Low Intervention vs. Organic Wines
Updated: Feb 14, 2019
The world we live in is constantly changing, forever evolving. As a species, we’re doing the same thing. The more we learn, the more we can change our lives for the better.
In recent years, how our food and drink reaches us has become increasingly important. We want to know where our meat was killed, where and how our fish was caught, how our fruit and vegetables are grown, and that obviously has an impact on the wine we drink. As consumers, we’re more aware than ever before about the additives and preservatives that are added to our food and the impact that has on the planet’s finite resources. This has heralded a growing movement for those who prefer organic food and drink. Wine is no different.
Wine, like every other foodstuff, hasn’t been immune from the manufacturing developments over the centuries. Gone are the days of stomping grapes barefoot in a barrel. Technology and understanding has given us the modern farming and production techniques that create the beautiful wine we expect, but that isn’t the whole story.
The demand for organic wines, low intervention and other so-called ‘natural’ wines has never been higher. If these terms are new to you, then let’s take a deeper look at what they mean and the differences between them, that may just help you choose your next bottle and help save the planet at the same time.
So what is organic wine?
‘Organic’ is a term you’ve probably heard already. Organic food was once the stuff of myth and legend, but it’s now an everyday part of any supermarket shelf. It’s the same with wine. Organic simply means it has been produced without the aid of chemical-based pesticides, fertilisers or herbicides. When it comes to wine-making, this stretches right back to how the grapes are grown. That said, even if the soil the vines are grown in has been additionally enriched with natural compost and minerals, then it can still be classed as organic.
One common term that you may see on the label of organic wine is ‘contains sulphites’. You may think those two words mean that the wine can’t possibly be organic, but that’s not the case. Grapes naturally produce sulphites during the fermenting process. It’s produced by plants to protect themselves from microbial infection. In addition, sulphites are sometimes also added by the winemaker to keep the wine stable during bottling and ensure the it lasts longer as it travels the world to reach your glass. These are still called organic wines. Whilst there is a small movement making ‘no-sulphite’ wine, for most people, sulphites are regarded as part of the natural process of wine-making.
And what is low intervention or 'natural' wine?
If you thought the organic wine market was growing rapidly, ‘natural’ wine is exploding. When it comes to low intervention wine, the difference can be a subtle one. Whilst organic wine is made from grapes grown organically and produced without the addition of those pesky chemicals, low-intervention wine is made with minimal chemical and technological intervention during the winemaking process. Low intervention or natural wines are usually produced by relatively small and artisan producers. The wine making process is far more volatile and can be very challenging since the wines can be quite unpredictable. Your can open a bottle of low intervention wine just to find it has started to ferment all over again! However, when produced well, it can be quite special. Not only will you benefit from no added sulphites and sometimes other aggressive preservatives, the wine is a natural reflection of the growing conditions, the character of the soil and also the heart and soul of the winemaker.
I want to try, but what to try first
Now we’ve whet your appetite, let’s talk about some of the wines you can try to experience these wines for yourself.
From left to right, top to bottom:
1. Italian Sogno del Sud Grillo, Baglio Gibellina. This organic dry white wine from Sicily with intense aromas but fruity and fresh is an excellent value for money.
2. Looking for a Christmas drink that is different? Why not try this Organic Prosecco Pizzolato that has the flavour of golden apple and bananas.
3. Otskhanuri Sapere Qvevri Red wine is a low intervention, natural wine from Georgia. Prepared using the qvevri method, an ancient wine making technique, this is a full bodied wine with a long finish. It has beautiful raspberry colour, aromas of plum, ripe berries and herbal ﬂowers. (soon to be available in our store)
4. South African Running Duck Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. The winery actually uses ducks as an ecological way of pest control (google it! its quite an impressive technique and seems to be very effective too!) Grapes are organically grown producing this excellent fruity flavoured wine with notes of blackcurrant and raspberry.
5. A good place to start is the organic Guerrila Retro from Primorska in Slovenia. This beautiful white wine from a variety of grapes, including equal parts Zelen, Pinela, Malvasia and Rubula, has a lovely golden yellow colour and offers hints of chamomile, honey and dried fruit.
6. Strekov Rizling-Veltlin 2015. This great natural wine is a Slovakian Rizling made up of Welschriesling (60 per cent) and Grüner Veltliner (40 per cent). This bottles is unfiltered, has no added sulphites with strong floral notes
We hope this has helped you understand the difference between organic and low-intervention, despite the complexities behind the scenes. Whichever you choose, you’re going to get an incredible glass of wine. With that knowledge in the bag, let us ask you this… have you thought about a biodynamic wine at all?