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Demeter USA

March 20, 2012

Biodynamic agriculture views the farm as a holistic ecosystem, a closed system: self-contained and self-sustaining, following the cycles of nature.  Farmers recycle all organic material by putting it back into the soil through composting, revitalizing the land with the same nutrients expended through farming.  One handful of well-made compost contains millions of microscopic organisms, providing a gourmet dish for plants and vines.

Animals are as important as plants.  A flock of sheep will be used to mow down cover crops in the winter, thereby reducing the need for artificial herbicides.  The sheep also reduce soil compaction by gently tilling the soil as they move through the vineyard.

Natural systems function best when there is a diversity of compatible living organisms and  plants.  The Biodynamic methodology creates a stable network of mutually beneficial relationships through a wide array of plants and animals, thereby creating a balanced predator/prey relationship.  For example insectaries – gardens created to attract beneficial insects that prey on the bad bugs – are planted so that nature can do the work of artificial pesticides.  Biodynamic farms are required to maintain at least 10% of total acreage as a biodiversity set-aside.  Riparian corridors, redwood groves, oak stands: all are considered an integral part of the life of the farm.

Biodynamic farming is holistic land stewardship at its best.  Like organic farming, it requires the elimination of all chemicals.  But Biodynamic farming is about more than reducing a farm’s environmental impact.  In fact, Biodynamic farming is the only form of agriculture that revitalizes the land while, at the same time, encouraging higher quality, more flavorful harvests.

As wonderful as all this sounds you may ask: What does any of this have to do with making great wine?  The simple answer is that by collaborating with nature, the Biodynamic winegrower creates a healthy, balanced environment in and around the vineyard – one in which the soil is increasingly revitalized, the grapevines develop roots that are deep and broad, and the uniqueness of the estate is intensified.  This, many believe, is the secret to “terroir.”  Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm has said terroir “is the quality found in some wines that transcends the winemaker’s personal style or aesthetic and somehow captures and renders transparent the distinctiveness and individuality, the unique fingerprint of a particular vineyard site.”

Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson has this to say about Biodynamic wines: “Many of my respected winemaking friends say that, while the benefits to the land of Biodynamic agriculture are a major positive, they are equally motivated by its impact on the wines’ quality.  Having tasted these wines over many years, I agree that converting to Biodynamic methods has been better for the environment and produces better-than-ever wines.”

Demeter US is the non-profit certifier of Biodynamic® wines and vineyards.  Demeter, a non-profit established in the US in 1985, owns the certification mark BIODYNAMIC® to protect the Farm Standard and to ensure a marketplace definition for the benefit of consumers and trade.  The term “Biodynamic” refers to an entire farming system. The entire farm, or vineyard, must be certified, not just a portion of land within the farm.  Farms are inspected annually to ensure that the Standard is being met.

Demeter is experiencing a groundswell of interest in the winery and grape growing community, and our winery membership has grown to over 75, with an average yearly growth of almost twenty percent.  The United States now has more certified wineries and vineyards than any other country in the world except France.

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