Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine

From Decanter:

Emmanuel Giboulot, a biodynamic winemaker in Beaune, has been threatened with a €30,000 fine and six months in prison for not treating his vines against the flavesence dorée disease.

Giboulot is being prosecuted by the DRAAF-SRAL (an arm of the Agricultural Ministry that has enforcing powers) for not following the Cote d’Or-wide directive to systematically treat vines against the leaf hopping insect known as scaphoideus titanus.

His reason:

My father began converting to organic farming in the 1970s, and we are now fully organic and biodynamic,’ Giboulot told ‘I don’t want to undo decades of work applying a treatment where the effects on the health of the vines, and the public, are as yet unproved.

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From Radio New Zealand:

Richmond Plains of Nelson won two golds and two silver medals in the Hong Kong competition’s new organic and biodynamic wine section, including for a Blanc de Noir, which is a rare white wine style made from Pinot Noir grapes.

Richmond Plains exports wine to 10 countries. It was the first vineyard in New Zealand to gain both organic and biodynamic certification in 2008.

Owner Lars Jensen says Asia is an important new market for the winery, which has seen sales suffer recently because of a global oversupply of grapes and wine.

He said it’s a case of ”export” or die” and the need to target a growing market rather than a mature one like Britain.

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Brooklyn has a new wine store dedicated to organic, biodynamic and natural wine.

Using organic farming principles, sustainable agriculture and minimal intervention at the winery, natural wines are becoming an increasingly important facet in the world of wine and consumers are taking notice.

The Natural Wine Company, housed in a revamped factory building at 211 N11th between Driggs and Roebling in North Williamsburg, will carry a wide array of natural wines from around the world. The open and expansive space with walls adorned by works from local Williamsburg artists, will provide a welcoming environment for customers to engage with a friendly and natural-wine savvy staff. The store will be open for business on Saturday, November 20th.

Owners Michael Andrews, Ross Bingham and Rebecca Pridmore stand behind the principals and diverse styles of natural wine, and in the fiercely independent spirit of the small farmers who make it. They also believe that a wine store should be a friendly, unpretentious place to shop.

This approach will extend to the store’s online presence,, broadening the reach of their storefront to wine lovers across the country. It will offer feature articles, recommendations, natural wine sampler-packs and video profiles of top natural winemakers.

This online presence, combined with regular community tastings hosted by visiting natural winemakers and a knowledgeable, passionate staff, will make The Natural Wine Company a prime destination for wine lovers in New York and across the country.

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Join committed practitioners and educators for a full day seminar and tasting created especially for those in the wine community interested in learning more about Biodynamic farming and winemaking. Practical information on the certification process will be shared, and myths and misinformation will be clarified. Attendees will learn how this high level sustainable farming practice contributes to grape and wine quality.

The Program:

The Short Course begins with an overview of the emerging marketplace interest in Biodynamic agriculture and products, and proceeds through a series of focused conversations among veteran vintners and viticulture experts on topics of fundamental importance for American wine: What defines a BD farm in concept? What practices make up a BD winegrowing system? What effect does it have on grape vines and wine? Is there any science to back it up? What are the similarities and differences between NOP organic and Demeter Biodynamic? What do BD winemakers have to say? The speaker list includes garden curator Jeff Dawson, Grgich Hills’ Ivo Jeramz and Dave Bos, and industry veterans Paul Dolan and Mike Benziger.

Throughout the day, there will be an open conversation to include attendee questions and comments. A delicious lunch will be served mid-way through the program, and at day’s end all guests will be invited to try some of the wines created and shared by the Short Course speakers.

The Logistics:

BD Winegrowing Short Course will take place on Thursday December 2 from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm at the historic Rutherford Grange at 8550 St. Helena Highway in Rutherford CA. Free parking is available. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets for $75 through November 17, at which time the ticket price will increase to $85. For more information contact Elizabeth Candelario at 707-529-4412 or

About the Rutherford Grange

Grange Halls were an integral part of rural life across the country after the civil war. Originally created for farming families as community centers, the Granges also banded together as an affiliation to advocate and advance farmer interests. The Rutherford Grange has served as a meeting place within Napa Valley since 1914, and hosted many public events including socials, dances and even meal service for migrant farm workers. Like many Granges across California, the Rutherford Grange suffered from an aging and dwindling membership, but has recently been given new life by fresh leadership and a renewed sense of purpose. Plans include fixing up the Grange Hall and hosting a broad range of community events.

