A Green Glossary (Biodynamic vs. Organic vs. Sustainable)
Understanding what the certificates mean.
Rooted in the esoteric and spiritual teachings of the Austrian scientist/philosopher Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic agriculture views the farm or vineyard as a holistic, self-sustaining organism and stresses the importance of creating natural composts. Here's where you'll also find discussions of astronomical sowing and planting calendars and, occasionally, some rather mystical growing rituals (for instance, using cow horns stuffed with manure as fertilizer). Biodynamic vineyards don't always produce 100% organic wines but they must adhere to the rigorous growing guidelines and practices outlined by the Demeter Association. Many wineries practice some degree of biodynamic agriculture and a few like Jeriko and Saracina embrace it full throttle.
Like biodynamic philosophy, sustainability theory strives to see the vineyard as a whole, self-supporting system. In addition to emphasizing environmental responsibility, sustainability theory also has a socio-economic component, and takes into account the farm's economic profitability as well as its role in the local community.
The non-profit organization LIVE provides sustainable certification for those vineyards that meet its criteria.
Organic Grapes versus Organic Wines
Organic grapes are grown without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers or synthetic chemicals. (Specific guidelines are established by both national and regional certifying agencies like the USDA and Oregon Tilth.)
For a wine to be truly organic, however it must also be bottled this way (in a certified organic facility) and can contain no additional sulfites. Because additional sulfur often prevents spoilage, very few wines are 100% organic—rather the label will say they were "made from organic grapes."