Respectful vine-growing

Wines made from organic farming

Introduction to the initiatives of sustainable and organic vine-growing in Alsace

Most vineyard diseases were unintentionally introduced in Europe during maritime trade in the second part of the 19th century. Very quickly, to fight against these diseases, certain classic molecules were put forward such as copper sulphate (under the form of Bordeaux mixture) against downy mildew or even the sulphur against powdery mildew. 

During the 20th century, within all fields of human activity, all forms of technical or technological evolutions tended to be regarded as a real progress. And it was the same for vine-growing as any evolution regarding plant-growing or fighting against diseases was inevitably deemed positive. But upon the start of the new century, there was a certain level of doubt which appeared that didn’t regard all new discoveries as being necessarily a progress. It was the same for vine-growing as for agriculture in general. 

We no longer inherited the lands from our parents but we were borrowing them from our children! And with this new philosophy, the concept of sustainable vine-growing and farming appeared. The concerns relating to consumer health or environmental footprints for the future generations become real priorities for our society. 

Depending on the vision and expertise of vine-growers, they thus had several strategies available: that of sustainable vine-growing or that of organic vine-growing with its variant of biodynamics.

Sustainable vine-growing

Sustainable vine-growing aims to encouraging vine-growers to optimise pesticide usage by, for example, deciding to treat according to the real disease risk or damage for the vines.

By using this approach, all conventional vine-growers are asked to question and better manage their use of pesticides as well as that of fertilizers. For this they can rely on more specific advice from farming consultants or from recommendations dispensed by the Plant Protection Services. 

Note that the decree from April 25, 2002 formalised the procedure
of certifying farming estates using sustainable farming thus assigning an enhanced role to these bodies referred to as

According to this decree, sustainable farming production methods consist of farmers taking an overall initiative for fully implementing the technical means and agricultural practices in compliance with the sustainable farming standards.

 These standards focus on respecting the environment, managing the health risks as well as well-being and security at work. Furthermore it aims at agricultural estates contributing to protecting the landscapes and biological diversity.

Organic and biodynamic vine-growing

Organic and biodynamic farming and vine-growing became highly-popular for the first time at the beginning of the 1970’s, following several reports which caused people to question the status quo:  

For some farmers, the prevailing model could only lead towards a dead end. As it indeed accelerated the desertification of rural areas, widened the imbalance between the Northern and Southern regions, consuming more and more energy, and inevitably leading to a deterioration of soils, air, water and nature. In addition, the productivism destroyed the balances between fauna and flora, forcing farmers or vine-growers to be continually dependent on using pesticides. Simultaneously, questions were raised in regards to the evermore standardised food- quality produced by conventional farming: what nutritive contents, what vitality, what social drives could these harvests provide? 

Faced with this alarming observation, organic vine-growing attempted to provide a different answer. It’s based on an overall reasoning which takes into account all the interactions between the earth, water, plants, air, fauna and flora. It doesn’t work to fight against the vineyard enemy, but to contain them by recreating the balances, reactivating soil life, reinforcing the natural resistance of plants and giving a helping hand to natural cycles. It notably forbids any usage of synthetic phytopharmaceutical molecules. 

Organic vine-growing in fact endeavours to understand the meaning and scope of all wine-making practices in connection with the ecosystem-related links. And this understanding is made clearer not only through ancestral wisdom and practices, but also through acquiring more recent findings. 

Organic vine-growing is rigorously regulated. To boast the mention wine made from organically-farmed grapes, wine-makers must comply to rigidly-established regulations accredited by the Ministry of Agriculture and the European Union. With these regulations, wine-makers undertake to notably manage their vines using zero chemical fertilisers or synthetic pesticides, and are subject to regular inspections by certifying bodies approved by the Public Authorities. 

Must from organic grapes is vinified and aged using this same overall mindset and with equal respect for the vines. The cellar master must also reduce their actions to a strict minimum to preserve the natural evolution of wine, and use a minimum amount of sulphur required for good preservation. 

Biodynamic vine-growing was inspired by the ideas of Rudolf STEINER, an Austrian agronomist from the first half of the 20th century. He focused on the same objectives but based his work on even more global approaches by returning the earth to the universe, and therefore recommended undertaking a certain amount of cultural practices in harmony with the cosmic cycles, notably the moon phases. 

Consequently, these various initiatives look at farming or wine products no longer as isolated elements, but part of a production process which aims at maintaining the balances and complementarity of the plant and animal kingdoms with the ultimate objective of preserving the good health of the earth and its inhabitants.