Swiss Vin Nature: The Regulations Have Arrived

After several years of study and debate, the final regulations for “Vin Nature Swiss-style” have been published. What follows is my English translation of the regulations — officially released only in French and German — so please forgive any errors I may have made. I think it’s pretty clean.

Upon a quick examination, the Swiss regulations differ from the French most glaringly with the outright ban on added sulfur and its wine related compounds. The extra steps for winemakers to follow in Section 21 are commendable but lack enforceability and appear to be voluntary. Otherwise, there is nothing particularly surprising here, except that it’s great to have some definition in what is, to this day, a controversial topic.

I will no doubt have more to say when I can speak to some of the Board Members responsible for this undertaking and some of the winemakers who are early participants in the program.


ASSOCIATION SUISSE VIN NATURE // VEREIN SCHWEIZER NATURWEIN

Regulations for the production of “Natural Wine” in Switzerland:

January 2021

Basic Principles

● The grapes, cellar and wines must be certified organic (Organic Ordinance) or labeled Bourgeon (Bio-Suisse) or biodynamic (Demeter).
● “Vin Nature” is vinified and bottled without any inputs, additives, filtration, or sulfur.

Specifications

1. Origin of the grapes

● The grapes must come from certified vines:

a) Organic Ordinance (Bio-Federal)
b) Bio-Bourgeon (Bio-Suisse)
c) Biodynamic (Demeter)

● Grapes from vines undergoing conversion are allowed, but must specifically indicate “conversion” on the label.
● Wine produced before conversion cannot be sold as “Vin Nature”.
● Vineyards must not reside outside national borders unless permitted by the AOCs.

2. Traceability and Control

● The log of winemaking practices and procedures, by batch or cuvée, must be kept in order to obtain “Vin Nature” certification.
● The winegrower must surrender his harvest declaration, cellar book, bottling book as well as the analysis of any wines to the inspecting authority.
● Cellar control is mandatory and must be done by Bio-Inspecta or Bio Test Agro.
● Wines must comply with the Foodstuffs Act (817.0 Federal Act of 20 June 2014).
●  If SO2 is added in a particular year, the wine must be sold with a different label to avoid confusion.

3. Harvests

● Mandatory manual harvest.

4. Use of Enzymes

● Enzymes are prohibited, whatever their oenological use.

5. Chaptalization

● No addition of sugar or concentrated must is permitted.

6. Alcoholic Fermentation

● Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts only, no other yeast in the cellar or in the vineyard (bioprotection) is authorized.
Pied de cuve is authorized, but must be taken from the estate from which the “Vin Nature” grapes come.
● Oxygen: only natural aeration is authorized.
● No yeast nutrients are allowed.
● Débourbage (clarification) by natural settling only.

7. Fining

● Only fining using the lees of natural wine is permitted.
● No other fining is allowed.

8. Thermal Techniques

● No heating or cooling by mechanical means is allowed below 0°C or above 35°C.
● Dry ice is prohibited.
● No pasteurization is permitted.
● No freezing is permitted.

9. Biological Reduction of Acids

● No commercial bacteria are permitted.

10. Acidity Correction

● No correction is permitted.

11. Preservation

● No use of SO2, including in bottling, is permitted.
● No use of preservative (example: potassium metabisulphite E224, SO2, E220 in the form pure or aqueous solution, ascorbic acid), including when bottling, is permitted.

12. Filtration

● No filtration is permitted.

13. Use of Wood and Wooden Barrels

● Wooden containers are permitted for aging of wine.
● Any other addition of wood in must or in wine is prohibited, including tannins from the exploitation/field.

14. Topping Up

● Topping up is permitted only with a natural wine from the estate.

15. Micro-oxygenation

● Only natural oxygenation from barrel aging is permitted.
● Clicking, micro and macro-oxygenation are not permitted.

16. Use of Inert Gases

● Nitrogen or CO2 is authorized.
● Use of argon is prohibited.

17. Equipment Cleaning

● The only authorized methods are mechanical cleaning with water and steam.

18. Sulfur Wicking

● Wicking is only permitted for the preservation of wooden barrels, but these must be rinsed before use.

19. Wine Labeling

● Labeling must comply with the Foodstuffs Act (817.0 Federal Act of 20 June 2014).
● In the presence of natural total SO2 (more than 10 mg/l) produced by the yeasts without additions, it will be indicated: “contains sulphites” and “no added sulphites” (prevention of allergies).

20. Use of the Logo

Note: Total natural SO2 is that produced naturally by yeasts.
● The O-Bio, Bourgeon or Demeter logo must be used on the label or back label depending on the legislation in force.

21. Additional Measures for the Winemaker

The regulations encourage:

● energy efficiency in the winery;
● reducing bottle weight;
● no hot foil stamping on labels;
● the most ecological containers and caps possible;
● the most natural or efficient packaging possible;
● limiting the use of plastics and synthetics in all processes;
● the use of local resources and products.

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