
Organic winemaking: increasingly rigorous regulations
The regulation of organic winemaking has followed a certain chronology, becoming more and more rigorous. The aim was then to regulate organic wine production more seriously.
- Before 2005: only the production of organic grapes was subject to regulation. The labels on wine bottles then bore the words “ wine made from organic grapes ”;
- From 2005: to facilitate the authentication of products from organic farming, wines produced from organic grapes were able to affix their AB label to their bottle labels;
- From 2012: organic viticulture is no longer enough to obtain the AB label, it is now necessary to apply organic winemaking , the rules of which are common to all Member States and have been decided by the European Commission.
Since 2012, certain winemaking methods are no longer tolerated to produce organic white wines, red wines and rosé wines. Furthermore, the regulations impose limits concerning the types of inputs and the dosage of sulphites authorized.
Organic winemaking methods: prohibitions
The winemaking process for organic wines has been standardized, and to comply with the requirements, certain winemaking techniques are now prohibited to produce organic wine . This is the case, for example, of tartaric stabilization by electrodialysis or cation exchangers, the use of physical treatments to remove sulfur dioxide, partial dealcoholization, or even fragmentary concentration by cold.
And if other techniques are tolerated, they are however subject to restrictions . This is the case for filtration, centrifugation and heat treatments.
Manufacturing of organic wine: authorized products
Conventional winemaking uses a multitude of auxiliaries and additives. The organic winemaking process limits some of them. In general, we always favor natural products made from agricultural raw materials . Thus, are authorized:
- Natural yeasts and lactic acid bacteria, for wine fermentation;
- Cellulose, perlite and diatomaceous earth, for wine filtration;
- Gaseous oxygen, for the oxygenation of wine;
- Fish glue, casein, silicon dioxide, potassium caseinate, for wine clarification;
- Lactic acid, for the acidification of wine;
- Argon, carbon dioxide and nitrogen, to limit the oxidation of wine...
The list is still long, but it remains much more restricted than for the production of conventional wines. On the other hand, it is further reduced for the production of biodynamic wines and natural wines.
Sulphite dosage: what are the limits?
Adding sulphites , or sulfur (SO2), is still debated among winemakers and wine lovers. This powerful antioxidant is essential, but its addition is questionable, since it is naturally present in wine. For organic wines, the dosage of sulphites is then limited to:
- 100 mg/L maximum for red wines with a residual sugar level of less than 2 g/L;
- 150 mg/L maximum for white wines and rosé wines with a residual sugar level of less than 2 g/L.
For all other wines, the dosage must be reduced by 30 mg/L compared to the maximum authorized dosage.
If the production of organic wine has long been poorly regulated, today, organic winemaking is more strict, and guarantees you wines that are more respectful of the environment, like the organic wines of the Domaine de Berne .