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Drink To Health Organically

To get a real bottle of certified organic wine, consumers need to become familiar with what “organic” means and the process it takes to become certified organic. Further, a 100% organic wine must come from organically grown grapes and the juice must be processed according to stipulated standards. In the U.S. there are two certifying organizations that authored real organic regulations: Demeter-USA (1985) and USDA-National Organic Program (2002). These are uniform documented certification programs.

But, certified organic is not immune to clever games of semantics. Winery marketing departments will use such words as: Sustainable Practices, From Organic Grapes, or Natural. These definitions do not carry any legal authority and are pretty much self defined by any number of trade organizations.

Demeter-USA’s patented certification approach recognizes a farm (vineyard for our discussion) as a self contained living organism, known around the world as Biodynamic Certified. This certification dictates a stringent practice of grape production that basically says no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers may be brought into the farm environment. Only unaltered natural products produced from within the farm may be used to produce grapes. Biodynamic certification even dictates how much of the farm/vineyard must be set aside for natural habitat.

Demeter-USA also stipulates a minimal manipulation of the wine, prohibiting non-natural yeasts, heavy use of sulfites, water, even malolactic fermentation. But they do allow the use of natural egg whites and bentonite to adjust wine minimally.

Bottom-line, Demeter-USA is the highest certification of organic wine attainable and Biodynamic certification can only come through Demeter-USA.

USDA-National Organic Program came about in 2002 to set a minimum standard for a product to be labeled “organic”. Several organizations can certify wines as organic, as defined by USDA regulations. Some states such as Oregon do their own USDA organic certification as do other entities.

Generally speaking, USDA Organic is not as strict a certification as Biodynamic certification. There are USDA restrictions on synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers; however there are no standards relative to the whole farm approach to managing the farm as an organism. In a winery, the USDA does allow more intervention with yeasts, sulfites, and acids in the wine making process. (Check the regulations for specific approved additives.)

Note: Wine may also be labeled as “From Organic Grown Grapes” and still not be an “organic” wine.

In summary, the differences between Biodynamic and Organic are:

· Biodynamic–the vineyard is to be viewed in the context of soil, all plants, and animal interaction in a defined area.

· Biodynamic–no dependence on imported or synthetic materials for fertilizing, weed control, and pest control.

USDA Organic-no synthetic materials in the vineyard but natural products can be brought into the vineyard.

· Biodynamic–focus is on sustainability of the farm/vineyard and minimized waste of water and natural resources. In reality, biodynamic wines have the smallest carbon footprint of any agricultural method.

· Biodynamic– wines must be produced with Biodynamic approved natural ingredients and protected from manipulation in the process of fermentation and putting into the bottle. These conditions are outlined in a Biodynamic Processing Standards document.

USDA Organic-allows the winery to manipulate the wine but only if they use approved materials.

· Biodynamic–the vineyard must be a self-contained eco-system.

· Organic is a less regulated wine than Biodynamic yet is still a powerful approach to healthier wines.

Other verbiage that might be misleading consumers looking for organic wine: Sustainable, Natural or just the words “From organic grapes”. Sustainable seems to be most indicative of vineyards or wineries who strive to conserve water, conserve energy and minimize their waste. In California there are grower associations who certify their members under – “SIP Certified” and “Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing”. This has nothing to do with use of pesticides, etc.