Explaining new wine categories – what is biodynamic wine?

biodynamic

Over recent years, there has been an increase of natural, organic and biodynamic wines onto the market. But if you’re not sure quite what these labels mean, you’re not alone. They can be difficult to understand at first glance, so here’s a breakdown of these new types of wine.

While enjoying a glass of wine is a simple pleasure for many people, the labeling and categorisation of the much-loved beverage is complex. And when you’re searching for the perfect wine, working out which country, region and quality to choose can be overwhelming.

 

Natural, organic and biodynamic wine categories

Wine labeling also varies from brand to brand. For example, you could find an Australian chardonnay with both the country and the grape clearly marked on the label. However, if you pick up a typical Chablis, the label generally won’t tell you that it’s also made with chardonnay grapes.

This is partly what makes wine such a fascinating industry. It’s also why there are so many collectors and wine aficionados who take pleasure in learning all about the endless varieties on offer. It’s also important to many people to understand exactly what is in the wine they’re drinking, particularly in these health-conscious times.

All of which has set the stage for a growth of natural and organic wines. Natural wine can be found everywhere now, with varieties easily available from wine merchants, in supermarkets and in bars. Others focus on many different types of artisanal wines, including biodynamic and organic. But what does biodynamic wine mean? And how does it differ from organic?

 

What is organic wine?

 

 

This relatively new category of wine is among the simplest, particularly as consumers are familiar with organic food. Just as organic food is grown and cultivated with no herbicides, fungicides or artificial pesticides, organic wine is too. Vineyards use natural products to fight disease and encourage their vines to grow. The rules for organic wine also mean that certain additives cannot be used to make the wine. Organic wine is popular with people looking for a certain level of quality and who take sustainability seriously.

 

What is biodynamic wine?

 

Biodynamic wine follows a specific ideology that states for a vineyard to be the best it can be, it must be harmonious and balanced. Organic vineyards aren’t enough to fulfill the specificity of biodynamic wine.

Winemakers use crop rotation, for example. By resting and alternating crops, the soil is given the chance to replenish its nutrients. They also spray the soil with natural pesticides and substances, including manure, minerals and various flowers. Some prune and maintain the vineyard according to the phases of the moon, and others take it even further by playing music to their plants.

Whether the more spiritual aspects of biodynamic wine truly work, the makers are producing popular wines. After all, the ancient Romans and Greeks also grew and harvested their crops in the same way, so there must be something in it.

 

What is natural wine?

 

This is a trickier category to quantify. With organic and biodynamic wines, there are clear rules to follow and accreditations to earn. However, natural wine has no specific body overseeing it. This means that there are no widely accepted rules as to what constitutes a natural wine.

However, the basic idea is that the grape’s growing process is interrupted as little as possible. As well as avoiding all chemicals, growers of natural wine grapes also don’t use filtration. This process removes all of the particles that result in a cloudy wine. In addition, they only use naturally occurring yeasts and add a tiny amount of sulphur. With no enzymes or sugar added, natural wines follow a very different path of production that regular wines.

 

This year’s Champagne harvest is now underway across villages in the region

With the nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, it’s finally wine harvest time across Northern Europe. And the Champagne region has already announced its start dates for this year’s harvest.

Villages across the Champagne region in France are now harvesting grapes. The start date varies for each variety of grape and each village. This is to make sure the precious Champagne grapes are harvested at their peak ripeness.

 

What makes the Champagne harvest special?

Each year, all grapes harvested in the Champagne region are carefully hand-picked. This adds to the special atmosphere that always surrounds the Champagne’s region’s strict regulations. It’s all part of the steps necessary to produce the high-quality, unique sparkling Champagne that is loved all around the world.

The rules state that only grapes from delineated, specific plots across the appellation are used to make Champagne. The region is around 90 miles north-east of Paris and covers an area of less than 80,000 acres. From how the grapes are planted, grown and harvested, to the winemaking process itself, every step is carefully regulated. There is a carefully controlled system of adjustments and refinements that all come together to make Champagne, including how it is blended.

 

Champagne is fighting back against climate change

The growing season in 2019 has had to deal with various challenges from climate changes. This includes extremely high temperatures throughout the summer. And, as with many traditional growing regions, Champagne is developing innovative solutions to adapt for the future.

From growers to suppliers, the Champagne region’s industry is united in working together to combat the changes taking place due to climate change. They are also focusing on maintaining the high quality which is Champagne’s traditional strength.

