Recognized for offering a clear expression of the land and environmental sustainability, organic and biodynamic wines are gaining attention among consumers. While many wineries are just now starting the conversion to these methods, France’s Alsace region has long been a leader in organic and biodynamic viticulture, with preservation of the land and pure expression of the terroir its ethos and driving force. At this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference, join Wine Educator May Matta-Aliah, DWS, on Saturday, August 13 for the “Au Natural Alsace” Wine Discovery Session to learn more about this unique region and its sustainable agriculture.
Alsace is located in northeastern France, between the Vosges Mountains and Rhine River. Fifteen percent of the region’s vineyards are certified organic or biodynamic—making Alsace one of the greenest regions in France—all thanks to its unique situation. The Vosges act as a barrier for rain and cloud cover, allowing for 1,800 hours of sunshine annually and some of the driest conditions in the country. This, coupled with the region’s cool continental climate, creates a low risk of rot and disease and offers winemakers the opportunity to produce aromatic, expressive wines with minimal intervention needed.
While both organic and biodynamic practices in Alsace emphasize little intervention in the vineyards and the winery, there are specific regulations producers must follow to be certified for each. Organic methods prohibit the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides, and only natural deterrents can be used to protect against mildew and rot. A small amount of sulfur—which is added to the wine to prevent oxidation—can be used during winemaking, and the vineyards must be inspected annually to maintain their certification.
In addition to avoiding herbicides or pesticides, biodynamic is also a way of being. Pioneered by Austria’s Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s, this philosophy has phases for planting, tending and fermenting and takes a holistic approach to caring for the land. Alsace producers carefully follow a calendar that respects the earth’s magnetic fields and the rhythms of the sun, moon and planets.
Many top Alsace producers, such as Marc Kreydenweiss, Zind-Humbrecht, Ostertag, Weinbach and Barmès Buecher, were early adopters of biodynamic viticulture, with conversions starting in the late 1980s and continuing throughout the 1990s. A conference on the subject was held in the village of Rouffach in 1996, inspiring more producers to convert. Today, the number of producers utilizing organic and biodynamic methods continues to increase in Alsace.
To learn more about Wines of Alsace and its sustainability efforts, please visit www.WinesofAlsace.com. Connect with us on Facebook at Wines of Alsace USA, Twitter at @drinkAlsace and Instagram at @drinkAlsace