A Brief on 3 Viticulture Methods: Sustainable, Organic, Biodynamic
The new wine vocabulary Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic are increasingly found in descriptions of wines we drink and wineries we visit. But to explain the whole philosophy of each of these categories would take all day. Often times, their principles are confused with one another. Let’s take a brief look at each of them and then we’ll dive a little deeper into each of them over the next couple posts.
Sustainability is being pushed harder than ever in Sonoma County. We recently heard on the radio that Sonoma County has reached the halfway mark of becoming 100% sustainable by 2019. SIP is one certification that many wineries on the Central Coast have attained. Practicing sustainability means adhering to a range of practices that take into consideration the people who work there to create a healthy work life, the planet to make sure resources are used wisely, and prosperity, because after all, a winery is a business and must sustain economically.
Organic Farming is the only category defined by the government and is run by the FDA. To make wine as a final product itself organic is difficult to do as the main preserving component, a Sulfur Dioxide addition, cannot be added according to USDA requirements. Sulfur Dioxide, or SO2, is more commonly known as ‘sulfites,’ which also occur naturally and to some degree will be present in the wine anyway. Wines can have the label “Made with Organic Grapes” which focuses more on farming but still limits the quantity of sulfites that can be added to the wine.
Biodynamics takes certifications to the extreme because it involves the whole ecosystem that encompasses the vineyard and winery. Many big decisions in viticultural work revolve around lunar cycles as well. The principles were largely developed and made popular by Austria’s Dr. Rudolph Steiner in the beginning of the 1900s. Biodynamics focuses on creating natural solutions to problems that arise in man-made monocultural systems (such as entire regions that only grow grapevines). It aims to restore ecosystems and improve the quality of the final product.
Biodynamic is similar to organic farming in that both take place without chemicals, but biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an ecosystem, and also accounting for things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. A biodynamic wine means that the grapes are farmed biodynamically, and that the winemaker did not make the wine with any common manipulations such as yeast additions or acidity adjustments. A wine “made from biodynamic grapes” means that a vintner used biodynamically grown grapes, but followed a less strict list of rules in winemaking.
We’ve only touched the surface here, but will get into each of these a little further in the coming weeks.