We’ve all seen it – a wine list marked with asterisks indicating a wine is “biodynamic.” Is this just a fancy way of saying “organic?” Not exactly, but it does mean that the wine was probably made with organic methods and, usually, then some…
Many winemakers both in the US and abroad have been frustrated by the US system of organic certification. It’s very expensive and often misleading; products that are classified “organic” aren’t as eco-friendly as many organic farmers would like and other times products that are organic, don’t meet the strict and narrow guidelines that the US has in place. The problem gets worse with imported wines from other countries that do qualify as organic at home but don’t qualify as organic in the US.
To solve these problems, many wine producers have turned to biodynamics. That doesn’t mean that just anyone can slap a “biodynamic” label on their wine. In order to call a wine biodynamic, a wine maker must adhere to the guidelines of biodynamic agriculture. Biodynamics incorporates the basic chemical-free tenets of organic farming, but takes those ideals even further with even stricter guidelines.
Biodynamics is a set of beliefs established in 1924 by a German philosopher named Rudolph Steiner. In terms of wine, biodynamic practices include treating each individual vineyard as its own organism, incorporating the soil, the plants, and even any organisms and animal life that may exist within the vineyard. Biodynamics places a premium on chemical-free farming and introduces sustainability as an especially important factor.
Many wine experts have started to applaud biodynamic wine makers, not just for their eco friendly practices but also for their superior wine! Some in the business are convinced that biodynamic wine is better and more truly expresses terroir and varietal characteristics. Others, however, take one look at some of the more eccentric practices of biodynamics – such as burying quartz crystals and flowers stuffed into animal parts at various strategic points in the vineyard — and shrug the whole thing off.