Jennifer Hall is director of the Champagne Bureau in the United States. She says that climate change is a growing problem for the Champagne industry: “The region is committed to sustainable development and seeks to do its part to reduce its environmental impact and protect the unique terroir of Champagne.”

 

Reducing carbon footprint is a priority for wine makers in Champagne

 Champagne is one of the most progressive regions in terms of reducing its emissions. Back in 2013, it was the first wine region in the world to initiate an audit of its carbon footprint. This led to a campaign focusing on reducing the carbon footprint of the Champagne region by 25% by 2020, and by 75% by 2050. During the last 15 years, Champagne has reduced the carbon footprint per bottle of wine by 20%, which is close to target.

It has also reduced the use of nitrogen fertilisers by 50%, and now recycles 90% of all industrial waste and 100% of all wine by-products and effluents. To boost the motivation of the region, the Comité Champagne introduced a certification standard in 2015 for wine growers in the region to prove their environmental commitment. Between 2015 and 2019, more than 20% of the wine growers in Champagne have been certified, and from this 15% are certified “Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne”.

 

For a full and detailed list of all of the harvest dates across villages and by grape in Champagne, click here.

Research says red wine is good for your health – here’s why

Researchers from King’s College London say their new research shows red wine is good for your health. The findings suggest that red wine increases the number of different good bacteria in your gut, which improve general health.

The research team say that the benefits from red wine comes from the polyphenols present. These compounds are still present in cider, beer and white wine, but in much smaller quantities. They’re also found in many vegetables and fruit, which is why they’re so good for you.

Wine is good for your health, but how much should you drink?

Just one glass of red wine every two weeks is enough to make a positive difference to your gut health. The researchers say that it’s about limited quantities of the high levels of polyphenols.

Polyphenols are present in lots of plant foods. The micronutrients are full of antioxidants, which is why they offer health benefits. Current scientific thinking suggests that polyphenols can help improve digestive issues, help to manage weight, control diabetes and improve the prognosis for people suffering from cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disease.

The polyphenols present in red wine include resveratrol, which comes from the skin of the grapes. They are thought to act as fuel for the useful bacteria and microbes that live in the bowel.

Gut bacteria is essential for good health

Human guts are crammed with trillions of micro-organisms and bacteria. It’s these so-called ‘friendly’ bacteria that work to keep us healthy. A growing raft of research shows that tiny alterations to the microbiota in our gut can make us much more susceptible to illnesses. The common problems associated with this include irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, heart disease and mental health.

If we eat poor diets, have sedentary lifestyles or even take certain types of medication, it’s possible that the fine balance of our gut health can be destroyed. And that’s what leads to illnesses.

The King’s College London study on the possible health benefits of red wine was published in medical journal Gastroenterology. It studied thousands of people and their eating and drinking habits from all around the world. Participants from the Netherlands, the US and the UK, are all twins. During the study they reported on their diet, what they eat, what they drink and what type of alcohol they regularly ingest.

Red wine drinkers show diversity in gut bacteria

Red wine drinkers from the study showed much more diverse gut bacteria than those who drink other alcoholic drinks, or none at all. And the more red wine you drink, the more the good bugs multiply. However, the researchers say that none of the people studied are heavy drinkers.

Just one glass a week or a fortnight, depending on your gut makeup, is enough to reap the microbe advantages of red wine. Needless to say, heavy drinking is not encouraged by the research team. They warn that drinking too much red wine will have a poor effect not only on gut bacteria, but the overall health of the person.

As this is what’s called an ‘observational’ study, it does not prove red wine is good for the gut. However, it can be surmised that if you want to drink something, red wine is probably better for you and your health than other alcoholic drinks.

Researcher Dr Le Roy says that she wants to do further study on people drinking red wine or red grape juice without alcohol. She tells BBC.com: “Gut bacteria is complex, and we need more research. But we know that the more diversity there is, the better it appears to be for our health.”

Which wedding wines work best for celebrating?

What’s the must have wine for a bride and groom’s perfect day? Well, champagne or prosecco are good choices for the toast, but there are plenty of other choices away from the old favourites that generally include merlot and sauvignon blanc.

 

Of course, it does depend largely on the tastes and budget of the bride and groom, as well as the kind of event it’s going to be. The age group invited, and the size of the wedding also affects what you choose for your wedding wines.

