What Is Biodynamic Wine?
Like organic wine, biodynamic wine starts with grapes farmed without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, and is turned into wine using few if any additives. What happens on a biodynamic farm, though, goes above and beyond organic. Here, humans don’t run the show; instead, they see themselves as guides, encouraging maximum harmony among all life forms on the farm. As a result, biodynamic wines tend to be unique—full of the individual, undiluted character of the places that produced them.
Biodynamic Wine Growing
Biodynamic vineyards are managed according to principles laid out in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner, a visionary Austrian social reformer who saw farming as an almost spiritual practice, totally aligned with the rhythms of nature. His guidelines form the heart of the Demeter Biodynamic® Farm Standard, which lays out the path to biodynamic certification. Some key practices:
Winegrowers pay attention to how phases of the sun and moon affect vine growth, pruning and harvesting according to nature’s timing rather than market incentives. Hand labor in the vineyard is the norm, rather than by machine.
Instead of just growing grapes, winegrowers also plant herbs, clover and wild grasses among the vines. These extra plants help loosen the soil, attract beneficial insects and birds, and help nourish billions of soil microorganisms—the key to rich topsoil and overall vineyard health.
Guide the system from within
Biodynamic vineyards are managed as self- sufficient, living organisms that create their own vitality. No composts or fertilizers are trucked in from the outside. To feed their vines and control pests, biodynamic winegrowers rely on a dozen or more “preparations” — special composts and sprays made with plants and manure from animals raised onsite. Sometimes grub-gobbling chickens help out with pest control, too.
How to Read a Biodynamic Wine Label
You may see several different terms on a bottle of biodynamic wine. Here’s what they mean:
The grapes used were biodynamically grown and vinified, with minimal intervention in the cellar.
Demeter is the international organization that certifies biodynamic wines and sets the farming and winemaking standards; means the same thing as “biodynamic.”
“Made from Biodynamic Grapes”
The winemaker used grapes that were grown biodynamically, but departed from the biodynamic standard when making the wine.
Biodynamic, Organic and Natural Wines— What’s the Difference?
Organic wines are made from grapes grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, and with minimal intervention during the winemaking process. This standard is upheld by most organic certifying bodies around the world, including the USDA, Eco Cert, and EU Organic.
“Natural wine” isn’t a regulated term, but has come to mean wines that are made with minimal intervention and inputs, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Many organic and biodynamic wines fit under this descriptive umbrella. Because natural wines are handled with a relatively light touch, they often clearly express the landscapes and seasons that formed them.
Finding Biodynamic Wines
There aren’t many certified biodynamic wines in the world, and some wineries practice biodynamic principles but choose not to get certified due to the cost and time involved. To find your way to these worthy bottles—both certified and under the radar—start by asking your local wine-shop owner for suggestions and check out stores specializing in natural, organic and biodynamic wines. Then dive into the winery websites. Biodynamic winemakers tend to thoroughly describe how they nourish their land, so it won’t take long to spot them. Then start tasting. More often than not, you’ll find lively, complex, region-specific flavors that will more than reward your search.