Organic, Biodynamic, Sustainable: Does It Matter on a Wine Bottle?

Organic, Biodynamic, Sustainable: Does It Matter on a Wine Bottle?

This whole organic thing has taken on a life of its own.


It should be very simple -- are you saving the Earth or not?


As far as winemakers go, the answer is probably some version of “Absolutely!”


Remember, winemakers are farmers first so they’ve been working with Mother Earth from the moment they picked up the shovel.


But just because there isn’t a fancy stamp on a wine label doesn’t mean they don’t respect our planet. Antinori, one of the most famous Italian wine houses, has been practicing sustainability for over six centuries. “Sustainability, for us, is not a strategy or program for the future but rather, since time immemorial, an integral part of our culture,” says Marchese Piero Antinori, president of Marchese Antinori and family patriarch.


(Makes you feel a little better about spending $100 on that bottle of Tignanello, now doesn’t it?)


Guys like Piero don’t need to brag about it though – they just do it.


Still, there are lots of different eco-friendly terms showing up on wine labels these days so here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you decipher it all.




Organic wine must be made from organically grown grapes. To be organic, the farming process must utilize renewable resources and conserve soil and water.


In addition, no sulfites, a type of preservative, can be added to the wine.


Sulfites typically are added during the production process to keep it fresh. Wines without sulfites often have a much shorter shelf life – and basically have to be drunk in about six months -- or the wine may go bad.


(Sulfites are not bad for you – unless you have a sensitivity to them. And no, sulfites don’t cause your headaches, its most likely the tannins and/or sugar in the wine or the fact that you drank the whole bottle -- but that’s fodder for another column.)


Organic is the only term that the government has its sticky fingers in. So much like your organic bananas, your wine bottle will have a seal from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) if it is truly 100% organic.




Being biodynamic is more of a belief system than a particular method. Its actually based on the findings of Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who at the beginning of the 1900s, believed that the crops and livestock should all be considered in the farming decisions. He made biodiversity cool, way before Leonardo di Caprio did.




Here’s how you remember what this means: “If you can’t sustain the business, you can skip it.” So if installing solar panels all around the vineyard will force the winery to shut its doors, they can opt to skip that.


So sustainable vineyards do as much good as they can for the environment while still paying the bills.


But we should all strive to save our planet – whether we put it on a label or not.

Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip. 

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