THE LABELS ON SOME OF TODAY’S wine bottles sport a relatively new vocabulary, one that explains how the grapes were grown and made into wine. They include such terms as sustainable, organic and biodynamic, among others, and they warrant some explanation. Were the grapes grown by sustainable farming? Were they sprayed with organic fertilizers? Is the wine biodynamic? A number of the terms are new to many consumers. Some are controlled by the U.S. government; others are not. For simple definitions of this relatively new vocabulary, consider the following.
Sustainable grape farming focuses on producing grapes that have minimal effects on the environment and are ecologically sound.
Organic farming involves growing grapes without using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. It depends instead on ecologically based pest controls and fertilizers. The term “organic” is regulated by the U.S. government.
Biodynamic farming begins as organic farming does and uses no synthetic chemicals. From there, it also considers a vineyard as a complete ecosystem and includes lunar and astrological terms. Unlike organic, “biodynamic” is not a term regulated by the government.
How do you know if a wine is organic, biodynamic or otherwise “different”? Since all of these practices take a great deal more effort and time, more than likely it will say so on the label. Or you can find that information on the winery’s website.
California’s Frey Vineyards, a third-generation, family-owned winery in Mendocino County, takes pride in being the state’s first organic and biodynamic winery. California boasts many other wineries that are organic or biodynamic, or both, among them MacRostie Winery & Vineyards, Chappellet, Spottswoode, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Peju Winery, Acumen, Sea Smoke and Frog’s Leap.
Does a biodynamic wine taste different? Does it offer a different sensation and leave a different memory? No written description can give you an answer. Only a taste will do that. And since about 90 percent of American-made wine comes from California and three out of every five bottles of wine sold in the United States come from California, there is a good chance almost all of us wine drinkers have had organic and biodynamic wines — and gone back for more.
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