Organic viticulture centres around the promotion of healthy, fertile soil by advocating responsible soil cultivation methods and plant protection products and strengtheners of natural origin, with the aim of improving the resistance of the vines.
The use of easily soluble mineral fertilisers, herbicides, chemically synthetic or systemic plant protection products or fertilisers, as well as genetically modified organisms, is not permitted. This implies that certain technical processes and aids used during wine production are also prohibited or restricted.
A prohibition on herbicides and synthetic plant protection products means that producers need to invest more time and money in soil management, canopy management, plant protection and vine care. However, this also plays a considerable part in improving biodiversity in the vineyard ecosystem.
Organic viticulture, or biologischer Weinbau in German, is also referred to as Bio-Weinbau, ökologischer Weinbau and Öko-Weinbau in Austria.
A winery is permitted to label itself and its wine as organic when it fulfils the legal provisions of organic production as defined within the EU regulation on organic farming. All wineries are allowed to take part in this certification process. Certification is a guarantee that both the winery and all of its products have been inspected. Certification is issued for one year at a time and must be renewed annually. A wine that is certified as organic must be produced from 100% organically grown grapes. To ensure easy recognition for customers, all organic products in the EU, including organic wines from Austria, bear the “EU organic” seal.
The EU regulations on organic farming provide the minimum standards for Austria’s organic legislation.
For example, Austria’s national Plant Protection Act imposes stricter regulations than those from the EU, such as those governing the use of copper compounds on vineyards. Austria also has a number of national organic associations that can issue even stricter regulations (see below).
One of these is BIO AUSTRIA, Europe’s largest association of organic farmers.
- Austria cultivated 9,901 hectares of vineyards organically in 2022, which represents 22% of total area under vine (44,537 ha) currently registered in the IACS (Integrated Administration and Control System).
- These vineyards are cultivated by 1,238 wineries, giving an average of 8 ha per producer.
- From an international perspective, Austria is considered a pioneer in environmentally conscious wine production. Although organic production is practised on every continent, 91% of the land cultivated organically is divided among just 10 countries. Despite its small area under vine, Austria ranks just behind the leading countries of France and Italy (top 10 countries rated according to their organically cultivated area compared to total area under vine).
- In the last five years the area under vine that is certified as organic has almost doubled.
Austria’s high share of organically cultivated vineyards is even more remarkable given that all of the country’s wine-growing regions are located in the EU wine-growing zone B. The challenging climatic conditions of zone B, particularly in terms of temperature and humidity, demand more finely honed skills of Austria’s organic winegrowers and imply more complex viticultural processes.
State-nominated control bodies, which must be accredited according to an EU standard (e.g., Austria Bio Garantie or LACON), are responsible for conducting EU organic certifications, carrying out inspections of additional standards of national associations, and checking compliance with applicable regulations on an annual basis. These bodies inspect the entire production process, which means that organic farms also need to keep accurate records of organic inputs or processing aids that they purchase.
The following is mandatory in vineyards:
The following is prohibited:
The following is mandatory in cellars:
The following is prohibited:
BIO AUSTRIA: ADDITIONAL CODE OF PRACTICE
BIO AUSTRIA is Europe’s largest organic association, counting around 12,500 members. Almost two-thirds of the Austrian organic agricultural industry is represented by BIO AUSTRIA. The community of Austria’s organic farmers has a say in which direction the domestic organic landscape should develop. The association’s code of practice is based on national regulations, as well as on the EU regulation on organic farming and ÖPUL, and places higher demands on the quality of organic production with regard to various aspects. For example, BIO AUSTRIA farms need to comply with stricter requirements to encourage biodiversity. Key points: raw material- and energy-intensive processes must be avoided. Organic substances that are produced in vast quantities during the winemaking process must be recycled back into crops and waste water must not be a burden on the environment.
Other BIO AUSTRIA measures that differ from the EU regulation on organic farming due to the association’s stricter approach (excerpt):
Austrians are born nature-lovers and therefore particularly respectful towards the natural environment. This is a country that places great importance on environmental protection and the responsible use of natural resources. It comes as no surprise, that Austria is a world leader in environmentally conscious viticulture.