How green is your wine? Your ultimate guide to wine lingo

The world of wine is constantly evolving with new lingo popping up all the time. If you care about what's in your glass (and if you're reading this, we think you do) you will have heard terms like organic and biodynamic flying around. It seems everybody is talking about it. But what do these terms really mean? Make sure you stay in the loop with our handy guide.

What is organic wine?  
Producing wine organically is not a new concept. People have been making wine organically for thousands of years. Organic viticulture is a way of explaining the alternative to modern farming practises. Organic wines are produced in the absence of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilisers and use plant and mineral products to combat pests and disease.
In the USA they see organic as a wine made from organically grown grapes without added sulphites. The definition in Europe is a wine made from organically grown grapes that may contain added sulphites. Either way less chemicals in the wine we drink can never be a bad thing, and many producers worldwide are converting to organics. 
Do organic wines taste different?
No, it's simply that the grapes are grown without chemical intervention. Click here to see our full list of Organic wines. 
What is biodynamic wine?
Biodynamics go beyond organics. It’s a holistic approach to farming that views the farm as an enclosed ecosystem, nothing should be brought in from outside and nothing should be wasted. It might sound a bit unusual and hippy-dippy to some, but this holistic form of agriculture has become widely practiced in Europe, Australia, and the New World.
Since its introduction in the 1920s, by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, it has become one of the most accepted forms of organic viticulture. Many organic growers would follow biodynamic practice, but it is expensive to be certified, you can regard biodynamic farming as a philosophy and organic farming as adhering to rules. 
'From a technical perspective, bio-dynamism toughens up vines and enables them to be productive for a longer period.'' You may lose your first three years' harvest to pests and rot, but the vines learn to cope and become more resilient as a result.'
Tom Harrow, Wine Director at Honest Grapes 
Do biodynamic wines taste different?
No, like with organics, the biodynamic ethos refers to vineyard, not the winemaking process. Click here to see our full list of biodynamic wines. 
What is sustainability?
Great wine is produced by great producers with a passion for winemaking. Fact! When you look at the growers we work with you will notice that most of them have one thing at their core, and that is sustainability, the belief that to pass on healthy vineyards to the next generation you must look after your land and your vines. Sustainability also goes beyond environmental issues to cover social and economic aspects too.
What is permaculture?
Permaculture involves using resources available on the land to sustain the land. It’s an agricultural system of self-sustainability and self-sufficiency. Hmm ok but what does that mean? Well basically it means working with the land, and not against it. Here is an example of Permaculture design principles in practice: building a chicken coop on one side, and a greenhouse on the other side of the same structure. The heat produced by the chickens helps heat the green house, the pecking of the chickens prevents plant pests, and their manure can fertilise the plants. 

What are sulphites? Sulphites are added to wine as a preservative. They are not exclusively used in wine, but used in many food products as an additive to maintain colour, shelf-life and prevent the growth of fungi or bacteria. The amount can vary depending on the production method, style and the colour of the wine, with dry reds having around 50 PPM, this is very little compared to what's in food, for example dried fruit have nearly 4000 PPM and chips having around 2000 PPM. 

Do sulphites cause headaches and hangovers?
It’s possible. Some people are more sensitive to sulphites than others. People who suffer from headaches are often told to avoid sulphites as they may act as a trigger. More research is needed to understand the link between sulphites and headaches. If you think sulphites may be affecting you, take note of what you ate and drank before your symptoms started, and see if you feel better after drinking low-sulphite wines. What is natural wine?
Natural wine is the revivalist movement of the moment. This is back to basics winemaking and very much sits alongside minimal intervention - nothing adding, nothing taken away. These wines tend to be low or no added sulphites. They can be, although not exclusively, more on the funky side and cloudy in appearance due to less fining and filtration.

What does minimal intervention mean? Minimal intervention sits alongside the natural winemaking philosophy with little or no added chemical and technological intervention in the winery.   Why is Vegetarian/Vegan wine different?
Whether you realised it or not many of the wines on your local supermarket shelves contain animal by-products. Blood and bone marrow, fish oils and gelatin, these products are used as part of the fining and filtration process in the winery to make the wine clear and bright. This is particularly true for mass-produced wine brands.
Today there is a growing range of vegetarian and vegan friendly wines with many winemakers using clay-based fining agents such as bentonite, which are particularly efficient at fining out unwanted proteins. Activated charcoal is another vegan and vegetarian-friendly agent that is also used. If left long enough, many wines will also self-stabilise removing the need for fining and filtration all together.
What is the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine?
The carbon footprint of a bottle of wine depends hugely on the weight of the bottle, and the transportation mode from vineyard to customer. A review of carbon footprint (CF) analyses of wine production reveals which sections of the supply chain are having the most impact, see diagram below. If you want to know more about what you can do at home to help the environment (whilst envying a glass of wine) see our previous blog here.