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Parkville, Missouri 64152
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Secrets of "Organic" Wines - Part I

 

Organic Wines at Wines by JenniferAt Wines by Jennifer, we’ve seen an increased interest in “organic” wines, but there is much more to this subject than meets the eye, so let’s spend a few minutes in Part I of this two-part series learning about the various vineyard practices in use today.

Viticulture (taken from the Latin word for vine) means the cultivation of grapes, and when the grapes are used for winemaking, it is better known as viniculture. Viti/viniculture is but one branch of the broader science of horticulture.

There are four categories of vineyard practice available to a viticulturalist. Listed from the most human intervention to the least, they are:

• Conventional Vineyard
• Sustainable Vineyard
• Organic Vineyard
• Biodynamic Vineyard

In order to be certified beyond the Conventional Vineyard category, a vineyard will be subjected to strict production standards, on-site inspections, and legally binding contracts to protect the producers and buyers of the end-product. Of course, with this certification process comes increased cost, so expect to pay more for wines that are certified sustainable, organic, or biodynamic.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each category:

Conventional Vineyard

Like other conventional agriculture, the Conventional Vineyard is human-centric and seeks to control nature to the fullest extent possible to benefit man. The soil is seen as an inert growing medium; i.e., nutrients are provided to the plant, not the soil.

Both pre-emergent and contact use of synthetic chemicals is approved to control weeds and disease. Irrigation and the use of synthetic fertilizers are common, and tractor use in the fields is utilized whenever necessary.

Sustainable Vineyard

The Sustainable Vineyard is ecosystem-centered and part of the larger concept of sustainability. It seeks to preserve the natural resources of the earth and create an economy and society that is sustainable over time, allowing future generations the same opportunities to farm that are enjoyed today.

The Sustainable Vineyard sees the soil as a living organism to be fed and enriched so that it can feed the plant. Only contact herbicides are allowed for weed control, and chemical use is limited for disease control.

Synthetic fertilizers are freely allowed, while irrigation is allowed but regulated.

Tractors are used as little as possible, with bio-diesel tractor use preferred.

Organic Vineyard

With the advent of USDA National Organic Standards, “organic” has become a legal term. Certification is a rigorous process taking a full three years.

The Organic Vineyard is ecosystem-centered, and views the soil as a living organism to be fed and enriched with organic compost and cover crops.

No chemicals are allowed for weed control. Only certified-organic products are allowed for disease control and fertilization.

Irrigation and tractor use is allowed as necessary.

Biodynamic Vineyard

The Biodynamic Vineyard takes organic to another level. It is cosmos-centered; i.e., the farm is managed as a living organism in complete harmony with the energy and life-force of the sun, moon, and planets.

The soil is viewed as the underground part of the universe with its own life and cosmic force, to be built through the use of compost and biodynamic sprays.

No chemicals are allowed for weed control. Disease control is accomplished only through the use of biodynamically-prepared organic materials.

Fertilization is limited to the use of biodynamically-prepared organic products. Both irrigation and tractor use are discouraged, with horse-drawn equipment as the preferred alternative to tractor use.

It’s important to understand that vineyard practices are just one piece of the equation affecting a wine’s organic status. Stay tuned for Part II of this series, when we’ll go beyond the vineyard and explore organics from the winemaker’s perspective.

In the meantime, Wines by Jennifer will be featuring “Organic Wines to Celebrate Earth Day” on our Tasting Room table every April, so stop in and taste some of the best organic wines available today. We’ll be happy to help you pick out the “organic” wine that’s right for you then or anytime.

Jennifer Stanton is the proprietor of Wines by Jennifer in Parkville, MO.

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