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Organic, Biodynamic and Vegan
Did you know that organic wines are subject to strict regulations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture? Wine that is 100% organic bears the “USDA organic” seal, and uses only organically grown grapes.
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In recent years more organic, biodynamic and vegan wines have begun to appear on store shelves. While most labels can be trusted, it is important to note that the term “vegan” on labels is not legally defined in the United States. Traditional winemaking methods often employ the use of animal byproducts. Fertilizer is used in the vineyard, and gelatin is a common fining agent. A wine labeled as “organic” or “biodynamic” will not necessarily be vegan, so be sure to do a little research before shopping for vegan wines.

Organic
Organic wines are subject to strict regulations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For a wine to be labeled “100% organic” and bear the USDA organic seal, it must be made from 100% organically produced ingredients (in other words, the grapes must be grown organically), have an ingredient statement on the label, and identify the certifying agency. A wine in this category can have naturally occurring sulfites but no added sulfites, and the total sulfite level must be less than 100 parts per million.

To be labeled “organic” and bear the USDA organic seal, the wine must be made from at least 95% organic ingredients and naturally occurring sulfites below 100 parts per million. The nonorganic 5% must either be a nonorganically produced agricultural ingredient that is not available in organic form, or another substance like added yeast.

Biodynamic
Biodynamic farming is an approach based on the esoteric teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The light of the sun, moon, planets and stars reaches the plants in regular rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth and form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm, practitioners can time their ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting to the advantage of the crops they are raising.

Today, biodynamic farmers treat the farm or vineyard as a self-sustaining ecosystem. They use natural predators instead of pesticides, save seeds, use compost for fertilizer and grow crops that are appropriate for the local environment. In winemaking, this means that winemakers must study the soil, and carefully decide which varietals will best express the vineyards’ characteristics. Biodynamic wines are most frequently certified by the Demeter organization.

Vegan
To be classified as vegan, a wine must be produced with no animal by-products, including fertilizers.