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Organic wine – a success story!

To produce fine organic wine you need a flourishing vineyard with strong, robust vines and healthy soil. In Switzerland, over 400 organic wine growers are currently producing outstanding and characterful wines.
At the beginning of the 21st century, organically managed vineyards covered barely 250 hectares, but by 2010 they took up 440 hectares, then reached the 1,000-hectare mark in 2017. The last three years in particular have seen a dramatic increase in this figure, as more and more wine growers convert to organic cultivation methods. By 2020, 467 wine growers in Switzerland, whose vineyards make up 13% of the country's wine-growing land, were operating in accordance with organic principles.
The conversion of land from conventional to organic wine growing was particularly pronounced in the cantons of western Switzerland, in Valais and in Graubünden. With an active organic wine scene and more favourable climatic conditions in some parts, it is hoped that this year too, there will be a further increase in the proportion of organic wine produced in these regions.
Organic wine is no longer something enjoyed only by eco-warriors and sandal-wearers, but has become popular with the wider population. Increasing numbers of consumers believe that sustainability and biodiversity are important, and they are no longer prepared to compromise on what they buy, including wine. And all over the world, more and more well-known vineyards are converting to organic methods.

What you need to know about organic wine

Vineyard biodiversity

Organic wine growers do not spray their vines with herbicides, opting instead to undersow with flowering plants. They contribute to the natural eco-balance by giving over part of the vineyard to meadows, dry walls, hedges and trees, and they create burrows, nesting places and niches for insects, birds and amphibians. As a result, a bud label vineyard is a biodiverse habitat for rare plant and animal species.

Bud label wines are "unembellished"

An important distinction between the organic bud label for wines and other labels is the incorporation of a positive list in the guideline. It lists not only the prohibited substances as per usual, but also the substances explicitly permitted in vinification. Any substances not on this list are not permitted.

Top vintners are going organic

Consequently, increasing numbers of top wine growers have recognised the benefits of organic cultivation and are converting their vineyards, and more and more organic wines are now placing high in both national and international rankings thanks to their discernibly high quality. Organically grown grapes are more likely to be of a high quality as they are smaller, so have a more concentrated aroma and structure.

Organic bud label conversion

Products from crops grown during the 2-year conversion phase from conventional to organic cultivation are labelled "in-conversion". The requirements and checks applicable during the conversion period are the same as those for other bud label products. According to Bio Suisse guidelines, the entire operation or growing area must usually be converted to organic cultivation at the same time. However, for permanent crops (e.g. grapes), step-by-step conversion within a five-year period is permitted under certain conditions.

Prevention rather than pesticides

Chemical-synthetic plant-protection agents are taboo in organic farming. Organic bud label wine growers protect their vines from pests and disease with strengthening compounds and tend toward grape varieties that are naturally more resistant to fungi (PIWI grapes). In organic viticulture, defoliation is important: when leaves are exposed to plenty of light, it's harder for the fungus spores to germinate. A lot of the work of organic bud winemakers is usually done by hand.

PIWI – the fungus-resistant variety

The name PIWI (German abbreviation of "pilzwiderstandsfähig", i.e. fungus-resistant) describes hybrid grapes that are capable of spontaneously combating fungal diseases such as powdery mildew (oidium), downy mildew (peronospora) and grey mould (botrytis) without requiring any treatment.
Resistance to fungal diseases is achieved through hybridization: the cross-breeding of two plants or lines of different genotypes. The new breeds known as hybrids or interspecific varieties are the result of cross-breeding European and fungus-resistant American grapes. The goal is achieved when the new grapes inherit the fungus-resistance of the American varieties and the organoleptic characteristics of the European grape. All these varieties are GMO-free. "GMO-free" means that the varieties are "not genetically modified".
The wine production process also calls for considerable attention, especially in terms of the technical evaluation of the product which involves not a traditional grape or traditional wine but something new with completely different characteristics.

Resistant grape varieties: discovering natural talents

Organic wines