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Everything you've always wanted to know about wine but were afraid to ask.

We call an input a product that is brought to the land and to the crops. And which is not naturally present in the soil. They are added to the soil to increase and improve yields. Inputs are found in wine because winemakers put them in their soils. In order to promote the growth of the vines, prevent contamination and thus increase their production.

Some examples of inputs :

  • fertilizer products such as fertilizer
  • plant protection products such as pesticides
  • growth promoters or growth retardants

As far as viticulture is concerned, certain inputs are authorized but depending on the type of wine we will not find the same inputs and in the same quantity. These inputs are regulated, and most importantly, since 1 January 2006 all inputs must be traceable. All the wine-growing farms must keep a register of their phytosanitary treatments.

If we establish a classification of the wines according to the authorized input dosage, conventional wines are in first place in terms of quantity.

Conventional wines

Conventional wine also has the highest permitted sulphur content. Sulphur (SO2) is an input used to stop the development of bacteria and yeasts, preventing further fermentation and sterilization of the wine. It is used to sanitize, protect and therefore preserve the wine. Without sulphur dioxide, bacteria grow and can transform wine into vinegar. For conventional wines, sulphur dioxide is allowed up to 200 mg/L for white wines and 150 g/L for red wines.

Organic wines

In second position we find organic wines. Since 2012, the authorised dose of sulphur dioxide is fixed at 100 mg/L for red wines and 150 mg/L for white wines. It is also since 2012 that we can call some wines organic wines. For the elaboration of these wines, the wine growers do without synthetic pesticides. Before 2012, there were no real organic wines but wines from organic agriculture.

Biodynamic wines

Demeter wine is a biodynamic wine. For those who wonder what a biodynamic wine is, it is made with respect for the environment, and biodynamics ensures healthy soil and plants to provide healthy food for living things. Demeter is the only brand that certifies to consumers that a wine is biodynamic and complies with strict international specifications based on the European organic specifications but allowing less inputs. For Demeter wines, the authorised sulphate dose is 70 mg/L for red wines and 90 mg/L for white wines.

Natural Wines

Last but not least, here are the natural wines. These wines are the ones with the least inputs, but just because they are called natural wines does not mean that they have none. Natural wine is the strictest in terms of inputs because it does not allow any inputs except for sulphur dioxide which is essential for the conservation of the wine. There are no synthetic pesticides or inputs. It is found at 30 mg/L for red wines and 40 mg/L for white wines.

So we can see that even the most natural wines still have inputs such as sulphur dioxide. It is also more difficult for winemakers to ensure a good harvest when they use no inputs, zero inputs are not always profitable. Especially since these inputs are dangerous for our health only if the quantities are too large and uncontrolled. It should be remembered, however, that the quantities of different inputs tend to decrease.

Lou Dubois for Les Grappes

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