Choose biodynamic wine
Choose biodynamic wine to revel in oenophilia while supporting a practice of chemical-free agriculture that's new on the mainstream wine scene but predates organic methods. Biodynamic wine is subject to stricter—and decidedly more esoteric—standards than wines made from organically grown grapes.
Find it! Biodynamic wineries
Like other natural, chemical-free food and beverages, biodynamic wines are part of a niche market that's growing quickly. Expect a bit of hunting—especially if you reside in an area that's without a bevy of specialty liquor stores—and to pay more for a bottle of Demeter-certified wine. If you'd rather shop from the comfort of your home, set aside that glass of conventional Pinot Noir and check out the biodynamic winemakers listed below that sell their sustainable spirits online. For a complete list of winemakers across the globe that practice biodynamic viticulture—both fully and partially, certified and non-certified—see Fork & Bottle's Master List of Biodynamic Wine Producers.
Frey Vineyards, located in Mendocino County, California, has been producing green grapes since 1980 and is the first vineyard to produce wine grown under biodynamic standards in the US. All biodynamic wines—from the Cabernet to the Zinfandel—are certified by Demeter.
Let your grape-loving palate "Rhône" wild with Beckmen Vineyard's Syrah, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Rose, Marsanne, and Cuvee Le Bec. Produced from grapes grown biodynamically in California's Santa Ynez Valley, the winery is considered North America's foremost producer of Rhône varietals. Beckmen Vineyards follows old-world, eco-friendly viticulture methods while also embracing modern technology to produce great green grapes.
Picky about your Pinot? Cooper Mountain Winery in Oregon's Willamette Valley just happens to share the 45th Parallel with Burgundy, France—a Pinot Noir lovers paradise—making the growing seasons and climate very similar. Interested in sustainable sipping? Cooper Mountain produces both Certified Organic (by Oregon Tilth) and Certified Biodynamic wines (by Demeter). Sensitive to sulfites?
Good for the earth and good for the heart, Ehlers Estate wines are produced biodynamically on 39-acres in Napa Valley and is part of a nonprofit philanthropic foundation that supports global cardiovascular research.
Napa Valley's Grgich Hills raises a glass of the good stuff to Mother Earth by farming nearly all 366-acres of its five vineyards biodynamically. Although the notion of planning farm activity in accordance to a celestial calender and treating plants to homeopathic remedies may strike some as daffy, Mother Earth sure ain't complaining. And neither are the drinkers of Grgich Hills' award-winning Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Fumé Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Violetta.
Montinore Estate—a small, family-run outfit—lovingly produces some knockout whites (and reds) from a biodynamically farmed 220-acre vineyard in Oregon's vine-tastic Willamette Valley. On its website, the company has a sense of humor about its biodynamic methods: "...instead of applying chemical pesticides and herbicides, you might find us spraying chamomile or diluted milk on our grapes."
Before you buy
Biodynamic wines are not necessarily organic. Although wines sporting a Biodynamic Certified seal are similar to their organic brethren, they are not subject to US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-established standards. It's common, however, for vineyards to have both organic and biodynamic certification. Also, although green wines boast many eco-perks, they do not provide immunity to hangovers or provide a better buzz—so before you polish off that magnum of organic Cabernet, remember that alcohol is alcohol no matter how it's labeled.
Lastly, before buying wine online, keep in mind that regulations regarding the interstate shipping of alcohol vary by state. Be certain you are able to receive alcohol via mail before ordering.
Choosing biodynamic wine helps you go green because...
- Similar to organic farming, biodynamic farming is strictly chemical-free, eschewing the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Biodynamics also take a holistic, spiritual approach to viticulture.
- Most biodynamic wines do not contain added sulfites, compounds that can trigger allergic reactions.
Although the marriage of pesticide-free farming and astrology may strike some wine-o-philes as arcane, those who practice biodymanic—short for "biologically dynamic"—viticulture (and those who imbibe its fermented fruits) praise biodynamic wines to be "beyond organic." Based on the writings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic agriculture predates organic practices by about 20 years. Steiner believed chemical pesticides and fertilizers to be not only detrimental to the quality of crops but also a sign of a spiritually absent farmer who failed to align him or herself with the cosmos. In its essence, biodynamic viticulture is all about ecological harmony between the grapes, the farmer, and other organisms within the ecosystem.
The most important component of biodynamic viticulture is the fertility of the soil, which is treated as a living being. To enhance soil health and stimulate plant life, Steiner—who also founded the Waldorf School—requires nine biodynamic "preparations" to be used, which are essentially homeopathic "medicines" for the earth. The first two preparations, 500 and 501, involve burying cow horns with fermented manure and silica for six months and then spraying soil and foliage with the resulting substance. Preparations 502-507—yarrow blossoms, chamomile blossoms, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion flowers, and valerian flowers—are used to make compost. Preparation 508 is made from horsetail plant and is used as an anti-fungal agent.
Biodynamic wines are not regulated or certified by the USDA but by independent biodynamic agencies. Demeter International (headquartered in Brussels) is the global biodynamic certifier with a US branch based in Oregon. Biovin is a certifying agency operating strictly in France.
- silica: Found in common minerals like quartz, sand, and agate, this naturally occurring, ubiquitous, and chemically unreactive substance can be used as a pesticide.
- Wines & Vines - Uncovering Biodynamic Wines
- New York Times - When the Wine is Green
- National Public Radio - Biodynamic Wine? Try It Before You Smirk (audio clip)
- TreeHugger TV - Organic and Biodynamic Wines (video clip)
- The wine anorak - Biodynamic wine Observations on biodynamic wine from famed Brit wine journalist, Jamie Goode.