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Organic wines: True or false?

Organic wines: True or false?

How can you decant true from false? Take our entertaining quiz, and learn the differences between organic, biodynamic and natural wines.

All organic wines are ‘natural’ wines.

False: All so-called ‘natural’ wines are organic, but not all organic wines are natural. Production rules for natural wines are far more restrictive than those for organic wines. The Association des vins naturels (website in French only) sets forth that no additives or adjustments are acceptable (only native yeasts, no enzymes, no added tannins or acids, etc.). On the other hand, European organic wines authorise the use of some additives (selected yeasts, for example). Overall, oenological practice-related rules for organic wine are much more restrictive than for conventional wine.

 

Organic and biodynamic = the same thing

False: Organic and biodynamic wines share a common winemaking culture that shuns synthetic chemicals. Biodynamic grape growing relies instead on plant-based concoctions used on a specific established calendar based on the movements of the planets and stars—which can sometimes make this method the object of some skepticism! Wine designated as biodynamic also has certain regulatory bodies (particularly Demeter) that restrict the use of sulphites and other additives, far more so than regulatory bodies for organic wines.

 

Drink natural wines right away

True and False: Sulphates in and of themselves offer antibacterial and antioxidant qualities, which makes the bottle more stable. Natural wines contain far less sulphates and are therefore more affected by their environment—namely, heat. As a result, if you do want to cellar them, ensure that you do so with care, and yes, it could be better to enjoy these bottles right away. Regardless, there are some natural vintages that do age well; look for wines from structured cepages that have been carefully crafted from start to finish.

 

You can taste the difference between organic and biodynamic wines

False: A wine’s taste depends a great deal more on its vinification, creation, terroir, and vintage, than whether or not it’s organic or natural. Further, each winemaker will interpret and execute organic or biodynamic practices in their own way.

 

Natural wines have far less additives or adjustments

True: Natural wine fans are looking for the genuine and unfiltered taste of the terroir where the grapes grow. Natural evokes simplicity: nothing added, nothing changed—for example, you wouldn’t need to add anything to delicious Québec strawberries! Just as their labels proclaim, throughout the entire winemaking process, natural wines have as few interventions as possible—from grape growing to bottling.

Organic wines don’t contain sulphates

False: Due to the fermentation process, all wines contain some amount of sulphates—even natural wines. The real question here is about added sulphates. In the vast majority of cases, organic wines contain added sulphates; a good proportion of natural wines also contain a limited amount of sulphates, generally introduced in the wine prior to bottling. To illustrate these shades of difference, natural red wines contain 0 to 30 parts per million (ppm) of added sulphates, whereas European organic red wines contain a maximum of 100 ppm, and conventional wines come in at up to 150 ppm.

 

Organic, biodynamic, and natural wines are vegan

True and False: During the fining process winemakers may or may not use animal proteins (milk, egg, or fish), to clarify wines and filter solids (mineral- or vegetal-based materials might also be used). Natural wines must always be vegan, since they aren’t fined nor filtered. A sizeable proportion of organic and biodynamic wines avoid the use of animal-based proteins, but generally speaking fining is accepted in the two above-mentioned wine types.

 

GOOD TO KNOW

Organic, etc.: How do I find them at my SAQ?

In SAQ stores, organic wines are identified with a green price tag. On SAQ.COM, under the Products menu, organic offerings have their own listing and a logo that appears on the product information page. A natural or biodynamic wine is included in the organic category if its certification conforms to applicable Canadian regulations. Look closely at the label for information about the winemaker to determine if the bottle you’re considering is organic, biodynamic, or natural—or just ask one of the SAQ’s helpful advisors!

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