Q: What is the difference between organic and biodynamic wines? -- Phil Tavani, Tuxedo Park, N.Y.
A: In an in-depth report on environmentally friendly practices in the wine industry, senior editor Dana Nigro wrote that while organic and biodynamic agriculture may share many similar practices, they differ in their overall philosophies. One point to keep in mind: The term "organic" is regulated by the U.S. government, but "biodynamic" has no legal definition. Here are some basic grapegrowing and winemaking guidelines, excerpted from the article "A Guide to Decoding Environmentally Friendly Labels":
Organic: "Organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, as well as chemical- or sewage sludge-based fertilizers on or around crops. Wineries can earn organic certification if they use only approved processing aids (including nutrients for the yeast and aids for the fining, filtering and stabilization) and ensure that inorganic substances don't come into contact with organic grapes and additives."
Biodynamic: "This holistic approach, founded in the 1920s by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, looks at the wine estate as a self-sustaining, self-regulating ecosystem. All organic waste must be recycled into the nutrient stream so that the farm's needs can be met from within. A diverse population of predator and prey animals, birds and insects must be encouraged to maintain balance in the ecosystem. Diluted treatments and composts made from herbs, minerals and manures are applied to the vineyard to promote crop fertility and control pests."
Online subscribers can read more about organic and biodynamic wines, and learn how to decipher the labels for those wines here.
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