A good friend of mine is heavily into organic food and drink and is constantly talking to me about it. Inspired by a recent conversation with her combined with a recent trip to see The Corporation and all the attendant guilt associated with supporting large corporate interests in just about everything we consume, I thought I might dig up some information about organic wine and see what was in the offing.
I've had some organic wines before, which range from the lousy (shall remain nameless) to the pretty good (Yorkville Vineyards). I was surprised to find that a few large producers like Niebaum-Coppola actually produce a large number of organic or partially organic wines.
Organic is cool, but then there's biodynamic, which when I heard about it recently seems more like witchcraft than a legit farming method -- as if a bunch of high(ly) new age spiritualist vegans got together and came up with a set of practices that would ensure their vineyards would always have the right aura. According to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association of America: "Biodynamics is a method of agriculture which seeks to actively work with the health-giving forces of nature." Sounds kooky right? Well it turns out that this isn't just some small movement, but some serious, big time wineries are starting to go biodynamic, including Benziger which is in the 3 year process of transitioning to a Certified Biodynamic system, and Fetzer, which established several biodynamic vineyards in 2001. Several of France's largest producers have been using biodynamic techniques for decades.
Regardless of whether they are organic or biodynamic or simply adhere to a few tenets of either, an increasing number of winemakers are moving towards these ways of cultivation, not because of a serious commitment to the environment, surprisingly, but because they think it simply makes the grapes taste better.
ORGANIC AND BIODYNAMIC WINE RESOURCES:
Here's a listing compiled by the Bay Area Town Hall Coalition of organic wineries in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino.
This list has been updated in PDF form and can be downloaded here.
A 1998 Wine Spectator Article, entitled Grape Growing by the Stars.
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