Organic? Sustainable? Biodynamic?

I’d make a bet that most people who buy “organic” do not know what they are really buying. I went to an agricultural college and people in my college classes were confused about what “organic” means. It gets even more complicated when talking about wine.

organicIn most countries, other than the United States, “organic wine” is defined as wine that is made with organically grown grapes. To be grown organically means to be grown without the use of chemically formulated herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, growth hormones, and or antibiotics. However, there is a long list of natural fertilizers and pesticides that are allowed. Organic does not mean that the product is grown locally on a small family farm. There are large corporate organic farms that ship their products all over the world, just like corporate conventional farms. In the United States, for wines to be labeled as “organic wine” and be USDA certified orgaourdailyrednic, they must not contain more than 100ppm of sulfites. Sulfites are preservatives that are often added to wine. However, sulfites are also found naturally in wine. Two of the largest USDA certified organic wine companies in the United States are Organic Wine Works, and Orleans Hill. The biggest seller in the United States is “Our Daily Red” by Orleans Hill.

Sustainable farming looks at all aspects of the farm. It focuses on three main goals which are; enivronmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Hahn Vineyards in California are SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified. Below is Hahn’s SIP statement. The Hahn Vineyards achieved this Certification through its dedication and farming practices in the following areas:

Biodiversity—In addition to cover crops and vines, Hahn encourages biodiversity by allowing a multitude of flora and fauna to thrive in the vineyards, providing wildlife habitat and encouraging residency.

Vineyard Management—Hahn Vineyards is continually improving farming practices to make them more envirosip-certified-150x150nmentlly sound, socially just and economically viable.

Soil Conservation—At Hahn, we improve the soil by natural methods such as cover crops, including legumes which mulches into the soil and helps improve nitrogen.

Pest Management—Hahn promotes a wide range of natural pest controls including beneficial insects such as beetles, lady bugs and lace wings.

Water Quality and water and energy conservation—Hahn uses VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) pumps which control water and energy usage and uses UV light treatment to give pure clean water to the winery and vineyards.

Organic Approved and Reduced-risk synthetic pesticides—Hahn uses Stylet oil instead of sulfur when possible which controls mildew and suppresses mites.

Social Equity—Hahn considers quality of life issues for farm workers and neighbors in the community. The core group of farm workers at Hahn is provided with full benefits, and the winery stays involved with the farm-growing community.

Continuing Education—Hahn Vineyards is continually monitoring the latest in sustainable farming practices and making improvements to the vineyard program to meet those standards.

Fruit Quality—Fruit quality is of the utmost importance to us, and that is reflected in the quality of our wine.

Economic Viability—Hahn has been in business growing grapes and producing wine since 1980 and has expanded over the years to own over 1,000 acres in Monterey County.

Biodynamic farming is the most strict of all farming techniques. The farmerpyramid403x287 looks at the farm in a very holistic and even spirtual way. The farm is a system in which the plants, soil, and animals are all related and interdependent. The soil helps produce healthy plants which feed and nourish the animals. The animals in turn fertilize the soil making it rich and full of nutrients. The nutrients in the soil go into the plants and the cycle repeats itself. Biodynamic farming is fully organic. The use of irrigation is discouraged. The use of tractors is not allowed; horses are used to plow the fields. Biodynamic farming requires a lot of labor. The pyramid was created by Mike Benziger of Benziger winery.

There are many ways to drink green. This article only covers regulations and certifications in The United States. There are many high quality organic vineyards all over the world. Many vineyards in Europe are organic and sustainable and have always been. There are also some great organic vineyards in Chile. As a wine consumer ask yourself why you are buying the wines you are. Are you buying organic because they do not have sulfites? Read labels! Many organically grown wines do contain sulfites. Are you buying organic becuase it is better for the environment? Again, read labels! Many vineyards are putting into place “green” business standards and are just as good if not better for the environment than organic wines.


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One Response to “Organic? Sustainable? Biodynamic?”
  1. Megan says:

    Nice post! I am very interested in this topic myself- have a blog about sustainable winemaking and recently wrote about the SIP standards as well. I agree that there are many different shades of “green” and consumers need to understand what’s behind the labels and the terminology.

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