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Allegretto Vineyards
February 7, 2019 | Allegretto Vineyards News | Allegretto Vineyards

The basics of biodynamic vineyard practices

 award winning estate wines in Paso Robles

As more vineyards are turning to biodynamic vineyard practices and biodynamic wine is gaining public attention, more people are asking questions.

Is biodynamic wine the same thing as organic wine?
What makes a vineyard “biodynamic?”
Is there a biodynamic certification?

The staff at the Allegretto Vineyards Tasting room, the home of award winning Paso Robles estate wines, has the answers to these questions. 

Biodynamic vineyard practices are based in biodynamic farming or gardening practices that were developed by Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner. Somewhat similar to organic farming, two things distinguish biodynamic farming from organic farming:

The use of a complex system of herbal sprays and composting techniques, known as 'preparations'.
The timing of the operations on the land, which are strictly regulated by the movements of the moon and planets, which make up the biodynamic calendar.

Is biodynamic wine the same thing as organic wine?

Both are similar in the sense that biodynamic and organic are based in practices that don’t use chemicals. The biodynamic principles take a few more steps than organic. Biodynamic farming includes the influences of the lunar calendar and astrology. Biodynamic farming principles consider the farm, or vineyard, and everything on it—other plants, insects, animals—to be part of a living organism. Biodynamic wine is one of the end products of these practices. The end result is wine—fine wine for all to enjoy.

What makes a vineyard “biodynamic?”

According to the Biodynamic Association, “Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition.”

Biodynamic farming, including vineyard management that results in biodynamic wine, is a set of farming practices that view the farm as a single organism. Each portion of the farm functions as a whole with each portion contributing to the next. The idea is that the practices create a self-sustaining system sustained by natural materials, composts, and soil. Animals such as ducks, chickens, horses, sheep live on the land, fertilize the soil, and create a rich fertile environment.

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are forbidden for the sake of soil fertility.
Biodynamic farming also seeks sustainability, or leaving the land in as good or better shape as they found it for future generations.

Farming practices, from soil preparation to harvesting, are controlled by the biodynamic calendar, which is influenced by the lunar calendar and the planets. Days on the calendar have specific tasks that are associated with the Earth’s four classic elements, earth or soil, air, fire, and water. Certain tasks, such as watering and harvesting, take place on certain days.


One of the foundations of biodynamic farming is preparing the land. This preparation involves special composting and field preparations. Even though crops may already be growing, these preparations can still be implemented to begin the biodynamic cycle.

The initial composting is know as the “cow horn” preparation. Specific composting compounds are prepared which include cow manure, herbs, and other plants. These compounds are placed inside of cow horns and buried in different locations on the land. Later, the cow horns are dug up and the contents spread on the land. The horn must be from a cow, not a bull or steer.

There are additional composting practices, using other composting compounds, that are practiced at different seasons.

This description of biodynamic farming and vineyard practices is very high level. One way to learn more of the interesting details is to visit the Allegretto Vineyard tasting room, enjoy some excellent Paso Robles award winning estate wine while discussing biodynamic vineyard practices with the tasting room staff.

Is there a biodynamic certification?

The Demeter Associaton, Inc. is the driving organization behind biodynamic certification for biodynamic farms and products in the USA Basically, the requirements for certification include meeting all of the certification requirements under the National Organic Program plus meeting the more extensive Demeter standards. These standards emphasize solutions for disease, pest and weed control, and specifications around water conservation and biodiversity.

In the case of vineyards and wine, grapes from a biodynamic certified vineyard are biodynamic grapes. But, the process to get to biodynamic certified wine the Demeter Wine Processing Standard must be met.

This standard has two labeling categories:  "Biodynamic® Wine” (the most rigorous category),  and "Made with Biodynamic® grapes.”
Both categories permit the use of a specified amount of sulfites, approved yeast nutrients, Bentonite for protein stabilization, and Biodynamic or organic egg whites for tannin fining.
Both prohibit the addition of outside aromatic yeast, malo-lactic bacteria, enzymes or tannins.
The “Made with Biodynamic® grapes” category also permits limited sugar and acidity adjustments and some variance allowing the addition of a neutral yeast strain in certain documented cases.

Never miss an opportunity to learn more

Wine, vineyards, winemaking processes, grapes, and harvesting are only a few of the conversations taking place at the Allegretto vineyard tasting room on any give day. Good conversation is part of the wine experience. Drop in for a unique tasting experience and good conversation.

The tasting room is located at 2700 Buena Vista Drive in Paso Robles. Hours are Sunday and Monday 1 - 7 p.m; Wed to Sat noon - 7 p.m. Tuesdays are by reservation only. Phone (805) 369-2526.



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