Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Eco Wines, Part 3: Certified Biodynamic Wine E-mail
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 00:00  |  Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry

Vineyard photo by Tonya KayAnother label the green consumer can look for when choosing a wine is the vineyard’s biodynamic certification. Worldwide, there are more than 450 certified biodynamic wine producers and, from my experience, that number is rapidly growing.

The Demeter Association is the singularly recognized international biodynamic certifying body. Farms seeking the Demeter biodynamic certification must meet the same three-year waiting period as those certified organic by the National Organic Program.

Both the organic and biodynamic certifications regulate mainly soil and plants. While organic growing and certification focuses on what farmers do not use in production, biodynamics encompasses what they do use. I see the difference between organic and biodynamic as akin to that between vegetarian and raw vegan. Vegetarians do not eat dead animals. Raw vegans do eat living produce. Yes, raw vegans are also vegetarians, and so most biodynamic farms are also organic. In fact, Demeter offers—through its sister company Stellar Certification Services—a free organic certification to those qualifying for its biodynamic certification.

Biodynamic farming practices and certifications are based in the spiritual/practical philosophy of Rudolph Steiner, called anthroposophy, which integrates the ecological and energetic, as well as spiritual, in nature. The biodynamic philosophy dates back to 1924 and involves managing the farm as a living organism—something that could ideally sustain itself. Through asking questions and reading, I have come to understand biodynamics as a growing practice that unifies the raw, spiritual, environmental and occult. And to me, these practices are more than evident in the finished wine.

An oversimplification of some biodynamic farming practices, in addition to meeting and often exceeding organic standards, is:

  • Farming according to the lunar and astrological cycles;
  • Reserving areas of the land for indigenous plants that encourage the return of native birds, insects and animals to the farm;
  • Planting nitrogen-fixing crops (like legumes) between the vine rows to maximize soil water retention and prevent erosion;
  • Bringing in hundreds of sheep annually to graze and fertilize the fields;
  • Applying horsetail tea to the grape vines;
  • Hand-picking grapes to eliminate tractor fumes and damage; and
  • Burying ground quartz in a cow horn and then spraying the preparation homeopathically over the fields.

During a tasting of some of the most exceptional whites on the central California coast, our pourer at Demetria Estate in Los Olivos, CA, described how he had brought in children from the local Waldorf school to dance amongst their vines one morning. Now, this surely isn’t part of the certification process, but is right in line with the biodynamic philosophy.

As is the case with organic wines, one will be hard-pressed to locate a biodynamically certified wine, but will find biodynamically certified vineyards. This is my experience, at least. And as discussed in Part 2 of this series, reading the wine’s label, asking for certification details, and assuring that the wine you are drinking was produced from the estate’s vineyard are helpful when attempting to actually taste biodynamically grown wines.

As a raw vegan, I am delighted that the wine world, in farming practices, is so far ahead of the food world. I can shop for organically grown produce at the farmers market and health-food stores. But never are my fruits and veggies labeled biodynamic. In wine country, however, biodynamic farming is becoming more and more prevalent as vintners discover that their crops are resilient to pests and disease, and their final product is of a higher quality. In fact, when Fortune conducted a blind tasting of 10 pairs of biodynamic vs. conventionally made wines, judged by seven wine experts including a head sommelier and a Master of Wine, nine of the biodynamic wines were judged superior to their conventional counterparts.

Continue to Part 4: Certified Sustainable Wine
Read Part 5: The 'Fish Friendly Farming' Wine Certification
Read Part 6: Vegan Wine
Read Part 7: Why Eco-Consciously Produced Wine Is Best
Read Part 1: An Introduction to Eco-Friendly Wine Certifications
Read Part 2: Certified Organic Wine

Additional resources:
Demeter® USA Certification Agent for Biodynamic® Farms
Robert Sinskey Biodynamic Vineyards
Fork & Bottle Master List of 529 Natural and Biodynamic Wine Producers
Demetria Estate Winery

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Comments (5)add
Written by JimB , March 23, 2011
Matt, in paragraph 3, the writer says "Raw vegans do eat living produce." That's "do," not "don't." I think you misread the sentence.
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Written by matt , March 22, 2011
raw vegans dont eat living produce???
um, yea. we do?! it's called raw-live food for a reason.

maybe you mean level-5 vegans from the simpsons.lisa's crunchy boyfriend who didnt eat anything that casts a shadow ?. and also pocket-mulched.
bidynamics uses animal parts from slaughter factories.who suffered do you reconcile this and be vegan? what is the karmic energy in a murdered cow's horn in preparation # 500 ?
steiner reminds me of Scientology.sorry.
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Written by Tonya Kay , January 28, 2010
Well said. When I was performing in STOMP, a dear friend/cast mate spoke to me about her experience volunteering for many months on an organic farm in Japan. She said she could not understand the language so well, but they planted during the day and danced at nite. One thing that was well translated for her, though, were the planting instructions. She said after the workers had placed, by hand, each seed in it's earthen hole, they were to say "grow" to it before moving on.

To this day I whisper grow to my plants, my dreams, my loved one's and my own body.
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Written by Fredric , January 28, 2010
Hi Tonya,

Thanks for the AWESOME information. I recall briefly doing some reading/research into what "bio-dynamic" was all about about.

One only needs to look to the Native Americans to see examples of bio-dynamic principles as it relates to food as well, which you point out hasn't really been prevalent to this point.

One small example is consciously sowing the energy of love and sustenance into the crops as you work the fields.

This becomes cyclical in nature as the loop completes itself when the food is consumed along with the energy that was sown into it.

I actually think taking a bio-dynamic approach to living in general is the evolutionary path I hope we are all headed on. Thanks for the share!


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Written by Joanna Steven , January 26, 2010
Interesting! I want to send my kid to a Waldorf/Steiner school. I actually found one here! But the person answering my e-mails wasn't super nice. I will still see the school in person when it's time, some people may just be awkward when it comes to e-mails but are great in person. I hope that's all it is. I don't think I ever tried a biodynamic wine! I should really try to find one.
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