When we say a type of food or drink is ‘pesticide-free,’ our first assumption is often that it is good for us. Many people buy organic foods because they think they’re healthier and better quality. Is this correct, and how does organic wine fit into all of this? And what does biodynamic actually mean? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two and then see if they’re actually doing us any good.
What’s the Difference?
This is made from grapes grown in organic vineyards and must be certified to be labelled as such. In order to copy the jobs done by pesticides, vineyard managers create self-regulating vineyards. This means working with nature to create habitats where predators of pests can thrive. When it comes to the health debate, the most important factor here is the presence of sulphites (or sulphur dioxide) which acts as a preservative. Although they are still found in organic wine, they are at much lower levels than in other wines.
It may sound similar, but biodynamic wine is a completely different animal. Yes, the grapes are grown without the use of any pesticides, but this is a holistic approach, based on an astrological calendar which determines exactly when you should be pruning, watering and harvesting. Another important element is the preparation of special composts that are put into cow horns, buried in the soil and then dug up at a later date to be redistributed in the vineyard. Not really suitable for strict vegetarians, then. You might think biodynamic wines are an extension of organic wines, but in fact, the practice pre-dates it by a couple of decades.
So, Are They Better for Us?
When it comes to physical health, we need to go back to the issue of sulphites. It’s thought that they are one of the main causes of bad hangovers. So, the fewer sulphites, the less of a headache you’ll have the following day. However, there’s growing evidence this isn’t actually the case at all, supported by the fact that sulphites are found in lots of other foods such as dried fruits. And these certainly don’t give us headaches the following day.
But if you widen the scope of what we mean by ‘better’ then there’s another argument to be made. Organic grapes are being grown in a much more sustainable environment, and what’s better for the environment, is also better for us humans, right? And depending on your outlook, buying organic and biodynamic wines are certainly better for your conscience – it all depends on your worldview. Many people would also argue they are much better for our palates thanks to their reputation for quality.
However, it’s important to remember that organic and biodynamic wines are still wines. They still contain alcohol which can damage your health. Don’t go thinking that they are a healthier alternative – for the environment, certainly, but you’ll still probably get exactly the same side effects after a glass or two.
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