An Overview of Organic and Biodynamic Wine in Switzerland

Bio Wine Festival 2017

How did it all begin? Rudolf Steiner, the mastermind behind biodynamics, is quite the man. The Austrian born scientist and philosopher influenced not only education but also medicine, psychology, the arts and agriculture.

Deciding that the spiritual and physical world are fundamentally woven together, Rudolf Steiner devised homeopathic concoctions for soils and compost in order to improve the immune system of plants, which in turn could heal and nourish the Earth.

In Switzerland, more and more wine makers are using his approach. I recently had the pleasure of sampling some of these organic and biodynamic wines at Lavaux's first Bio Wine Salon, held at the Domain Wannaz in Chernax in Vaud.

Bio Wine Festival 2017

Several artisan wine makers were present to exhibit their ambrosia. After a lengthy discussion with the dynamic biodynamic vintner, Blaise Duboux, I learned a number of interesting facts. Now, the truth may finally be revealed...

What’s the difference between organic and biodynamic wine? The rules differ all over the world, but as far as Switzerland is concerned, here is the deal:

Organic Wines

The official definition: A generic term for wines made using the minimum amount of S02 (sulphur dioxide) and without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.

My easy definition: "Don't spray the bad stuff!"
 

Biodynamic Wines

The official definition: Wines produced without the aid of chemical or synthetic sprays or fertilizers, and vinified with natural yeast and the minimum use of filtration, sulphur dioxide and chaptalisation (addition of sugar).

My easy definition: Biodynamics uses a holistic approach, working in harmony with mother nature and the cosmos - without all the bad stuff. It may sound like esoteric mumbo jumbo, but I can assure you it is not. Taste some biodynamic wine for yourself and you shall see...

The first principle applies to both. You are not allowed to spray herbicides or pesticides or use artificial fertilizers, so you are already organic in practice. Biodynamic viticulture means working with nature and not against it, so the following methods are also practiced:

  • You follow the earth's moon cycles.
  • What you take out of the vineyard you must also put back.
  • You must treat everything as one holistic system.
  • And rather than using herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers, biodynamic wine making methods can include using manure aged about 6 months in cow horns (not in the actual wine, of course), crystals, and herbal teas.

Bio Wine Festival 2017

Five things you should know about organic and biodynamic wine

  • To be officially certified and recognised in Switzerland as an organic or biodynamic vineyard, you must be certified by bio.inspecta, the authority connected to organic and biodynamic products. They do regular spot checks to ensure the rules are being followed.
  • It takes two years to become organic, and three years to convert from organic to biodynamic.
  • Organic wine making has been around in Switzerland since the 1970s, while biodynamic is known since the 1980s.
  • There must be a certain distance between a biodynamic and a conventional vineyard in order to be classed as such.
  • Certain wine makers employ a bit of each method and are not necessarily certified.

 

Surely, you have heard the saying "you are what you eat"? Well, I would find it even more appropriate to say "you are what you eat and drink"!

Today, we are more and more conscious about what we consume, given all the chemical poisons out there. I am sure that you would prefer consuming wine treated with dandelion, horsetail and camomile, right? It sounds much less scary than drinking a chemical cocktail...

Grapes are like people and they need to be treated with the upmost respect and care. Thanks to Steiner’s ingenuity, the world is turning more and more towards organic and biodynamic wine.

Bio Wine Festival 2017 - Wannaz Chante Merlot

Some delicious Swiss wines I recommend:

- Merlot 2015 Domaine Wannaz
- Plant Robez 2015 Blaise Duboux
- La Galiote 2015 Pierre André Jaunin

 

And finally, a few words from Gilles Wannaz, the winemaker at the Domaine Wannaz:

 

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Nina Bobillier

Nina is a passionate wine journalist based in the heart of Lavaux. She shared her knowledge about the Swiss wine-scape, scenic vineyards and wines to taste.
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