About Demeter USA

Demeter USA is a non-profit American chapter of Demeter International, the world’s only certifier of Biodynamic® farms and products. Biodynamic agriculture goes beyond organic, envisioning the farm as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. In an effort to keep the farm, the farmer, the consumer, and the earth healthy, farmers avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers, utilize compost and cover crops, and set aside a minimum of 10% of their total acreage for biodiversity. The entire farm, versus a particular crop, must be certified, and farms are inspected annually. In order for a product to bear the Demeter logo it must be made with certified Biodynamic ingredients and meet strict processing standards to ensure the purest possible product.

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From the University of Illinois:

When you think about “wine country,” Illinois may not be the first state that comes to mind. But it’s actually big business on the prairie. There are 90 wineries licensed in Illinois and 1,500 acres of wine grapes. One acre of wine grapes can bring as much as $8,000 in sales, though more commonly it’s $3,000 to $5,000. The largest wineries in Illinois produce 90,000 gallons per year, while many produce 3,000 to 10,000 per year.

“In many cases, growing wine grapes is supplementary to the producer’s entire farming operation. The break-even point for wineries is about 10,000 gallons to make it a full-time business,” said Bill Shoemaker, superintendent at the St. Charles Horticulture Research Center.

Shoemaker works with other University of Illinois researchers to conduct grape research at the Center. For one of his latest projects, he is crossing wild grapes with proven wine grape varieties to develop a good wine grape that can withstand the cooler northern Illinois weather.

“There are wild grapes growing along the roadside on I-57,” Shoemaker said. “The interstate grapes root easily with no further help. Their native genetics means that they have already adapted to this climate but they aren’t good for eating or wine-making. We’re crossing them with European grapes that have high quality to create new varieties that will grow in our climate and be a good wine grape.”

Unfortunately, the wild grapes have poor flavor and low yield. But Shoemaker is looking at three wild grape species that have excellent disease resistance to create breeding lines that will require less use of pesticides. Right now growers sometimes have to spray in order to grow a good wine grape, so this would be a great step forward for the industry. “There isn’t much grape breeding being done to create improved varieties globally. We’re working to improve the fruit quality and develop new flavor profiles in wine,” he said.

The northern and southern hilly parts of the state have more potential for vineyards, with Galena in Jo Davies County part of a new American viticulture region, said Shoemaker. Since 1998 grapes, particularly cold-hardy wine grapes, have been a subject of research at the University of Illinois St. Charles Horticulture Research Center. The research was initiated by U of I scientists Robert Skirvin and Alan Otterbacher with a trial of 26 grape varieties planted on a southwest-facing slope – Shoemaker noted that it was the only southwest-facing slope available in the area.

Today Shoemaker conducts research at the St. Charles Center on cultivar evaluation, cultural research, including Integrated Pest Management, and breeding new varieties of grapes. “Cultural practices are all the methods growers use to manage the grape crop such as pest management” Shoemaker said. “Grapes are popular with many pests. There are insect challenges at every point in the growing season, especially during harvest. There are also several fungal diseases that can infect current varieties, and weeds, particularly perennial weeds such as Canada thistle, are constantly challenging growers and their grape crops.”

Perhaps worst of all are the animals that love to eat grapes, Shoemaker said. Birds can decimate vineyards.

At the St. Charles Center, Shoemaker manages a 1-acre vineyard of Frontenac grape which was established as a research platform in 2006. “We knew we needed a vineyard dedicated to studying the cultural practices growers use, or need to use, to successfully grow grapes for high-quality wine,” he said.

On one of the research projects in the Frontenac vineyard Shoemaker is working with U of I researcher Rick Weinzierl on methods to control Japanese beetles. “We are evaluating three pesticide regimens and two cultural controls for the pest. We are also looking at spun-bonded polypropylene row covers over the top of the vines as an exclusion barrier to the beetle. This could be attractive to organic grape growers if there are no negative effects on the vines or fruit development,” Shoemaker said.

Weinzierl said they hope to identify reduced-risk insecticides and nonchemical methods, such as the spun-bound polyester covers, that will allow conventional and organic growers to prevent losses to Japanese beetles without too frequent sprays of insecticides that might result in greater residues or toxicity to beneficial insects. “This would result in greater profits for the Illinois wine industry,” he said.

Evaluating new grape varieties for their potential use in the grape wine industry is time consuming, Shoemaker said. “The Europeans, especially the French, created thousands of varieties of interspecific hybrids, many of which have never been grown in the Midwest. Most never will, as they were not exported to North America. But many were and some are planted here at St. Charles. We are also evaluating new varieties and breeding lines from other breeding programs at St. Charles so we can identify which have the greatest potential for our industry,” Shoemaker said.

