Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wine Practices

Date January 5, 2009

Learn About Green Viticulture

Perhaps you have noticed that everyone and everything is going green. And it’s happening at the speed of commercials. We are being beaten into submission by ideas of renewable energy and sustainable crops, by hybrid cars and recycled toilet paper. By the way, recycled is not a word I want to come to mind when I think of my toilet paper. There are products that are environmentally friendly, eco-safe, natural, green and the biggest In-Your-Face of them all - Organic. And while I admit to having succumbed to the onslaught of green hype out there, I am wary of being greenwashed by opportunists who use the green movement to make a buck. Mainly because green products are so damn expensive. Otherwise I wouldn’t care. Much.

But there are certainly practices that are assured of what they claim and for which I am willing to pay the extra buck or two. One in particular is in the increased “greening” of viticultural practices. More and more winegrowers are searching for ways to liberate themselves from chemical treatments to eliminate pests from their vineyards.

Not only are the chemical treatments expensive and time consuming, but the options for going green in the vineyard can boost agriculture, build soil compounds, and reduce groundwater pollution in and around the vineyard. The practices generating the biggest buzz today are:

  • Organic Viticulture
  • Biodynamic Viticulture
  • Sustainable Viticulture
  • Integrated Pest Management

Let’s learn about these green viticultural practices.

Organic Viticulture

You can think of organic viticulture as a return to “old-fashioned agriculture,” where no synthetic products like herbicides, pesticides, fumigants or chemical fertilizers are used. Organic viticulture was legally defined in 1981 by the French to:

  • Build the health of the soil through increased microbial activity by adding compost and manure to the vineyard
  • Reduce groundwater pollution by eliminating all agrochemicals
  • Eliminate pesticide residue on grapes and in wine
  • Encouraging Biodiversity by changing a one-crop farm into a multi-crop system.

However, organic viticulture does not mean that winegrowers dismiss all forms of chemical treatment, just the synthetic chemicals. Elements like copper and sulfur are still applied to combat fungal issues, but with limited use as these “natural” fungicides can eventually become toxic to the soil.

Biodynamic Viticulture

An Austrian by the name of Rudolf Steiner developed Biodynamic Viticulture in 1929 as part of a much larger philosophy of living a harmonious life.

His was a sort of existentialist philosophy in that he believed the planet was an ecosystem where every action had repercussions that affected everything within the entire ecosystem. The whole butterfly flaps it’s wings and causes a tsunami on the other side of the globe thing. Thus, biodynamics considers the alignment of the planets and the phases of the moon as factors when deciding what work will be done in the vineyard and in the winery.

As with organic viticulture, the use of agrochemicals is not allowed, yet applications of inorganic copper and sulfur are permitted along with a number of specially created biodynamic vine sprays and soil treatments.

Sustainable Viticulture

This form of viticulture uses agrochemicals, but uses them as judiciously as possible. Usually the environment precludes the use of organic or biodynamic viticulture due to extensive disease or insect populations. Sustainable practices are scrutinized for their long term impact of the vineyard. Integrated Pest Management is often employed in these cases.

Integrated Pest Management

IPM balances the complex interaction of insect populations, their lifecycles, predators and hosts by introducing natural or limited synthetic treatments to eliminate them from the vineyard. In short, you get the “good bugs” to eat the “bad bugs”. By planting specific cover crops in the area surrounding the vineyard, the “good bugs” are lured in where they then eat the insects harmful to the vineyard.

When synthetic treatments are called into use, it becomes a practice much like Sustainable Viticulture where treatment is localized for the specific issue to protect the beneficial insect populations.

How green viticulture differs from conventional viticultural practices is that conventional means strip the soil of essential minerals which necessitates the increased use of chemical fertilizers to replace the lost minerals. You can summarize from that the effect on the vineyard over time. Greening preserves the vineyard, imparts vitality to the soil and is ecologically a sound practice overall. If you have any questions about green viticulture, just leave me a comment below.


Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google
  • Propeller
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis

Leave a Reply