In a world today with so many options for wine, from all over the world, how do we truly trust the contents?

Regulations allotted for wine producing are different in every country, and labeling doesn’t require that a customer receives all the information about the integrity of sourcing. Thus, there are multiple ways to confirm you are choosing a bottle with a sustainable background and something that you can feel content about consuming.

There are three umbrella terms to look for in choosing wine, and we will go into detail on what each of those mean:

  • Organic
  • Sustainable
  • Biodynamic

What are we looking for when selecting each unique bottle?

We want to know that the wine was produced with sustainable methods, which may include some of the following aspects: chemical-free pesticide use on vineyards, respect and nurturing of the surrounding ecosystem (wildlife, other plants, water environments, etc.), careful harvesting and sorting methods (so as to not ferment branches, leaves, and debris with the grapes), minimal carbon footprint (transporting grapes to be used in production can lack sustainability), conservative & considerate winemaking methods (no additives, minimal waste), and thoughtful bottling methods (considering corks, labeling, and storing).

Organic: In most regions, this can be the most expensive certification. Wine can be called “organic” or “made with organic grapes”. The difference is for wine to be considered fully organic, the vineyard and the winery need to be certified. The vineyard must not use synthetic fertilizers, must farm in a way that protects the environment and preserves the soil. The yeast and any other agricultural ingredients (other fruit) used in winemaking must be certified organic, sulfites (besides those naturally occurring) must not be added, and non-agricultural ingredients must be from an approved list.

“Made with organic grapes” only requires that the grapes themselves are certified organic. Organic wine is made everywhere, but to be sold in the U.S., they must meet these standards.

Biodynamic: Biodynamic practices are about viewing the farm as one solid organism. With this mindset, each aspect is taken care of as if it were a part of the body; the animals, insects, surrounding plants, water systems, and atmosphere. The key here is minimal intervention, no chemicals, no manufactured additives, and natural composting preparations. Farmers also follow the biodynamic calendar which directs specific days for pruning, harvesting, watering, and resting  - optimizing the health and efficiency of the vineyard.

Biodynamic soils have been tested against non-organic soils and they showed greater disease suppression, a decrease in compaction and added organic material.

Sustainably-produced wine can include many of the aspects listed above, but can also expand to a broader scale to include practices for: energy and water conservation, waste management, recycling, fair wages, worker well-being and social responsibility. Some wines will have sustainable certification logos, but many won’t. This is the part where we involve small farms, small vineyards and wineries that practice sustainability, but simply do not have the finances to pay for a certification. By having a personal relationship with wine producers, we can gauge their dedication to sustainability in the wine industry. We all want to know that the wine we are consuming is not produced in a way that is hurting our environment and in turn, hurting ourselves. If you love wine, you will want it’s gifts to be available for generations in the future!