Support for this work has been provided by the State of Illinois and the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) since 2005.

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Angela Logomasini, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, penned the following piece on

The quest by wine and beer wholesalers to maintain their “middleman” role within the liquor industry is simply bad news. A bill making its way through the House (H.R. 5034) sponsored by Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) supports wholesalers’ promises to limit consumer choice and disadvantage retailers, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and importers.

The topic is the subject of hearings before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee today. Not surprisingly, wholesalers hope this legislation will protect the “three-tier system” for distribution of alcohol, which nearly all states impose. The system requires that alcohol producers (wineries, distillers, brewers, and importers) sell only to wholesalers, who in turn market the products to retailers.

It thereby bans any mutually beneficial sales between retailers (wine shops, restaurants, etc) and wineries or other producers that could enhance product selection and save money for consumers.

Read the full story.

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Millesime Bio 2011

From January 24 to 26, 2011, more than 500 exhibitors hailing from across the world and more than 3,000 professional visitors are expected at the Montpellier Exhibition Centre.

Located on the French Mediterranean coast, the Languedoc-Roussillon region will be hosting the Millésime Bio trade show’s 18th edition. Exclusively devoted to wine made from organic farming, this professional trade show has become a major event for the sector. From January 24 to 26, 2011, more than 500 exhibitors hailing from across the world and more than 3,000 professional visitors are expected at the Montpellier Exhibition Centre.

Those three days will feature booths – identical for every exhibitor -, the awarding of the Millésime Bio contest prizes (“Challenge Millésime Bio”), free wine-tasting corners to discover those prize-winning wines as well as those from the winegrowers, country-specific conferences about the organic wine market, and an organic lunch offered to members of the press and to all visiting professional wine buyers. The Winegrowers’ Evening (“Soirée des Vignerons”), a highlight of the trade show, will feature an organic dinner served to music, and a wine-tasting session of prize-winning wines and all those exhibited during the show, selected by the exhibitors themselves.

The Millésime Bio trade show is a one-of-a-kind concept. It was created in 1993 by a small number of Languedoc-Roussillon winegrowers, who organized it so as to foster discovery, dialogue and conviviality around a single theme: organic wine.

Figures from the 2010 edition:

  • 491 exhibitors, all producers or wholesalers (up 38% in one year), hailing from South Africa, Germany, Argentina, Egypt, Spain, the United States, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland.
  • 2,700 professional visitors from 25 countries (outside France), mainly coming from Europe, North America and Japan. They represented 700 wine trade companies (up 58% in one year).

Here are a few markers concerning the organic wine market:

  • With 39,000 hectares devoted to organic production in France in 2009 (against 28,000 hectares in 2008), organic vineyards showed a 39% increase.
  • The number of wine-producing concerns rose by 31% from 2008 to 2009 (2,301 and 3,024 respectively). Heading the pack, there are three French regions holding two-thirds of the surface area in certified vineyards: Languedoc-Roussillon (12,661 hectares, up 52% in one year), followed by the Provence-Côte d’Azur region (8,981 hectares, up 35% in one year) and Aquitaine (5,463 hectares, up 45% in one year).
  • On a worldwide level, France ranks second after Italy.
  • In terms of consumption, the organic products turnover from 2008 to 2009 rose by 30% in hypermarkets and supermarkets, while organic still wine turnover rose by 65%. 46% of French consumers stated they had consumed at least one organic product per month during 2009.

For more information, please contact:

Organic Wines Professional Association for Languedoc Roussillon
Cendrine Vimont
75 avenue de Boirargues
34970 Lattes
Tel.: +33 4 99 13 30 43


205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 3740
Chicago, IL 60601
Tel.: (312) 327-5260

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It was expected that the 2010 harvesting would be carried out by applying the new EU regulations for the production and labeling of wine and derivates. Unlucky, this was no possible because of the lack of political agreement at this regard at the European Commission the last June. Then, the proposal for a new regulation on the organic wine has been withdrawn.

Hence the official definition remains “wine produced from organic grapes” and it is still not possible to draw on the label the European Organic Logo.

To go over this paradoxical situation the Organic wine producer associations of different European countries decided to launch an European Charter of Organic wine (CEVinBio), based on (and improved in respect of) the draft of the European Commission and on the results of the international research program ORWINE.

The CEVinBio will allow the wine producers to make the best of their ethics of organic production, not only on the fields, but also in the cellar and even to the final customer. Their wine will be still labeled with the old definition of “produced from organic grapes” but they will also show some information about the virtuous processing of the grapes (e.g. the reduction of sulfites).

Read the full story: A new charter for the european organic wines.

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