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Organic vs Biodynamic vs Sustainable vs WTF?!

Organic vs Biodynamic vs Sustainable vs WTF?!

By Lisa Mesa on Mar 31, 2024 in Season's
Organic vs Biodynamic vs Sustainable vs WTF?!

Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, SIP Certified, and Natural.  There are actually many more words I could list but these are the major players.  You have seen them on labels, heard them in commercials but have no idea what they are supposed to mean to you, if anything.

At The Good Life, we find ourselves using these words with more and more frequency and almost always get asked, "what does that mean?".

Honestly, it's a deep dive and can be a controversial topic but we want to make it as easy to understand as possible so that YOU understand what we mean and can decide for yourself whether or not these words are important to you when making beer and wine choices.

Organic Wine

Before a wine can be sold as organic, both the growing of the grapes and their conversion to wine must be certified.  This means without the use of synthetic fertilizers and the other ingredients (yeast, finishing agents, etc.) must be certified organic.  Prohibited ingredients cannot be added including GMO's and sulfer dioxide (sulfites) (though sulfites naturally occur in all wine).  Sulfites are commonly added to stop fermentation and perserve flavor.  Because of this, Organic wine has a shorter shelf life and should be stored at or below proper cellar temp.

Organic Grapes

When a wine is sold as "made with organic grapes" (or you hear us say the vineyard is farmed certified organic) this means that 100% of the grapes used must be certified organic.  The yeast doesnt need to be organic but GMO's are still not allowed.  For these wines, sulfites can be added but only up to 100 parts per million.  This wine will NOT carry the USDA Organic seal so you will need to read the label or be familiar with the vineyard/s the winemaker is using.

SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice)

The SIP program assesses the environmental, social and community health of vineyards and wineries.  Winegrowers are independently audited by a third party and rated with a points system.  A winery or vineyard needs to receive at least 75% of the attainable points.  All wineries in this program elect to join and be audited.


Biodynamic farming is a holistic approach to farming first laid out by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920's and looks at the whole ecosystem of the farm employing organic practices and natural alternatives for eliminating waste and promoting a healthy ecosystem.  No synthetic pesticides or nonorganic chemicals are used; uses compost teas and natural preparations to enrich soil and promote microorganisms, uses insectary plants (plants that attract insects) to control pests; and planting, sowing, pruning and harvesting are determined by the phases of the moon (think Farmers Almanac).  The term is regulated in labeling and can apply to the vineyard and the wine by organizations like Demeter and Biodyvin.

Natural/Low Intervention

This is the most difficult to define but it's the one that we hear thrown around the most in marketing from big brands.  It's a wine made with out chemical intervention at any point in the process, from growing to bottling and with as little manipulation of the wines as possible. Sulfer is allowed but in very small amounts.  This term is COMPLETELY UNREGULATED and it's meaning, definition, terms, standards can (and are) hotly debated.

I know that you see the word "WINE" through out this article and that's only because the wine world has done the most research and released the most data to date.  Beer is agriculture.  Water, hops, barley and yeast are the main ingredients in beer and chemicals, pesticides and herbicides are found in everyone of these ingredients and yes, some survive the brewing process and are in your beer. 

If what you consume is important to you, and it should be, read the labels, do your research and purchase wines and beer made without chemicals whenever possible.  Seek out and support organic, biodynamic and SIP certified producers.  They only cost a fraction more than the others, they are better for the planet and they are better for us.

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