Organic and biodynamic: What’s the difference?

Organic and biodynamic… We often hear these terms thrown around in winespeak. What do they really mean?

Organic grape growing means that the grape grower uses no chemicals in the vineyards. That means no pesticides, no herbicides, and no chemically based fertilizers.

Organic grape growers do use vaporized copper and vaporized sulfur to spray their vineyards in order to protect them from rot and mildew. But those are naturally occurring substances that, when used in moderation, do not hurt the environment or the grapes and plants themselves.

Biodynamic farming, which is based on the teachings of the early twentieth-century philosopher and social reformer Rudolf Steiner, takes organic farming a step further.

According to accepted and widely used biodynamic practices, nitrogen levels are raised in the soil and the soil is made more “healthy” with more biodiversity by “treating” the soil with a variety of “preparations,” as they are known. The most famous of these is cow manure that is composted in a cow horn that has been buried in the ground.

Biodynamics also incorporates the lunar calendar into its application — the wisdom of the ancients, who, for example, harvested “by the harvest moon.” It also incorporates a spiritual element and Steiner’s writings speak openly about Jesus Christ and Christianity as expressions of a will to make the earth whole again and bring life back to the soil.

Bele Casel is a certified organic farmer. But it also incorporates a lot of elements of biodynamic farming into its farming practices, like composted manure as fertilizer and cover crops (grasses and legumes that are allowed to grow between the rows, like in the photo above) that help create more biodiversity in the soil.

One of the things that makes Luca and Paola Ferraro and their parents the most proud is when they find birds, snakes, and other animals living in between the rows of grape vines. Some people would consider them a nuisance or even a threat to the plants. But to Luca and Paola and their parents, their presence means healthy, chemical-free soil. And they are confident that the quality of the wines is increased by the balance and biodiversity that they maintain in their vineyards.

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