Bio-viticulture and bio-wines in Alsace

More and more producers switch to environmentally friendly viticulture and wine-making. Alsace is also a forerunner in France, and more than 10% of the area is now certified according to some environmental standard.

One can also observe that the majority of the most prominent producers have some form of certification. Of the 16 producers in 2011 that had three or two stars of La Revue du Vin de France, is 10 domaines are or is about to become certified (Marcel Deiss, Albert Mann, Ostertag, Weinbach, Zind-Humbrecht, Bott-Geyl, Dirler-Cadé, Josmeyer, René Muré and Martin Schaetzel).

Agriculture biologique

Alsace wine The official term Agriculture biologique , or AB, refers to a system of farming based on natural processes and biogeochemical cycles that aims to maintain high bidiversitet above ground and in the soil. The semanthic construction Agriculture biologique is a bit strange given that all cultivation is biological. Rather, one often hears winemakers say that the production is en bio. The term Agriculture biologique was protected in France in 1980, followed by EU regulations, that is direct-acting laws, in 2007 and 2008 (to see the text of the law, click here)

AB implies restrictions by prohibiting:

  • Fertilizer such as NPK and ammoniumnitrate.
  • Chemical pesticides, including herbicides (weed killer), insecticide (against insects) and fungicides (for fungal infections).
  • Genetically modified crops (GMO).

The the fertilizer is substitution by the addition of compost, usually based on the vineyard's own waste products, and by making the ecosystem function better to prevent nutrient leaching. With these measures a more closed-cycle system is established in the vineyard.

The need for chemical pesticides is reduced by using a series of complementary measures. These include greater biodiversity, less nutrition, use of pheromones to disrupt insect reproduction; introduction of natural predators of insects, alternative ways to prune the vines, and so on.

However, there are two chemical control methods that are considered essential and acceptable:

  • Sulphur in the form of calciumsulfide (CaS) against oïdium which is a class of fungi.
  • Copper in the form of Bordeaux mixture bouillie Bordelaise (copper sulphate CaSO4 and calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2) against mildou , that is powdery mildew.

In order to become certified to AB the vineyard must undergo a controlled transition period for 3 years, that is four vintages. During this period, producers may indicate that it is en cours de conversion vers l'agriculture biologique.


Alsace wine ECOCERT® is a certification organization that was founded in France in 1991, but now is international. It has the right from the French state to certify Agriculture biologique.

If its' logo (see picture) is on a wine label or a box the consumer can be sure that the requirements of AB are met.


Biodynamics viticulture is based on the principles behind AB but involves important extensions. The method originated in around 1924 in France within the anthroposophical flow, in which Rudolf Steiner was a prominent figure. There are many commonalities between organic farming and homeopathy.

Key elements in biodynamics is the use of different preparations applied in homeopathic doses, either directly in the vineyard (field preparation) or in the compost that is added to the soil (compost preparations). These are: