Five Chilean biodynamic and organic wines

The natural winemaking movement might be flourishing in Chile, but biodynamic and organic practices are its starting point.

Volcan Osorno southern Chile

Volcan Osorno southern Chile

While organic and biodynamic wines must be produced from sustainably farmed organic and /or biodynamic grapes, natural wines must also be produced without the addition of foreign yeasts or bacteria, sulphur, sugar or acid adjustments or new oak, and must undergo minimal fining and filtration.

This is no easy task considering the vast distances Chilean wine must travel, particularly to take advantage of the UK market. Along with distance travelled, price too is a thorn Chile’s side. Organic and biodynamic production (an almost prerequisite for natural wine) is costly. Chile’s average FOB price stands at $29 per case, which presents a challenge for those wishing to manage their vineyards organically.

What Chile does have on its side is climate. Similarly to neighbouring Argentina, which also has a blossoming natural, and organic, wine production, Chile has few problems of rot, zero phylloxera, and can avoid nematodes and other pests with the correct selection of rootstock. And while higher costs are a factor holding back producers from switching to organic or biodynamic, that is changing. The practice is receiving a big push from the industry body, Wines of Chile, with its Sustainability Code, which is now adopted by over 70% of Chile’s bottled wine production.

Sustainability, organic, biodynamic and even “natural” are more on the radar of Chile’s producers than ever before. Winemakers talk of minimal intervention, they vinify in concrete eggs, amphorae and old barrels, and biodynamic consultants are on the rise. But if exportation is problematic, and demand is low, where is this change coming from? There’s undoubtedly a world tendency to be discussed here, but perhaps surprisingly (for a country that exports over 70% of its wine) there’s a domestic trend too.

Chilean wine journalists, small producer wine fairs and the new outcrop of wine bars and clubs in the capital, Santiago, are helping to bring about a resurgence of underrated wines such as Pais, Muscat, Carignan, Cinsault and Pipeño, and with them, traditional, natural winemaking techniques. While you won’t be seeing a new stream of orange wines from Chile any day soon, change is very much afoot. The undercurrent of natural wine is growing – or returning – in Chile, and with it a general direction towards more authentic, local and stylistically-diverse wines. Whatever your opinion on sulphur, this new, old wave is something to be celebrated – and savoured.

Here, we round up five of Chile’s best organic and/or biodynamic wines…

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