Wine By Green Classification
Some thoughts on Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Farming…

Ask about any winery, and they’ll at least say that they farm sustainably. So what does that mean? What does organic or biodynamic really mean? How do we (or should we) separate those properties that have certifications (which require a lot of expense and paperwork) from those who apply the same rules but don’t want to deal with the agony of managing the certification?

To divide these properties into neat groups is next to impossible. We’ll do our best to give what is meaningful for you. Here is how we’ll divvy it up:

Organic: Certified organic for the estate vineyard (some producers have certified vineyards of their own but buy from others as well who aren’t certified).

Biodynamic: Certified biodynamic for the estate vineyard

Sustainable: this is going to be a mixed bag. Since there is no certification for sustainable, per se, we’ll use the term to mean that they farm organic and/or biodynamic but haven’t gained certification. We’ll also put into this group those who show that they are trying to do the right thing in viticulture. How do we choose? We are looking for certifications like LEED certification or Salmon Safe. Some of it you’ll just have to go with what we know about the vineyard practices. If we’re not sure, we’ll err on the side of non-sustainable.

Customers are most confused about biodynamics. Organic is easy to define, because we see it when we walk into a grocery store. Did you realize that organic agriculture allows for certain chemical sprays? They just have to be on the approved list by the approving agency.

But biodynamic farming is purer. Some associate it with way-out-there theories of alchemists and astrologists, and they write it off as kooky. We get that. But we would challenge you to look at it a different way.

Think of the vineyard as part of a biological community that includes the vines, the bugs and critters in and on the soil, the trees and weeds and bushes that surround it, and the birds flying around and all the rest. In the past, if part of the vineyard became unhealthy (an unwanted bug or a disease on the leaves), the solution was to nuke it with some chemical. It might cure the vine of the harassing bug or the leaf disease, but it also might throw something off balance like annihilating the bugs in the soil or the bees that frequent the vineyard. And the biological community becomes out of balance and more bad would happen to the vineyard, which would require yet more chemicals. So although Rudolf Steiner, author of biodynamics, had some interesting requirements to achieve biodynamic certification, think of biodynamics more about creating and keeping balance in the biological world in and around the vineyard than way-out-there theories.