“At its core, Biodynamics is an energy management system.”
–Mike Benzinger, Benzinger Family Vineyards

WHAT DOES BIODYNAMIC MEAN?

The concept behind biodynamics is that everything in the universe is interconnected and gives off a resonance or ‘vibe’. The interconnectivity of everything even includes celestial bodies like the moon, planets and stars. Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing this resonance between vine, man, earth and stars. Essentially, biodynamics is a holistic view of agriculture.

It is a holistic, homeopathic manner of farming which also includes viticulture. It is the oldest, anti-chemical agricultural movement that predates the creation of organic farming by about twenty years.

There’s not really anything ‘new’ behind the theory of biodynamics. Mankind has looked to the celestial sky for guidance from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians all the way to the trusty ‘Farmer’s Almanac’ which is the bible of traditional American farming.

Biodynamics occur primarily in the vineyard before winemaking even happens. All the various tasks, from planting, pruning, to harvesting, are regulated by a special biodynamic calendar. The calendar was originally devised by the ‘high priestess’ of Biodynamics, Maria Thun, who divided days into four categories: Root, Fruit, Flower and Leaf Days.

Each biodynamic calendar day coincides with one of the four classical elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water that have been used since before Plato’s era:

  1. Fruit Days: Best days for harvesting grapes
  2. Root Days: Ideal days for pruning
  3. Flower Days: Leave the vineyard alone on these days
  4. Leaf Days: Ideal days for watering plants

You would never, for example, want to harvest on a Leaf Day because Leaf Days correlate with the Element water and you’d end up picking rotten, waterlogged grapes!

Besides the biodynamic calendar, no chemicals or ‘manufactured’ additions (like commercial yeast) are allowed in biodynamic wine. Instead, wine growers make special compost preparations with natural ingredients to bolster their vineyards. This is where things start to get controversial.

*Source - Wine Folly

WHAT DOES SUSTAINABLE MEAN?

Sustainability comes into play with resource management in terms water and energy efficiency in the vineyard and winery. Sustainability will grow in importance in people’s minds as climate change continues to become a reality. Of course defining sustainability is a bit complicated because of the unique environmental stresses of different wine regions. This is why you’ll see a myriad of different sustainability certification programs. See examples below.

CaliforniaCertified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW)

In 2002, members of the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) introduced a practical self-assessment workbook for both winemakers and wine growers that encompasses three areas of sustainability: Environmental Soundness, Economical Feasibility and Social Equality. The metrics for CCSW include over a hundred criteria which are ranked from 1–4 in water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrogen use. This means a winery can become CCSW certified with a lower rank (with plans to improve). Today, to become fully certified with CCSW, a third party is required to audit the assessments.

California: SIP certification

California: Certified Green (The Lodi Rules)

Oregon, Washington, Idaho: LIVE Certified (Low Input Viticulture and Enology)

Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, California and Idaho: Salmon Safe
Regions with fragile riparian areas that support salmon populations in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, California and Idaho have the opportunity to become Salmon Safe. This certification focuses on water management with special attention paid to managing run-off into streams and rivers. With a holistic look at run-off, wineries develop long-term soil conservation techniques which may include creating buffers of natural vegetation inbetween farmlands and streams, and paying close attention to waterways on farm properties.

*Source - Wine Folly 

ORGANIC VS BIODYNAMIC VS SUSTAINABLE

Each category of certification has differing founding principles (even if there is a lot of overlap). You can think of each category as having a founding principle:

  • Organic: Purity of product using non-synthesized ingredients.
  • Biodynamic Holistic agricultural health.
  • Sustainable Mitigation and reduction of wastefulness in winemaking.