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Dec 4, 2011 05:22 PM

Natural vs. Organic vs. Biodynamic

(Note: this discussion of the meanings of these terms was split from the LA board at: -- The Chowhound Team)

Natural is not a term with any specific meaning. Organic and biodynamic are very specific terms. You can find lots of wine made in California that is organic and biodynamic (even vegan wine and vegetarian wine).

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  1. Well, organic is not exactly a fixed term either. Wine can be made with organically grown grapes, but still have additives like mega-purple, acid, all sorts of commercial non-organic yeasts, and who knows what else in the cellar.

    True organic wine is made from organically grown grapes but also must have zero sulfites added in the cellar and at bottling (labels will still say that the wine contains sulfites since they naturally occur in the vineyard). There are very few truly organic wines made in California, and even Coturri who has farmed organically for decades and adds no sulfites at bottling never puts "organic" on his labels as he sees most consumers are resistant to the term when it comes to wine, even if they like their lettuce and such that way. So, yes, there are organic California wines, even if it's difficult to discern sometimes which ones are or aren't. Nobody was denying their existence.

    But there is also a "Natural Wine" movement -- and while it is highly controversial and disputed, there are very specific wines that fall in this category, such as the ones mns1172 originally asked about.

    1. Not for nothin', but I'm surprised more people aren't aware of the REAL meaning of the term "biodynamic", and that there hasn't been more discussion of the practices that are required to use this term. Quite contrary to "natural" or "organic", the term biodynamic has very specific meanings and requirements, most of which are of quite a surprising nature.

      There are many great biodynamic wines, as well as many great natural and organic wines. However, in blinded taste tests, even wine experts are consistently foiled in being able to distinguish between wines in these categories and those of a similar style that are not produced under those specific practices. There's nothing wrong with believing in the benefits of careful farming, but a little deeper reading into the actual meaning of the term biodynamic would be eye-opening for many, to say the least.

      And while many wines in all of these categories may be very good due to their minimal manipulation in production, the careful farming and cultivation, and the general attention to detail used by their practitioners, I'm also surprised not to see a greater discussion here on whether or not any actual benefit (other than belief) is actually conferred by the specific techniques of biodynamics.

      4 Replies
      1. re: YourDirtyMind1

        The "biodynamic" regimen includes some practices that are truly of a surprising nature, like the cowhorn full of manure buried at midnight under a full moon and unearthed after a fortnight (or similar, been a long time since it was explained to me).

        The practices of the apostate Jeavons make a lot more sense, being lighter on the metapnysical.

        1. re: Akitist

          'Zackly. You're right about the horn full of poop, and that's just one of several tinctures, spells and other ridiculousnesses relating to "energy" that is 100% required for biodynamic compliance. The fact that they also participate in good farming practices is almost coincidental. Unfortunately, most people who haven't really given biodynamics a full look-over think it's just another (higher) level of organic farming practice, which is a total mischaracterization. It's basically a bizarre combo of magic and spiritualism/religion overlaid onto some common sense farming procedures. The more you know...

        2. re: YourDirtyMind1

          And, just because a wine is Bio-d or organically grown, doesn't mean that it's not manipulated in the cellar.