Tuesday, April 4, 2023

LeDomduVin: A brief resumé of the differences between Organic, Biodynamic, Lutte Raisonnée, Conventional, Traditional, etc...


LeDomduVin: A brief resumé of the differences between Organic, Biodynamic, Lutte Raisonnée, Conventional, Traditional, etc...

Commenting on one of my previous posts on the subject, a person wrote that "most people are now familiar with the subject" and know the differences between organic, biodynamic and other methods of vineyard management.  What do you think? 

Personally, I disagree, as I really believe that, despite everything that has been written and said on these various methods of farming and vineyard management, over the past 3 decades, only the ones really interested in the subject are familiar with the subject.

Most people with a minimum interest in wine and vineyards have obviously a vague idea of the differences between these methods. Yet, I doubt that people with no interest in these topics have a clear picture of these differences, obviously.    

However, from personal experience and endless discussions on various occasions, even amongst people that have great interests in wine and vineyards, it seems that a lot of these people, even the ones working in the wine industry, (except winemakers, producers and those who have studied them, of course), still have some difficulties to differentiate them.  

So, without being an expert on the subject, yet, being the grandson of a winemaker and having 31 years of experience in the wine industry, as a Sommelier and Wine Buyer for restaurants, hotels and wine retailers, all these years, as well as having visited numerous wineries and talked to countless winemakers in various wine regions in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, California, Chile and Argentina during my travels, here is basically a brief résumé of how I personally differentiate them.    

Organic (or "Biologique" / "Bio" in French, not to be mistaken with "Biodynamic") 

Farming practices and/or vineyard management methods done without the use of any chemicals, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers. 


Similar to Organic, Biodynamic take some steps further than Organic farming, done with a more spiritual, holistic approach, including a homoeopathic manner of farming, following certain standards and practices adapted to the vegetative life cycle of the vine and its environment, based on certain tasks to be done on certain days and/or periods, including herbal sprays and composting techniques, known as 'preparations'. The timing of these preparations and operations in the vineyards is following the Biodynamic calendar, which is regulated by the lunar calendar (movements of the moon and planets). 

Biodynamic vineyard practices are based on biodynamic farming or gardening practices developed by Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner gave 8 lectures on "the spiritual foundations for a renewal of agriculture", in response to farmers' questions about the depletion of soils and a general deterioration of crops and livestock.  

"Based on his suggestions and spiritual science, generations of farmers, gardeners, viticulturists, and researchers developed biodynamics as a healing, nurturing, holistic, ecological, organic, and spiritual approach to a sustainable care of the Earth. Biodynamic methods consider the farm or garden to be a self-contained organism, embedded in the living landscape of the Earth, which is in turn part of a living, dynamic cosmos of vital, spiritual energies. The aim is to increase the health and vitality of the whole, including the farmer or gardener."

The book "What is biodynamic?" based on 7 of the lectures by Rudolf Steiner, published in 2004, will give you all the answers you seek.  

According to the Biodynamic Association, “Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition.”

Lutte Raisonée 

Based on sustainable farming practices, takes ideas, manners and processes from both Organic and Biodynamic practices and methods, while adapting them to vineyard management depending on the locations, topography, climate, quality of the vintage, weather conditions and needs of the vines during the vegetative and growing cycle. 

Understandably, purely organic and/or biodynamic practices are not necessarily adaptable to all vineyards depending on their geographic (e.g. north, cooler climate, south, warmer climate, temperature, water mass influences, ocean, sea, rivers, estuary, mountainous or flat areas, etc...) and topographic locations (valley, hills, mountains, exposure to the sun, wind, rain, frost, mist, natural drainage, soil and subsoil composition and components, etc..), environment and surroundings as well as climate and other factors.  

Taking into consideration all these factors, "Lutte Raisonnée" (literally translate to "reasoned fight" or "reasoned struggle" or "Supervised control" as Kermit Lynch used to say) is a sustainable solution to some vineyard management and farming practices where Organic and Biodynamic cannot be applied.  

"Lutte Raisonnée" is often regarded as a pragmatic approach to farming, where chemical treatments are used only when absolutely necessary. It came in the mid to late 80s, and evolved in the early 90s, as a response to phytochemicals (synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides) developed after WWII, in the 50s, and heavily used until the mid to late 80s.  

Some growers and producers adapted it to their vineyards as a first step towards organic farming. It is viewed as a better way to respect the soils, the vines and their environment and surroundings, compared to Conventional farming.    

Conventional farming 

Despite the growing belief in the Lutte Raisonnée, Organic and Biodynamic and the efforts done towards adopting and extending these farming methods and practices, since the late 90s, conventional farming is still widely used and generally done by a large majority of growers and producers, who still believe in favouring the use of chemicals to obtain quantity, gains and profits, without a care for the environment and the ecosystem (and their own health), and the subsequent degradation of the soil by chemicals killing off the necessary microorganisms and other life forms that support and preserve healthy soils.  

Conventional farming is more obviously used by large producers and corporations on large planted surfaces, when and where Organic, and more especially Biodynamic, would be too costly and not as effective to implement.    

Traditional methods 

As indicated by the name, "Traditional methods" are usually long-established methods and practices within a specific area, adapted long ago to obtain a regional product that is protected by an appellation and/or by the method itself that has not changed since its creation.  

Traditional methods are only kept by "culture and traditions" to keep the origins, originality and specificity of that specific product.   

Some of these traditional methods that were in decline and/or even abandoned in favour of other methods are now resurfacing, revived by nostalgia and lovers of the original product, preserving that way decades, or even centuries for some, of knowledge and savoir-faire. 

That's all folks! I will stop right there, as these are just brief résumés of these methods and practices, in response to that comment. Each subject is far too complex to be resumed in just a few paragraphs as I did above. Yet, I hope for some of you that it will give you a better idea of "what is what" and their differences. 

Cheers! And, thank you for reading my post.  


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