The official practice of organic farming in Greece first appeared in the 1980s with the implementation of the EU regulation 2092/91; the first organic certifications started a few years later in 1993. Organic viticulture is the second most prevalent form of organic agriculture.
Viticulture in Greece benefits from many of the conditions necessary for organic farming: the temperate climate, the unusual landscape relief, and the small size of wine farms. As a testament of the prevalence of organic farming practices used in Greece, approximately 50% of all Greek wineries currently recommend wines made from organic grapes. The EU has set the foundation for the future establishment of a European organic wine certification by updating regulation 2092/91 with regulation 837/2007.
Apart from the vineyards that are applying strategies of organic farming in Greece, many wineries meet the requirements for food safety and quality management established by the well known ISO and HACCP. Additionally, wineries may receive an organic certification through one of eleven local Greek organizations; two of which certify the majority of local organic wines. The organic viticulture movement has become so extensive that since 2005, there has been an annual wine competition for wines made from organic grapes.
The vineyards that practice organic viticulture in Greece cover an area of nearly 397,000,000 ft²; 156,000,000 of those are in a transitory stage according to data from 2007. These vineyards follow world-wide protocol for organic agriculture and only use very mild plant protection and fertilization practices. Such mild practices allow for a more balanced vine-environment and keep the soil rich in nutrients.
The aim of organic viticulture in Greece, and world-wide, is to have vineyards with zest and reduced sprouting. If the vine yield is low and the surface of the leaf is large, the leaf will photosynthesize well while providing sufficient ventilation. Oxygenated vines are one of the “secrets” that prevent unwanted fungi from seriously affecting the vine. Sulfur (in liquid or powder form) is occasionally used in organic viticulture in Greece to combat powdery mildew, while copper sulfide is used to treat downy mildew (and indirectly botrytis). Copper sulfide is especially useful in the wine regions of Northern Greece and in other similar regions that experience increased rainfall in spring and summer. Copper, as a heavy metal, is seldom used by Greek viticulturists. Organic wine farmers restrict the use of copper to such great extents that there are times when they repeatedly refuse to treat their plants with it, resulting in the loss of part of their crop (a normal phenomenon for bio-farmers). Luckily Greece benefits from both strong winds—such as the Meltemia from the Cyclades and the Aegean islands—and high summer temperatures which favor the vine and do not allow for an extended development of microorganisms; two to three sulfur interventions are usually sufficient in treating the disease.
There are many fauna species which are very beneficial to conserving the balance of the environment surrounding the vines—the importance of such fauna to organic viticulture in Greece is not to be overlooked. Certain insects, such as the vine moth, can be easily treated with Bacillus Thuringiensis, while others must be dealt with manually. Most weeds are controlled through mechanical methods. The soil stays nutrient-rich because of the bio-preparations (both animal and organic) that are used to fertilize the vineyards. Quite often viticulturists use digested stalks and skins of grapes from organic vines to enrich the soil.
Many farmers who practice organic viticulture in Greece make use of what is called “green manure”. “Green manure” is an ancient agricultural technique achieved by plowing nitrogen rich plants into the soil and consequently to the grape vines. In regions where water is sufficient, bio-culturists do not have to resort to this method because other forms of vegetation grow naturally and create a healthy level of competition against the vine, ultimately leading to livelier vines. In regions that are hot and dry, however, the “green manure” is added to the soil with the first spring plowing.