Sustainable, Organic, and Biodynamic. What does that mean?
By Maggie Walters
I wanted to write a blog about the different forms of agriculture that can be used for wine making, what they mean, and what wineries use these cleaner practices. After all, wine is just an agriculture product. Before any magazine ad is made or billboard sign posted, a grape vine has to be planted, harvested, and then made into wine.
This means that man-made chemicals are restricted in the vineyard. Grape growers have a more in-depth understanding of weather patterns, so when a vineyard is sprayed for pests or disease outbreak, it can be sprayed at the most opportune time, as opposed to periodic spraying throughout the season. Pest population is controlled more naturally with the encouragement of predators, and growing plants in between vines that attract predators/deter pests. To sum it up, man-made chemicals are allowed in the vineyard, but they're used much more responsibly.
One of my favorite sustainable farmed wineries is Broadside. They even use "wild" yeast present in the vineyard to ferment the wine instead of buying cultured yeast from a laboratory.
This is an even more restrictive agriculture practice. Only a very limited number of more traditional treatments against pests and diseases is allowed. Organic farmers use more integrated pest management such as creating habitats to encourage predators to live in the vineyard. If a winery wishes to display their organic credentials on their bottles they must apply for certification through a certification body. Many wineries don't apply for certification because it is time consuming and costly, but still choose to follow organic vineyard practices. Several places in the world practice organic farming because the environment doesn't require any chemical sprays due to the drier climate (like Argentina, some areas in Spain, and Alsace France), or they are so windy that pests can't even attach themselves to vines (like the Rhone Valley in France).
One of my favorite organic wine importers is Kermit Lynch. Every wine he brings into the U.S. is from an organically-farmed vineyard. He imports everything from France and Italy, which consist of farmers who have been operating organically from generation to generation. Just look for the Thomas Jefferson picture on all of his bottles.
This agriculture practice was actually developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and Maria Thun in the 1920s. Biodynamic agriculture adopts organic practices but also incorporates philosophy and cosmology. Grape growing practices are aligned with the cycles of the planets, moon and stars. "Preparations" are used in the vineyard, which are homeopathic remedies/homemade fertilizers. This is a very in-depth practice and involves a lot of TLC. I know this may sound like some serious hippy wine, but the very prestigious and pricey Cristal Champagne is a biodynamically farmed vineyard. Vineyards can apply to be dynamically certified, but they can also have these vineyard practices without being certified.
Two of my favorite biodynamic wines are Gerard Bertrand Kosmos and Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are big, heavy reds that will go excellent with heavy proteins like steak. Kosmos even has the solar system etched into their front label! The winemaker for Kosmos won't even allow tractors into his vineyard for fear of gas emissions tainting the flavor of his grapes. That's a lot of love for his grapes right there!
There are so many more wineries that I have not listed in this blog, just for the sake of length. If this is something you are interested in or passionate about please come see me at Colonial and I would love to introduce you to some amazing wines out there that have cleaner agriculture practices!