Organic and Biodynamic viticulture has been a Buzz-words in many wine districts in recent years, and while the intensions often are very noble .. the confusion regarding this seem to be rather massive.
I have for some years been a strong believer in the organic viticulture, as this has been supported by the impressions I get when I taste the wines from an estate over the years.
I’m not a “save the globe and free Willy” kind of guy, but I do however have a strong interest in the quality in the glass, and in my view the organic approach in many cases seems to produce better wines than the old school viticulture – and in my view this is even quite explainable even for people with a quite limited knowledge like me.
The terminologi is however a bit unclear, as the terms Bio, Organic and Biodynamic are used quite freely and even randomly by many and not always consitently. So at least to eliminate a bit of my own ignorance I have decided to take a closer look at organic, bio and biodynamic viticulture in Burgundy.
The effects of biodynamic viticulture
My experience with and knowledge about the effects of Biodynamic viticulture is more limited, and to be honest I have not always focused on the distiction between organic, bio or biodynamic viticulture.
On my trip to Burgundy I did however have an eyeopener as I tasted two versions of the Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanée Clos du Chateau 2014 – one made with organic viticulture and one made after the biodynamic principles. The difference was very significant with the biodynamic wine being more focused, detailed and precise. The biodynamic wine seemed to have an inner balance that was not found in the more floral and slightly unfocused expressive organic wine.
This is of cause only a test made on a small plot within Clos du Chateau, but it’s nevertheless surprising and even quite chocking that around 5 years of biodynamic viticulture can make a difference like this. One should not jump to conclusions .. but to ignore the biodynamic viticulture and settle for organic viticulture .. would be downright stupid given the magnitude of the improvements in the biodynamic wine.
So I decided to take a closer look at organic and biodynamic viticulture – to explore this, and to set more focus on the vignerons who are working with these methods.
Lets start with the basics and then move on to the more hairy bits whith horn manure, horn silica and other biodynamic treatments in later articles.
The organic and biodynamic certificates
The backbone is in my view the certification system, where growers gets certified to be organic or biodynamic. A lot of growers are working with these methods – but for me a certification is the main and in some cases only clear evidence that shows that it’s not just sweet talk and marketing. That beeing said there are very serious growers that are working 100% biodynamic without being certified .. so not to discredit those produces .. but a certificate is the only solid evidence that can be used to get an overview.
I have choosen to set focus on the three main certificates in Burgundy:
- AB – Ecocert
Organic viticulture – the Agriculture Biologique certificate
The AB – Agriculture Biologique certificate is the basic certificate, and this is clearly the most widespread of the three. This certificate is according to the database held by 165 entities in Burgundy (limiting this to producers of AOC wines/grapes). There are some estates that due to ownership structure has more than one certificate, so in reality I would estimate that the number of estates holding this certificate is around 140 in Côte D’Or.
This certificate is often related to the word Bio .. that is easyly confused with biodynaic viticulture, so in my view its better to translate Agriculture Biologique into Organic viticulture .. i.e. not fullblown biodynamic viticulture and wine production.
AB – Agriculture Biologique certificate is held by many of the top estates in Burgunydy including Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, Bonneau du Martray, Domaine Leroy, Domaine Dujac, Domaine D’Auvenay, Domaine de Montille, Domaine Prieure-Roch, Domaines des Comtes Lafon, Domaine Bruno Clavelier, Domaine Cecile Tremblay, Domaine Trapet, Drouhin, Domaine Roulot and Arnaud Ente amongst others.
So it is fair to say that a lot of the greatest wines in Burgundy are made under the AB – Agriculture Biologique certificate – so it’s not just a fling .. this is the real deal and a part of the best Burgundies you can get are based on these priciples.
The certificate is managed by Agence Bio.
The AB – Agriculture Biologique logo:
Biodynamic viticulture – the Biodyvin and the Demeter certificates
There are two major certificates related to biodynamic viticulture – Biodyvin and Demeter.
The first Biodyvin is a step up in certification from the organic AB certificate, as this is required to hold and get a Biodyvin certification. There are only a few Biodyvin certified estates in Burgundy – 3 that are certified and 2 are in conversion to get the certificate.
The following producers are today in the Biodyvin certification program:
- Domaine Trapet, Gevrey Chambertin (2002)
- Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet (1995)
- Domaine Pierre Morey, Morey-Saint-Denis (1998)
- Domaine Arlaud, Morey-Saint-Denis (?)
- Domiaine du Comte Liger-Belair, Vosne-Romanee (2013)
The Biodyvin logo:
The second biodynamic certificate is the Swiss Demeter certification system, what could be called the “original” Biodynamic certification. This is also a step up from organic viticulture but the certification is as I understand it not linked to or based on the AB certificate, but on the certification process established by the Demeter organisation.
The following producers are currently Demeter certified in Bourgogne:
- Domaine Trapet, Gevrey Chambertin
- Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Gevrey-Chambertin
- Domaine Michel Magnien, Morey-Saint-Denis
- Dimaine Ballorin, Morey-Saint-Denis
- Domiaine Leroy, Vosne-Romanee
- Domaine de la Juviniere, Corgoloin
- Domaine du Bonneau du Martray
- Du Manoir, Savigny-Les-Beaune
- Domaine Chandon de Brailles, Savigny-Les-Beaune
- Domaine Didier Montcgovet, Nantoux
- Domaine Rossignol-Février, Volnay
- Domaine Michel Lafarge, Volnay
- Domaine Huber Vedereau, Volnay
- Domaine D’Auvenay, Meursault
- Domaine Philippe Garray,Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu
The Demeter logos:
The Biodynamic estates of Burgundy
There are less than 20 estates that hold a biodynamic certificate, and only Domaine Trapet holds both the Biodyvin and the Demeter certificates.
The biodynamically certified estates are mixture of well known top end estates, and some lesser known Domaines that are working with these principles somewhat under the radar.
Domaine Leflaive has for many years been one of the leading figures of the biodynamic movement, and has been very open about the approach, while an estate like Bonneau du Martray has been more discrete about the biodynamic approach and certification.
There are however some non-certified estates that follow the bio-dynamic rules and requierements set up by Biodyvin or Demeter without being certified. These are not included in the numbers above – so there are most likely a few more truely biodynamic estates in Burgundy.
Regardless of the limited number of estates, there are quite a few top estates that are now working biodynamically and this is showing that this is to be taken seriously – just as the little tasting experiment mentioned above showed.
Exploring the organic and biodynamic Burgundy
I will therefore in the following articles explore the organic and biodynamic viticulture in Burgundy, to get a grasp of this movement and to be able to quantify and qualify the informations and impressions I already have.
Stay tunede for more Bio!