12 February 2019
Estimated reading time: 4 min.

There are four main approaches to sustainable production:

1. Sustainable viticulture

Applying chemical input products only when necessary significantly reduces the amount used. This implies the need for traceability and complete transparency with regard to using inputs.

  • Labelling: Sustainable production does not have any specific label or certification.
  • Maximum permitted sulphite content: 150 mg/l for red wines, 200 mg/l for whites and rosés, 235 mg/l for sparkling wines, 200 mg/l for liqueur wines and vins doux naturels, 300 mg/l for semi-sweet wines, and 400 mg/l for sweet white wines.


2. Integrated plant protection

More radical than sustainable viticulture, integrated plant protection advocates preventative viticultural practices alongside biological pest control. It consists of a combination of biological, biotechnological, and viticultural practices, with limited use of plant protection products for pest control.

  • Labelling: Integrated production does not have any specific label or certification.
  • Maximum permitted sulphite content: identical to sustainable viticulture


3. Organic viticulture

Organic viticulture preserves the ecosystem and soil fertility, while emphasising the use of vine treatments such as copper, sulphur, and insecticides made from plant extracts that do not contain synthetic organic molecules.

  • Labelling:

Winegrowers must display the EU logo (a stylised leaf made of stars) on their labels and can choose to add the French logo if they wish. While waiting for certification, they may also put the wording “produced during conversion to organic viticulture” on the label.

AB (for agriculture biologique, or organic viticulture), is a French designation, requiring three years of conversion – the transition period between conventional viticulture and the possibility of certifying products under the AB label.

  • Maximum permitted sulphite content: 100 mg/l for red wines, 150 mg/l for whites and rosés, 205 mg/l for sparkling wines, 170 mg/l for liqueur wines and vins doux naturels, 270 mg/l for semi-sweet wines, and 370 mg/l for sweet white wines


4. Biodynamic viticulture

Biodynamic viticulture aims to revitalise life in the soil thanks to preparations consisting of plant (tisanes) and animal (manure) matter, as well as minerals (quartz).

  • Labelling:

As for organic wines, the European organic logo is mandatory, accompanied by one of the following certifications (Biodyvin or Demeter), along with the optional wording “biodynamic”.

Biodyvin guarantees production methods using biodynamically-grown grapes certified by Ecocert.

Demeter certification calls for hand-picking and biodynamic fining, and permits certain filtrations. With stricter criteria than Biodyvin, Demeter certification requires halving the amount of copper and sulphur used in organic viticulture.

  • Maximum permitted sulphite content: 70 mg/l for red wines, 90 mg/l for whites and rosés, 60 mg/l for sparkling wines, 80 mg/l for liqueur wines and vins doux naturels, and 200 mg/l for semi-sweet and sweet white wines.


So-called “natural wines”: as yet unregulated

In view of their increasing success in recent years, “natural” wines contain little1 or no added sulphur. However, no official regulations exist for this category of wine, and each association is free to apply their own rules.

Meanwhile, the Association des Vins Naturels (AVN) campaigns for legal recognition of these wines and has produced specifications for its members. The AVN only authorises indigenous yeast during fermentation, and strongly prohibits interventionist practices such as reverse osmosis, flash pasteurisation and thermovinification, as well as the addition of sulphites and input products. The AVN recently submitted a proposal to the Wine Appellations Committee of the INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité), although they were unable to obtain the necessary legal framework.


Certification initiatives

 Winegrowers have the opportunity to take part in several “environmental certification” programmes to gain recognition for their commitment to protecting the environment.


  • Certifications on bottles:

HEV (High Environmental Value), which is intrinsically linked to the EMS (Environmental Management System, see below), defines targets and criteria for evaluating the environmental performance of wine estates, including biodiversity, as well as the use of plant protection products and fertilisers.

Terra Vitis: Protecting natural resources is a major concern of this certification, which is the only one to guarantee sustainable viticulture.


  • Other certifications not displayed on bottles:

The Bordeaux wine Environmental Management System (EMS) is an ISO 14001-registered certification system that evaluates and improves environmental performance, energy consumption, and employee working conditions. 773 Bordeaux firms have already been convinced to adhere to the system

Agriconfiance certification limits the use of input products, regulates waste management, and deals with natural resources according to a precise set of specifications;


RSE Agro (previously known as 3D_Destination Développement Durable) is a programme dedicated to helping companies adopt sustainable development practices;


AREA (Agriculture Respectueuse de l’Environnement en Aquitaine), which supports winegrowers in integrating environmentally-friendly practices.


Bordeaux: the wine industry is committed! 

For over ten years, the Bordeaux wine industry has instituted collective, interdisciplinary practices conducive to environmental protection, reducing the use of plant protection products, cooperating with local residents, and informing consumers. This movement also promotes individual efforts and takes unique local characteristics into account.

Seven ODG’s (Organismes de Défense et de Gestion, or winegrowers associations) have also taken part in the profound changes by recently voting to adapt specifications to incorporate environmentally-friendly measures. Among other regulations, these measures include: abolishing herbicides, introducing disease-resistant grape varieties, and making winegrowers’ commit to seeking environmental certification. Approved by the INAO, these new regulations should come into effect by the summer and illustrate the Bordeaux wine industry’s commitment to environmental protection.

1 Certain associations impose a limit of 40 mg/l for white wines and 30 mg/l for red wines.

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