What is the difference between Organic, Sustainable and Biodynamic?
You probably hear those words being bandied about almost as much as local and artisanal, while those two latter words have lost much of their meaning organic, sustainable and biodynamic retain their original importance, at least in the wine world.
Let’s start with the easiest definition and work our way up.
This means that the grapes are farmed with the least amount of intervention possible, including chemical and mechanical intervention. It may even mean that the vineyard is organic but has not gotten organic certification because of the small size of the operation or the relative cost of the organic certification process. You can compare sustainable farming to traditional farming, the way your Italian great grandfather would have done it; chemical/pesticide free and with a respect for the continued usage of the earth.
When you see this on a bottle it means that not only are the grapes farmed without pesticides or chemicals but also that the vineyard has gone through, what can be a long and expensive process, to get certified by a governmental agency in America as an Organic farm. You can rest assured when you see this label that your grapes are grown in the most chemical free environment possible.
This is the big mother of all wine terms. Biodynamic is a method of farming that was started by Rudolf Stiener in the 1920′s in which the process of farming is done in a unified manner that relates not only to the farm itself that takes into consideration the cosmos in the farming of the land. What the hell does that mean, you ask? Well essentially it means that lunar charts and soil make up are as important in the farming itself as the sun and the water. The idea is that the soil is alive and should be treated thusly in all matters including how you compost, when you compost what you use to balance the PH balance etc… The conversation of what is biodynamic is long and complex if you are so inclined you can go to www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html for more information.
So what does this mean to you?
That depends on how much of a geek you want to be, I drink wine from all three categories and find that while there are some difference in them essentially they all get me drunk. It also means that if you buy wine from these categories your chances of drinking crappy wine will be greatly reduced, think of it as the difference between hothouse January tomatoes and farm grown summer tomatoes.
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