Have you gone into a wine shop only to be faced with an aisle full of wine marked with terms such as organic, sustainable, and biodynamic? Have you scratched your head while wondering what it all means? You’re in good company.
When it comes to organic, there is wine made with organically grown grapes and full organic wines. Organically grown grapes are grown avoiding any synthetic additives, while a full organic wine is made with organic grapes and without any added sulfites (other than what occurs naturally). Sulfites, also known as sulfur dioxide, are produced naturally when you convert grape juice into wine via fermentation. It has become common practice for a winemaker to add sulfites as a preservative. In order to be considered organic, all wines have to be certified by a USDA-recognized third party certifier.
Biodynamic farming takes a more holistic approach. It is similar to organic farming in that both take place without the use of chemicals. However, biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an ecosystem, accounting for things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. Animals are a major component, as they graze and trim vegetation around the vines, fertilizing the soil.
Sustainability refers to a range of practices that are not only ecologically sound, but economically viable and socially responsible. Sustainable farmers may farm largely organically or biodynamically, but have the flexibility to choose what works best for their individual property. They may also focus on energy and water conservation, use of renewable resources and other issues.
Seen as non-traditional, these eco-friendly wines are actually anything but. Not too long ago, wines were completely grown without chemical pesticides and sulfites. Check the label to see if your wine falls into one of these three categories. The winery’s website is also full of information about how the wine was grown and made.