The most important characteristics of organic agriculture include the prohibitive use of easily soluble mineral fertilizers and herbicides; a conscious cultivation of the vineyard, to naturally promote the health and fertility of the soil, and a respect for its natural cycle.
Organic viticulture differs from integrated production in that the use of chemical/synthetic nitrogen-based fertilisers, freely soluble phosphorus fertilisers and chemical/synthetic pesticides is not allowed, nor is the use of any chemical herbicides allowed in soil management. In terms of crop protection, organic viticulture favours crop-care measures and crop-fortifying treatments1, but there are also some crop-protection treatments permitted specifically in organic viticulture. Among these, copper- and sulphur-based preparations are the most important in combating peronospora and oidium. The Austrian wine law governs the production of organic wine while the EU Organic Farming Regulation lists the products that are permitted for use in the processing of organically produced grapes.
The addition of selected yeast is permitted. Since the 2012 harvest, wines produced using organic viticulture techniques have had a reduced SO2 (sulphur dioxide) content. Labelling wine as “BIO-Wein” or “Öko-Wein” (organic wine) has been permitted since the 2012 harvest. The EU organic logo may only be used if it is accompanied by the reference number of the certification authority. Monitoring and examination by one of the official inspection bodies in Austria guarantees that production has complied with the provisions of the EU regulations and the guidelines of organic agriculture associations. As herbicides and certain pesticides are banned, crop care and mechanical soil loosening beneath the vines makes soil management and crop protection more costly and time-consuming. However, these viticulture practices are an essential contribution to enhancing biodiversity in vineyard ecosystems.
Organic wine producers guarantee that all substances used on their premises are free of any genetic modification.
1Pflanzenstärkungsmittel – crop-fortifying treatments – are applications designed exclusively to enhance the resistance of plants against harmful organisms, and to protect plants from damage due to non-parasitic causes. This means that the application must have no direct protective effect against disease or pests. Should these conditions prevail, the use of a regulated crop-protection treatment is indicated. The great majority of crop-fortifying treatments are of natural origin, rather than being chemical or synthetic products. Evidence of a treatment’s effectiveness is not demanded by law.