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.”

3 places that make the perfect wine holiday destination

Wine tourism is coming of age. More people are choosing holiday destinations based on their proximity to vineyards and wineries. And while it used to be more ad hoc, with people selecting their own regions, today it’s much more organised.

All around the world, across all kinds of wine regions, vineyard owners have recognised that wine tourism is big business. Whether it’s a stay at a fancy hotel and guided wine tours, or a campsite in the heart of a big wine-loving region, there are lots of options.

Where is the ideal wine holiday destination?

The very first list of the world’s 50 best vineyards is now available. This demonstrates just how far wineries have come from places of business to tourist attractions.

This list is packed with vineyards and wineries from around the world. However, it tends to stick to the bigger producers. Number one on the list is the Zuccardi vineyard, which is nestled in Argentina’s Uco Valley. Complete with beautifully designed wine cellars and the fine-dining experience to go with the wine, it’s spectacular.

And while these big producers are great to visit, they’re not the only options for a wine holiday. Smaller wine producers can be more intimate and welcoming. They often offer different options for accommodation and can guide tourists around the general area with plenty of local knowledge.

Great examples of wine regions with plenty of small producers include the easiest to access wine route in France in Alsace. This is so simple to navigate and is set-up for cyclists and motor tours. Other destinations worth visiting include the Valais region in Switzerland, which is perfect for walkers, or the wine routes of California.

Here are three of the best

 

1. Zuccardi Valle de Uco, Argentina

Now the number one vineyard in the world, this winery complex is elevated by its location with beautiful views of the Andes mountain range. It also has an architecturally sophisticated complex of buildings and cellars. Winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi produces wines that are recognisable from the terroir driven flavours.

2. Alsace wine route, France

Alsace was one of the first wine regions to understand the potential of wine tourism. The vineyards along the Alsace route offer a wide range of delicious wines. The landscape is stunning and rich with history. For cyclists, this could be the holiday of a lifetime.

The vineyards in Alsace are protected by a barrier formed by the Vosges mountains. This creates a unique climate, which produces many extremely rich and aromatic wines.

The Alsace wine route crosses lots of wine districts within the wider region. There is more than 170km to follow, dotted with wine makers of all types and sizes. Depending on the season, the wine route also offers specific events. Throughout the summer, from April to October, many local villages celebrate the wine harvest. At Christmas, there are markets to visit. It offers something for everyone.

3. La Rioja wine region, Spain

At the very centre of this popular wine region is Haro, a town boasting some of the biggest and oldest wineries in the area. There are many wineries to visit throughout the wider Rioja region, and at least 12 in Haro itself that aren’t to be missed. Wine-lovers will enjoy learning about Rioja wine and tasting some of the best vintages available.

You don’t need to get a formal tour in Haro, as it’s simple to find the big wineries yourself. Many are close enough to walk between them, and each winery has its own expert to talk you through production and vintages. Head to the middle of Faro and find your tour from there.

These are just three regions that make fantastic holidays for wine-lovers. With more wineries opening their doors than ever before, wine tourism is definitely here to stay.

 

New survey says wine is the UK’s favourite drink

Wine has officially overtaken beer and spirits as the UK’s favourite alcoholic drinks, according to a new YouGov survey. More than 60% of adults say they prefer a glass of wine to any other alcoholic drink.

 

White wine topped the list, with joint first position going to pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. Third is Malbec, with Shiraz in fourth, and the always popular prosecco coming in fifth.

 

Why wine is the nation’s favourite drink

 

Two thousand people were surveyed, and results show that 81% say they regularly enjoyed wine over the last 12 months. The wine-lovers just edged out those who prefer beer or spirits, which came in at 79%.

 

The last time wine was voted in as the nation’s favourite drink was in 2015, when a survey by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) showed people aged between 25 and 34 prefer wine to other alcoholic drinks.

 

It’s unsurprising to see that wine is the nation’s favourite tipple, when the UK is now one of the fastest growing wine regions in the world. Thanks to the weather warming up significantly, more than three million vines have been planted across Suffolk, Northampton, Essex and Norfolk in 2019 alone. This is twice the number of vines planted in the whole of 2018.

 

More people drink wine than beer or spirits

 

Two thousand people were surveyed, and results show that 81% say they regularly enjoyed wine over the last 12 months. The wine-lovers just edged out those who prefer beer or spirits, which came in at 79%.

 

The wine industry has been pushing a campaign against Government increases on duty for wine over the last few years. The industry wants Chancellor Sajid Javid to cut duty tax on wine, which has gone up by 39% over the last ten years. However, beer has gone up by 16%, and spirits by 27%, both considerably lower than wine.

 

According to industry experts in an article in The Morning Advertiser, wine duty tax accounts for more than half (£2.68) of the cost of a £5 wine. And according to the WSTA, more than two thirds of UK adults also believe that wine is taxed too highly, and that the Government should cut rates.

White wine comes out as top choice for UK consumers

 

The survey also shows that UK wine consumers are most likely to select a white wine, with 41% opting for a Pinot Grigio as their first choice. Each wine type is broken down by percentage of drinkers who choose it:

 

  1. 41% choose a crisp, fresh white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
  2. 38% prefer a full-bodied red wine, like a Shiraz or Malbec
  3. 34% love prosecco
  4. 24% opt for champagne as their favourite
  5. 23% like their red wine a little lighter, like a Pinot Noir
  6. 22% love a light blush rose, such as White Zinfandel
  7. 17% go for a rich, oaky white – a Chardonnay for example
  8. 16% stick to their roots with an English sparkling wine
  9. 16% love a dry rose, such as Pinot Grigio rose.

 

YouGov’s survey results show that old assumptions about wine being for the middle classes are no longer correct. The social grade C2DE (classified as the old ‘working class’) show that wine is as popular as beer, with 23% saying each is their favourite.