There are roughly four ways to farm wine of any kind of food crop. The most common (90% of all wine) is conventional wine-growing. This makes use of man-made or so-called “synthetic chemical” treatments: pesticides and fungicides to deal with the bugs that can destroy vines, herbicides to control weeds, water-soluble chemical fertilizers to boost grape yields, and so on.
Sustainable wine-growing or Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an increasingly popular form of light-touch conventional wine-growing. So for example rather than spraying the whole vineyard with a pesticide, checks are made and only those few vine rows likely to be attacked by the pest are sprayed instead. This saves money, and reduces enviromental waste but without necessarily eliminating the synthetic sprays altogether.
Organic wine-growing goes one step further than sustainable by eliminating the man-made pesticides, weedkillers and fertilizers altogether. To claim organic status, farmers submit to independent checks called organic certification. Organic vineyards tend to use more manual (rather than mechanised) labour and produce 5-20% less grapes than conventional ones. This increases the costs of a bottle but organic growers say it is worth it. With lower yields the vines are healthier, less prone to disease, the wines are less likely to contain undesirable residues and the wines have more flavour and age in bottle better. Around 1 in 20 vineyards worldwide is now officially organic, but numbers are rising rapidly especially in France (Alsace, Burgundy, Languedoc, Provence, Roussillon), Oregon, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and California. Pretty much everywhere on Planet Wine in fact.
Biodynamics is like organics - all biodynamic vineyards must comply with the international rules laid down for organics - but biodynamic growers must do three extra things compared to their organic counterparts. They must aim for self-sufficiency, try to work to celestial cycles, and use six biodynamic preparations in their compost piles and the three biodynamic sprays on their crops.
Wine, food, cloth and other farm-derived products wanting to be officially considered Biodynamic are certified by an international, non-profit body called Demeter. The name refers to the Greek goddess of the fruits of the earth.
In France there is wine-grower only biodynamic group called the Syndicat International des Vignerons en Biodinamie (www.biodyvin.com). Its logo is ‘Biodyvin’.
In Australia, vineyards and farms can be certified biodynamic by either Demeter Australia or by government-appointed agencies.