Stickers and symbols on Bordeaux bottles designating various environmental wine responsibility initiatives offer supplemental information for eco-conscious American consumers. This quick guide deciphers those most commonly used.
The Agriculture Biologique, Terra Vitis and Haute Valeur Environnemental are environmental wine certifications unique to France. BIODYVIN is Western European, a group composed of 175 domaines from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland. Almost 10% of the members are Bordelais. Demeter is an international organization.
Interestingly, it is the same, independent and international body – ECOCERT – that certifies AB, Demeter and BIODYVIN. While there is no American equivalent to Agriculture Biologique, ECOCERT also certifies USDA Organic.
This environmental wine certification takes three years. During this time – and thereafter, the vineyard cannot receive synthetic chemical treatments. Copper and sulphur are permitted in strictly limited quantities. Producers must also respect biodiversity, preserve natural resources and assure high levels of animal welfare.
In the US, a similarly-produced wine could mention “Made from Organically Grown Grapes” on its label. This is not, however, a USDA Organic-certified wine. USDA Organic wines must also be vinified and aged using strict practices, similar to those of BIODYVIN. However, BIODYVIN allows sulfur additions. USDA Organic does not.
Demeter is the world’s oldest ecological certification body and owns the trademark “Biodynamic.” Biodynamic farming incorporates astral influences, crop rotation, composting and homeopathic sprays. Copper is forbidden. Certification takes three years with conventional farming but only one with organic farming. That’s right: a certified Biodynamic wine is often but not always hailing from organically farmed grapes. Additionally, Biodynamic wine can be sulfured.
BIODYVIN’s certifying body is the Syndicat International des Vignerons en Culture Bio-dynamique. BIODYVIN is stricter than Demeter. Wineries must be certified AB. Then after four years of certified biodynamic farming and adherence to club winemaking principles, the SIVCBD confers BIODYVIN approval. All grapes are hand-harvested, and the minimal vinification standard requires, “Nothing added, nothing taken out, nothing changed.”
In the US, there are many Demeter certified environmental wines and vineyards. All but one are based on the West Coast. Again, BIODYVIN is strictly European.
Like BIODYVIN, Terra Vitis is viticulture specific, yet it expands to include a multi-disciplinary strategy. Economic and social standards also are considered, and producers commit to on-going innovation.
In the US, three organizations in California resemble Terra Vitis: Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW), Sustainability in Practice Certified (SIP) and Lodi Rules – Certified Green.
Additionally, interest is spreading in B Corporation certification, though it is open to any industry.
Meaning “High Environmental Value”, this initiative includes biodiversity conservation, plant protection strategy and strict water and fertilizer management. Similar to Terra Vitis, it is more holistic. Use of the symbol requires that at least 95% of raw materials in the finished product are certified “HVE”.
In the US, Low Input Viticulture and Enology Certified (LIVE) can be found in the Pacific Northwest and Idaho. While like HVE in that there is a strong viticulture focus, LIVE also includes winemaking standards.
Additionally, many wineries in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho are certified Salmon Safe, a program protecting watersheds. The certification extends beyond the agriculture community, including golf courses, public infrastructure projects and even higher-learning campuses. While entirely different from HVE, it does focus on the environment.
Bordeaux has experienced climate change for over two decades. Bordeaux is France’s largest vineyard area with one-quarter of France’s AOC vines, so these initiatives really count! Today, over 65% of Bordeaux’s 110,000 hectares / 272,000 acres are certified under an environmental initiative, and the number continues to grow. Buying wines from producers invested in anticipating and adapting to climate change will help preserve one of France’s most iconic wine regions.
To learn more about Bordeaux’s sustainability initiatives, watch the webinar:
Combating Climate Change
This webinar is part of the How the Experts Tackle Bordeaux virtual learning series.
Article written by Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine