What is Bio-dynamic Wine?

By Zeke Quezada

The table was littered with wine bottles and surrounding these empties were a few wine snobs, a couple of well-educated wine aficionados and a couple of people who love to drink. That is what wine is all about, bringing people together, right?

When the drunk topic of organic wines came up there were plenty of opinions and a lot of misinformation circling the table. Again, wine does a real good job of allowing people to express their opinions. I continued to pour myself wine while others talked about what they perceived as the right definition of both organic wines and biodynamic wines. 

Do you know the difference? There is a lot of information out there so use this information to inform yourself on the topic just in case you ever find your self at a dinner party with a few of my friends.

A Few Things to Know About Organic Wines and Biodynamic  Wines

Organic vs Biodynamic: Biodynamic wines are organic but organic wines are not biodynamic.

Organic wines are from vineyards where naturally occurring components are used to keep the vines and the land healthy. No extras are added that cannot be found in nature. However, you should be aware that copper and sulfur are naturally occurring. 

Biodynamic Wines Are? The Benzinger Family Winery has been involved in and produces Organic and Biodynamic wine so their explanation of what this wine is best:

Biodynamics is the highest level of organic farming. Developed in the 1920’s, Biodynamics views the vineyard as a single organism. With this approach, eliminating synthetic chemicals is just the beginning. Biodynamics goes further, encouraging biodiversity, a closed nutrient system, the use of homeopathic teas and a close personal connection to the land. We began transitioning our home ranch on Sonoma Mountain in the mid-nineties. Since then, we have used our experiences and insight to mentor our own network of growers and anyone else interested in farming this way.

Instead of bagged fertilizer, weed killer and pesticides we rely on composting, natural predator-prey relationships, cover crops, and the animals that live on our estate, to keep our vineyard healthy and balanced. There is no silver bullet in Biodynamic winegrowing. When you eliminate all the artificial crutches, you learn to trust your instincts and to trust nature’s ability and capacity to make a great wine.

Biodynamic has also been described as “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.”

Sulfites can be found in organic wines and in Biodynamic wines: Sulfites are naturally occurring so they will be found in all wine. In fact in order for a wine to have a longer shelflife.

Biodynamic Wines are Expensive: While not entirely true, it is safe to say that some techniques involved in organic farming are more labor-intensive as well as consume more resources that could otherwise be mitigated by going a non-organic route. Thus costing more than their non-organic counterparts.

Are there really cow horns buried in the vineyard? Well, yes, but there is a reason for that. Take a look at VinePair.com where they explain the Biodynamic wine process in detail.

Organic Wines and Their Classifications:

From the USDA ( U.S. Department of Agriculture) 

100% Organic Wine: When labeling a product as “100% Organic,” it must contain 100 percent organically produced ingredients and have been processed using organically produced processing aids, not counting added water and salt.

Organic Wine: When labeling a product as “Organic,” it must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt. In addition, the product must not contain added sulfites and may contain up to 5 percent non-organically produced agricultural ingredients allowed by 7 CFR 205.606 (provided the ingredients are not commercially available in organic form), and/or other substances allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

Made With Organic Ingredients: When labeling a product as “Made with Organic Ingredients” (or a similar phrase), it must contain at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt. In addition, wine may contain added sulfites (in accordance with 7 CFR 205.605) and may contain up to 30 percent non-organically produced agricultural ingredients and/or other substances allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

Check out the USDA website for more information about organic wines.