The history of organic viticulture began in the 1960s, a decade in which a number of growers developed an approach based on ecological principles.
This went against trends in traditional farming, which favoured high-yield varieties and protecting plants using chemically-synthesized products. This was the age of the so-called Green Revolution.
Organic viticulture pays particular attention to protecting the natural balance of the vineyard and the surrounding environment by using natural substances and ruling out the use of chemically synthesized products (fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides) and genetically modified organisms (GMO). This means being committed to maintaining the fertility of the soil, and giving importance to natural biological processes.
Following the initial efforts of these pioneers of organic agriculture in the 1960s and ‘70s, the need was recognised for a certain degree of official organisation.
The first organic farming associations were founded, and starting in the 1980s production regulations were introduced by these associations for organic viticulture. After 1991, organic farming associations continued to develop their guidelines, often in close contact with other organisations in Europe.
Since 1991 there have been uniform Europe-wide regulations for organically grown grapes (EEC Regulation 2092/91), which regulate matters including the use of plant protection substances and fertilisers, and lay down the necessary control mechanisms. Government-accredited control authorities in the single member states (certification bodies) have begun to conduct independent quality audits to certify growers. In addition, the associations also certify their own members: in effect a “controlled quality system” which results in very high standards.
Since 2012, there have been Europe-wide regulations for cellar management and winemaking, as well as for the grapes themselves. The current association guidelines are (as of 2013) based on the (EC) 834/2007, (EC) 889/2008 and (EU) 203/2012 Regulations.
Since 1st August 2012, organic wines - and not just the grapes - can finally be labelled as "organic", and use the EU organic logo. The new regulation on organic wines lays down precise rules on the processing aids and techniques that can be used, as well as on the limited use of sulphites. This means that the production of organic wine - from the vineyard to the bottle - can be fully recognized and certified as safe and healthy, as both a further guarantee for consumers and a safeguard for growers.
* Source: IFOAM EU GROUP “EU standards for the production of organic wines” dossier, Brussels (IFOAM International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).
In organic farming, no chemically-synthesized products are used for fertilization or pest control. Fertilization is carried out using organic fertilizers (compost, animal manure, green manure).
Pest control, on the other hand, is performed by means of:
• preventive growing techniques (crop rotation, planting hedges and trees that act as natural barriers and host useful insects and predators of harmful insects, the associated growing of plants which act as insect repellents)
• natural treatments (soil enhancement using natural minerals, encouragement of insects useful for preying on pests, spraying with plant extracts that act as insecticides, such as neem, rotenone, quassia, pyrethrum, etc.)
In an organic vineyard, soil management is one of the key factors in ensuring the preservation of the soil and its fertility, and at the same time in maintaining vines with the right balance to produce quality grapes.
Finally, none of the numerous chemical products that can be used in conventional wines (preservatives, antioxidants, etc.) are permitted in the transformation of the raw material; only a few additives of natural origin are allowed.
The use of organic methods is constantly on the increase in agriculture, due to both a desire on the part of vinegrowers and farmers to return to a more respectful, responsible form of soil management, and to the support policies which have been put in place over recent decades.
At the same time, consumer sensitivity to ethical and health aspects has grown. Environmentally-friendly, sustainable and organic are terms which have gradually entered increasingly into all our lives. We are all interested in the environment, health, quality and safety of the products we consume, and want to be sure of the effects our eating and drinking habits have on us.
There are various reasons why the organic method is more wholesome and responsible:
• environmental (less intensive use of the soil and production factors, preservation of rural communities, protection and safeguarding of terroir)
• agricultural (adding value to products, guaranteeing the income of people in the secto
• nutritional (obtaining products with techniques for which the quality is certified)
• market (matching demand with offer)
• consumer protection and food safety