Ecological, biodynamic, sustainable wines ... how are they different?

Ecological, biodynamic, sustainable wines ... The advances in viticulture methods committed to environmental balance has intensified in recent years. And they will continue their expansion in the global vineyard because, far from being a passing trend, it is a transformation process that responds to the ecological situation of this suffering planet. In other words: bio wines –in any of their different genres, which we will now see– result from the awareness of a new generation of winegrowers who have understood that this planet’s nature requires other models of agricultural exploitation. And this does not concern only small producers, alternative winemakers, or enlightened hippies - as happened long ago - but also large wineries and corporate groups, which today are also in tune with the commitment to the environment.


Now, what is the difference between an organic wine and a biodynamic one? And what are the principles of sustainable viticulture? The bio specialties are so many that it is better to go in parts so as not to get lost.


Ecological wines, clean vineyards

In the ranking of environmentally friendly viticulture, the first grade corresponds to ecological wines –also called organic or biological–, made from grapes harvested in vineyards that are free of treatments with herbicides, pesticides, and other synthetic chemical products. Many of the wineries that work with ecological vineyards –although not all– also respect the environmental balance in other processes –from the handling of waste to the selection of supplies–, leveraging natural resources. In Spain, the introduction of ecological vineyards has developed with great intensity in recent years, even leading the world ranking. Currently 27% of the world's ecological vineyards are Spanish, Catalonia being the community with the highest percentage (two-thirds of its vineyards are organic). 


Sustainable wines, global ecology

Sustainable viticulture goes a little further, because it not only considers ecology in the treatment of the vineyard, but in all production processes.


The crop cultivation is organic, without systemic herbicides or pesticides. In the winery, emissions are minimized, reusing materials and recycling by-products to protect the environment. Some wineries that adhere to sustainable viticulture have their own purification equipment. Others also avoid the use of animal products in the winemaking process (such as egg albumin to clarify wines, which is widely used in traditional wineries), which allows them to certify their wines as vegan.  


Optimizing the use of water and energy resources is also fundamental for sustainable viticulture.


Viticulture methods committed to environmental balance are gaining market share in the global vineyard.

Biodynamic wines, universal harmony

Finally, the methodology of biodynamic wines is even more complex because it requires the absence of systemic products in the cultivation of the vineyard that is promoted by ecological viticulture, but also incorporates other practices, in accordance with the ideas that the Swiss philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) brought to light.


Challenging mechanization and the productivity methods of the industrial revolution –which were changing the reality of agriculture–, Steiner proposed a new formula of exploitation where the animal, mineral and plant universe maintain a harmonious relationship. This approach prioritizes the influence of the stars on the development of crops - the lunar calendar is key to any intervention in the vineyard, including also in the oenological processes that are carried out in the winery - and it rejects the use of machinery in the field, returning prominence to draft animals.


Steiner also defends the survival of the unique nature of each soil: insects and plant covers. As well as recommended the use of infusions and decoctions of plants to keep pests at bay. The best compost? Compost of animal manure. The recipes seem ancient, except for some that seem a bit more eccentric: in spring the vineyard must be treated with a preparation that seems to have been taken from a Druid story: a cow's horn emptied of its cartilage and filled with animal excrement, energized in warm water.


In the oenological processes of winemaking in the winery, biodynamic winegrowers must use minimum doses of sulfur dioxide (SO2) –the most widespread antibiotic in oenology, which is used to eliminate contaminating bacteria that can affect wine–; while the addition of sorbic acid and the acidity correction are prohibited. Fermentations take place with the indigenous yeasts of the grape and the wines are generally bottled without prior filtering.


Although the principles of biodynamics are often disputed as being excessively rigorous and eccentric, every day more and more winemakers and wineries are adopting its practices, at least partially. Those who follow this philosophy to the letter can aspire to the Demeter certification, the most valued certificate in the field of biodynamics. 


Spain leads the world ranking of organic vineyards, with 27% of the "green" vines grown on the planet.

Ecology and sustainability

In the offer of 15Bodegas, the alternatives of organic wines are numerous. Especially regarding the Raimat range, which made a commitment to ecology and sustainability years ago, trying to obtain excellence in its wines without forcing or altering the balance of the environment, through less aggressive agricultural techniques and production processes that avoid the overuse of resources. This is how today this winery has a dozen wines with organic certification, of different styles and types. As an example, the whites Raimat Grenache Blanc Ventada Organic and Raimat Chardonnay Organic 2020, the Rosé Organic Rosé Vol d'Ànima de Raimat 2020 and the reds Raimat Abadia Organic 2018 - a great classic of the house, now available in a bio version - and Raimat Tempranillo Pirinenca Organic 2018.


They also occasionally have organic wines wineries such as Bilbainas, in Rioja ( Viña Pomal Organic 2018), Raventós de Alella, in Alella (Raventós de Alella Sarriera Organic 2019) and Tionio, in Ribera del Duero ( Austum Organic 2019). Which shows that "green" wines are here to stay.


Do you dare to be more bio by toasting with these wines?