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Archive for November, 2011

A Primer: Understanding the Differences Between Organic, Biodynamic, and Sustainable Wine Grapes and Wines

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

The governing body for establishing “organic” is the USDA and in California by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

Here are the differences.

  1. Farming
    • Organic: This is the most basic form of being healthy in a vineyard. This method eludes the synthetic use of fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Organic viticulturist are dedicated to preserving our delicate ecosystem. They consider themselves stewards of the land. Instead of chemical fertilizers, they use cover crops and composted animal manure or algae; instead of chemical insecticides, they use lady bugs, spiders, hawks, and owls. (You’ll note those larger bird boxes in the vineyards.) Bats are also not discouraged from having homes nearby. Organic farmers also plant plants that attract beneficial bugs, that act as predators (ladybugs, for instance). While the organic farmer would rather not use a fungicide, they’re permitted to – these days – under the certification program currently in place. Organic farmers will only use them as a last resort, though.
    • Biodynamic: This is farming with a good dose of spirituality thrown in for good measure. For those who do farm biodynamically but need to fight fungus, they have to get fungicides from the Josephine Porter Institute of Virginia.
    • Sustainable: These wine grape growers are like the organic and biodynamic farmers, with the only difference being that they don’t have any agencies looking over their shoulders. They farm with a “stewards of the land” attitude, but will use whatever they may need, if nature brings some unforeseen emergency. They prefer animals for maintaining balance, for instance, that eat cover crops. The benefits are the following:
      • No machines are used in the vineyards, with exhaust peppering the grapes; and no dust is created, also peppering the grapes.
      • They leave behind nitrogenous waste as they go along.
      • It’s visually a gas…
  2. Winemaking
    • Wines made from organically grown grapes can be advertised as such.
    • Cellar methods, as regards sulfites:
      • 100 percent Organic = no added sulfites… period
      • Organic ~ 95 percent organic ingredients ~ No added sulfites, but naturally occurring sulfites can be measured up to 100 parts/million.
      • Organic ingredients ~ 70 percent organic ~ Sulfites have to measure below 100parts/million.
      • Some Organic ingredients ~ Below 70 percent organic ingredients, with no info on the label about any certifying agencies.