 

Wedding wines don’t have to be boring

 

A smaller wedding of around 40 guests is always going to be easier to cater for in terms of wine than a bigger bash for 200. It’s also worth considering the kind of menu you’re offering. Many of today’s weddings offer a couple of different meals. For example, an evening buffet after the main wedding breakfast is served earlier in the day. Things like hog roasts and barbecues are increasingly popular too.

 

Much of the time, it’s about choosing what you enjoy and what you would normally want to drink. But if there’s any event worth splashing out a bit for, or making a statement, it’s a wedding.

 

Play it safe or take a chance?

 

The main decisions when it comes to choosing wedding wines is whether to play it safe or whether to take a bit of a risk. Safe would mean something like a mid-priced prosecco for toasts, along with a decent Chilean merlot and a cab sauv to go with the meal.

 

And while there is something to be said for getting something in that most people will be happy with, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few risks with wedding wines.

 

If possible, it can add a bit of interest to your wedding drinks menu if you ‘drink local’. This could mean sourcing wine from local vineyards, wineries, or beer from breweries. There are so many smaller, artisan breweries and vineyards across the UK now that there is plenty of choice. And if you’re having a destination wedding, even better.

 

Depending on your wedding venue, drinking local could net you something really special. For example, if you’re getting wed in the south of England, definitely get some English sparkling wine in instead of champagne or prosecco.

 

Choose wines you enjoy

 

For most people choosing wedding wines, it’s not just about getting nice wine, but also keeping the costs down. And while caterers or wedding organisers will always try and persuade you to take on their wine choices, it’s worth checking out whether you can similar wines for less money elsewhere.

However the wine is sourced, remember that it’s only a part of the big day. No-one is going to judge a wedding on whether the wine isn’t their favourite. As long as you get some decent tasting wine, people will be happy.

If you want to enjoy a really special, and very on-brand fizz, go for Bride Valley Brut Reserve. It’s from Dorset and is elegantly light, and with a name like that, what bride could resist? For a summer wedding, you can’t beat a delicate, fragrant rose, like Moonlight & Roses, which is a Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rose 2018. It’s another romantically named, and stylishly packaged wine, with the classic flavours of a pale Provencal rose.

Why Bordeaux offers the ideal holiday for wine lovers

For wine lovers looking for an adventure, Bordeaux is up there with the best destinations in the world. Bordeaux is located in the south western region of France and is the perfect city to visit for vineyard visits, wine tasting tours and to buy wine.

 

The 18th century part of Bordeaux itself is listed by UNESCO World Heritage as ‘an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble’ and is worth visiting for its cultural offerings as well as its wine.

 

Ideal holiday for wine lovers and non-wine lovers

 

Entertainment in the city is varied and wide ranging. The National Opera of Bordeaux in the fabulous Grand Theatre located in the main square of the city is a great place to start. The theatre dates back to the 18th century and is a stunningly beautiful building, covered in ornate sculptures. More laid-back evening entertainment can be found at the many jazz and blues clubs in the city.

 

Visitors to Bordeaux should all take a trip to at least one vineyard, even if they are not all wine lovers. And for wine aficionados, the city and region form the ideal holiday destination.

 

Combining art and wine at historic vineyard

 

Next door to Bordeaux, in a city called Pauillac, there’s a vineyard that is definitely worth visiting. Chateaux Mouton Rothschild has been making high quality wine since the middle of the 19th century, and today hosts tastings, tours and has a wine museum on site. This vineyard combines art and wine for a cultural treat and offers plenty of wine tastings throughout the year.

 

After the sightseeing and vineyard visiting, it’s a must to visit one of the high-end restaurants in Bordeaux. Try Le Pressoir d’Argent, which is at the Le Grand Hotel. With two Michelin stars and a menu designed by super chef Gordon Ramsay, it’s the ideal way to finish off a trip to this historical and fascinating wine region.

 

Food options for every budget

 

If your budget doesn’t stretch quite that far, then you could take a train ride out of the centre of Bordeaux to Les Halles de Bacalan. This undercover food market boasts loads of delicious food options and has a very relaxed vibe. Just across the road from the market you can find La Cite du Vin museum, where you’ll find all sorts of information and fascinating displays about the region’s most famous export.

 

Bordeaux is easy to get to, with flights every day from London Gatwick run by Ryanair. Easyjet and British Airways. If you can afford five-star luxury, make sure you stay at Le Grand Hotel, which is right in the middle of the beautiful old part of the city. It’s located on the Place de la Comedie, and from the balcony of your room you’ll be able to see the Opera House across the square. The perfect place to enjoy a bottle of delicious wine from Bordeaux itself.