THE SOMM JOURNAL
Sustainable, organic, and biodynamic, known and discussed by the trade now as SOB, are three tiers of natural wine production. The health of the land, the plants, the animal and human community in and around the land, and the end-users are all taken into consideration.
Sustainable farming takes a serious look at reducing the carbon footprint so reductions in water use, power use, and more come into play. Restricting the speed of cars driving through the vineyards at Marimar Torres Winery in the
Russian River Valley, or banning them altogether and using golf carts at Dominus in are two small steps in sustainable farming. Napa Valley
Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing was
California’s first 3rd party sustainable category certification. The Wine Institute along with the California Association of Wine Grape Growers created the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CCSW-Certified) to “to enhance transparency, encourage statewide participation and advance the entire California wine industry toward best practices in environmental stewardship, conservation of natural resources and socially equitable business practices.” SIP, or Sustainability in Practice, was established in 2008 and is another 3rd party certification group popular with many wineries in the state. Benziger Winery went so far as to create its own sustainable certification. Chris Benziger states, “We created our own sustainability code so that we could ensure that all grapes used to make any of our wines met our standards of sustainable winegrowing. We wanted to be able to quickly assess each vineyard at the same level. We still third-party certify our estate vineyards using CCOF or Demeter Biodynamic certifications, and many of our growers choose to certify themselves with a third-party such as CCSW. Our “Farming for Flavors” program is often in addition to these.”
Organic wine, as defined in California, is made first from grapes grown without herbicides, pesticides or chemical soil amendments in the grape growing phase, and second, without the addition of sulfur dioxide solutions or sulfur salts (sulfites) in the wine making phase. California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) is the certifying body.
Biodynamic farming is natural farming at an extreme, taking into consideration phases of the moon and burying cow manure in cow horns to bring life and energy back to the soil, and then to the plant. According the the Milwaukee-based Biodynamic Association, “Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose philosophy is called “anthroposophy.” Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.”