Environmental labels in the wine industry

Apr 27, 2021

In 2019, 65% of the French vineyard was certified by an environmental approach: sustainable agriculture, organic and biodynamic agriculture, natural wines.

In recent years, respect for the environment has been at the heart of the wine industry and, today, different labels and certifications exist to help consumers find their way around.

Organic viticulture

Label AB – “Agriculture Biologique”

Framed by European regulations since 1991, organic agriculture aims to respect the environment, biodiversity and animal welfare.

The AB label is the exclusive property of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Winegrowers will only use natural products, such as copper and sulfur to fight against parasites and diseases (in limited and controlled quantities). Products resulting from synthetic chemistry are prohibited.

In winemaking, some techniques, such as dealcoholization, are not allowed and oenological inputs are limited (sulphites, etc.).

Compliance with specifications is checked each year by a certification body, itself supervised by the INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité).

EU Organic logo

The European organic label gives the same guarantees as the AB label and allows consumers to spot wines from organic farming. It ensures compliance with the regulations on organic production of the European Union.

The AB logo can be used in addition to the European logo.

Biodynamic viticulture

Biodynamic viticulture goes further than organic viticulture. It goes beyond the scientific fundamentals of agriculture and combines a spiritual approach based on the influence of lunar cycles and planetary positions.

This farming prohibits the use of synthetic chemical treatment and recommends the use of biodynamic preparations made from organic products (plants, minerals, animals) to strengthen the soil and the vines.

The objectives are to develop biodiversity and promote the preservation of ecosystems.

During winemaking, only fining, filtration, and the use of sulphites are allowed, but more restricted than for organic viticulture.

Demeter

Demeter is the reference label in biodynamic and concerns all kinds of agriculture. It is internationally recognized in more than 50 countries.

To be Demeter certified, a winegrower must be certified organic according to European regulations and also comply with the Demeter specifications for viticulture.

The conversion lasts from 2 to 3 years and can be done at the same time as the organic conversion.

The copper doses authorized by the Demeter specifications are lower than those authorized in organic farming.

Biodyvin

Biodyvin is a specific label for viticulture and vinification issued by the “Syndicat International des Vignerons en Culture Bio-Dynamique” (SIVCBD). 

This international label is found in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland and brings together 175 wineries.

3 years of conversion are required before obtaining the label Biodyvin.

Sustainable viticulture

HVE – “Haute Valeur Environnementale”

HVE is an environmental certification for agriculture (not specific to vines), which meets specifications and French regulations. This is the highest of the three levels of Environmental Certification.

It guarantees that the agricultural practices used preserve the natural ecosystem and minimize pressure on the environment (soil, water, biodiversity, etc.).

It is based on four themes :

  • preservation of biodiversity (insects, trees, hedges, flowers, etc.)
  •  the phytosanitary strategy
  • fertilization management
  • irrigation management.

Terra Vitis

Terra Vitis is a French certification which is dedicated to viticulture. It is the equivalence of level 2 of the Environmental Certification.

Officially recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture, it is validated by an independent and approved body that checks each stage of production.

Treatments are used as a last resort if the harvest is in danger. Terra Vitis is built on the protection of natural resources in order to favor an active biological life in the soil.

It takes into account three pillars of sustainable development : environment, social and economy.

What about natural wines ?

There is no official definition : a “natural” wine must comply with a charter of commitment. There are currently no regulations and no specifications.

Agricultural practices must respect organic or biodynamic agriculture. But the approach goes further. Any oenological and chemical input is prohibited during winemaking (even sulphites) and the same as any physical technique (reverse osmosis, filtration, tangential filtration, flash pasteurization, thermovinification, etc.).

A.V.N. : Association des Vins Naturels

The Association of Natural Wines proposes a charter; to get its label you must be a member and respect the commitment :

  • A wine made from organic or biodynamic grapes,
  • A wine that is vinified and bottled without any input or additives.

Those who cannot respect the non-addition of sulphites will have the possibility, within the limit of 10 mg/l of total SO2 for red wines and 20 mg/l  for white wines at analysis, to be a member of the AVN without being able to affix the logo of the association.

 

S.A.I.N.S. : Sans Aucun Intrant Ni Sulfite

S.A.I.N.S. (Without No Inputs Or Sulphite) is a very similar charter but it prohibits any input including sulphites. Only natural sulphites are present with a maximum analytical dose of 10 mg/l .

Since September 2019, a Union for the Defense of Natural Wines has been created. It brings together 170 members (winegrowers, distributors and consumers) and works for the recognition of natural wines with the INAO. 

A “Vin Méthode Nature” label was created with a commitment charter. This label will clarify things for consumers and defend natural wine. We can find two differents logos :

Vin Méthode Nature : Usable for wines without added sulphites

Vin Méthode Nature <30mg / l de sulfites: To be used as soon as there is addition of sulphites, even in small quantities (<10 mg, up to 30 mg / L).