Organic? Bio? Sustainable? Non-Invervention? What's it all mean?

There are many ways to grow grapes but more and more we are seeing interesting methods for farming vineyards.  But what's it all mean?  What does it mean when a wine is labeled Certified Organic?  What does it mean to use bio-dyanmic farming methods?  How about non-intervention farming?  It's all discussed below in our primer on "organic" wines.

Organic Farming:  Focuses on using natural processes and materials to enhance the health of the vineyard ecosystem.

  • No synthentic chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers
  • Use of organic fertilizers like compost and green manure.
  • Encourages biodiversity and soil health
  • Requires certification from recognized organic bodies.  In the United States this is done by third party contractors for the USDA

Biodynamic Farming:   Goes beyond organic farming, incorporating holistic and spiritual approaches to vineyard management, based on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner.

  • Follows organic practices but also includes specific biodynamic preparations made from herbs, minerals, and animal manure
  • Planting and harvesting according to lunar and astrological cycles
  • Emphasizes creating a self-sustaining ecosystem within the Vineyard
  • Requires certification from ogranizations like Demeter

Sustainable Farming:   Focuses on long-term environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability.

  • May use some synthentic chemicals but in a regulatied and minimized way.
  • Emphasizes water conservation, energy efficiency, and waste management
  • Practices can include integrated pest management (IPM), cover cropping, and habitat conversation
  • Certification varies and can be regional, such as the Sustainable Winegrowing Certification in California.

Non-Interventionist Farming:  Also known as "natural" wine growing, aims to interfere as little as possible with a natural processes in the vineyard and winemaking.

  • Minimal use of chemicals in the vineyard and cellar
  • Often overlaps with organic and biodynamic principals but with a stronger emphasis on minimal intervention
  • Natural yeast fermentation, no added sugars, acids, or other additives
  • Limited or no filtration and fining
  • No official certification, though some winemakers choose to adhere to guidelines from associations like the Natural Wine Association

So there you have it.  The 4 main types of "organic" style farming.  I hope this helps you understand the state of organic farming in the wine industry.