Organic and biological are one and the same thing. When champagne growers work organically, they don’t use any pesticides or artificial fertilisers in the vineyard. They nurture the soil the natural way, for example through green manures and organic compost. Organic champagne growers also spend a lot of time increasing biodiversity in the vineyards. They do so through “companion planting“, which means they plant herbs, grass and clovers in their vineyards. Companion planting changes the composition of the soil so that it becomes more versatile and therefore less prone to diseases. Some growers also plough their vineyards as an alternative to herbicides. Some of them, like Pascal Agrapart, even use horses!
In a nutshell, champagne growers that work organically focus on nurturing the soil instead of the plant. After all, if the soil is healthy, then so are the grapes!
In the cellars, organic champagne growers don’t use factory-grown yeasts to start the fermentation process (not during the first fermentation nor during the second one). Instead, they use wild yeasts that are grown on plant substrates. These substrates often come from “local” plants that grow near the vineyards. Additionally, organic growers limit the use of sulphur dioxide to a minimum. Sulphur dioxide is added to control overly excited yeasts and to help preserve the champagne. In order to be certified as organic, champagne growers can only use small amounts, which makes controlling yeasts quite a challenge.
All these methods combined result in a champagne production process that is au naturel. The organic champagne production process is therefore much more in touch with the environment compared to the regular production process. This is why organic growers believe that their approach leads to higher quality champagne. Chemicals, pesticides and non-natural yeasts have a huge impact on the soil and therefore mask the influence of climate and terroir, so they say.
For what it’s worth, I believe them.
Want to know more about biodynamic champagne? Read this page!