Demeter USA is the sole source of biodynamic certification in the U.S.
The nonprofit exists in 50 countries. According to the Demeter USA website, Demeter is " the oldest ecological certification organization in the world."
As a certifier, it sends inspectors to visit each property on an annual basis to make sure that standards are being enforced. Farmers are required to keep detailed records of the materials they use.
As a nonprofit, Demeter is different from the USDA, the federal government agency that oversees organic certification through dozens of licensed certifiers (including CCOF and others).
The USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) sets materials standards for organic farming and products, including wine. It has one standard for all crops.
It is the frequent target of food industry lobbyists who try to weaken its standards.
Demeter USA incorporates the USDA organic materials standards into its biodynamic materials standards but goes further, setting higher standards on materials as well as on processes.
Demeter is an independent entity run by a board of directors. In addition, Demeter USA is subject to review by Demeter-International.
All the estate wineries listed in this guide have met Demeter USA's biodynamic farming standard and have a certified biodynamic vineyard.
By definition, biodynamic growers must meet the organic requirements of the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP).
The biodynamic farming standard mandates that growers meet additional, regenerative agricultural requirements, as well as conserve 10 percent of their land for biodiversity.
It takes three years of farming according to the biodynamic standard to become certified biodynamic. (Certified organic vineyards can qualify to become biodynamic after meeting the biodynamic standard for one year.)
Some wineries go on to make a certified wine, while others do not.
Those who certify their wines can put the Demeter logo or biodynamic wording on the label.
Those who do not certify their wines cannot use the Demeter logo or call their wines biodynamic, as the word "biodynamic" belongs to Demeter under registered trademark law.
A certified wine is a wine that meets certain winemaking criteria.
There are two standards of Demeter certified wines.
• Biodynamic Wine
100 ppm sulfite cap | made in a certified winery | native yeast only | no additives
This is the highest wine standard for wine purity, requiring that sulfites be capped at 100 ppm. No additives (other than a limited amount of sulfites) are allowed.
• Made with Biodynamic Grapes
100 ppm sulfite cap | made in a certified winery | organic or native yeast | organic or biodynamic approved additives only
This standard follows the USDA's standards (as set forth by the National Organic Program) substituting biodynamic grapes for organic ones.
This standard is the closest one in the U.S to the EU's organic wine standard.
Do sulfites give consumers headaches? For a very small percentage of the population, the answer is yes.
Sulfites occur naturally in wine. Most winemakers find that they need to add some sulfites to the wine to preserve its flavors.
But for most people, what causes a reaction from drinking wine is additives or histamines in wine or not drinking enough water.
The sulfite limit in Demeter certified wines is 100 ppm. That is far less than the 350 ppm limit that federal standards require.
French fries, dried fruit and other common foods have more sulfites than red wine, so if someone is able to eat dried fruit without an allergic reaction, it is unlikely that sulfites in wine are the issue.
For people who want to know exactly what is in their wine and want to drink wine with the fewest additives, wine certified as "Biodynamic Wine" is a good place to start.
CERTIFIED NO ADDED SULFITE WINES
For people who want to know there are no added sulfites in their wines, some producers make wines that are certified both as USDA Organic Wine (a no added sulfites standard) and as Biodynamic Wine. Others are not adding sulfites.
USDA certified "Organic Wine" permits a limited number of organic additives that are not allowed in the Biodynamic Wine standard. Double certification (as a Biodynamic Wine) means those organic additives are not used in these bottles.
Consumers can compare the various organic and biodynamic wine standards in this handout:
• Overview: Organic and Biodynamic Wine Standards
The complete Demeter wine processing standard is available here:
• 5 Page Document: Demeter wine processing standard (.pdf)
Here's a summary of the "Biodynamic Wine" standard.
Note that it includes a requirement to recycle the byproducts of fermentation—pomace and seeds—and that corks should be recyclable.
This is what a truly regenerative agricultural wine standard looks like.
• Contains no enzymes, tannin, casein, silica dioxide, isinglass, blood, gelatin, gum arabic, carbon, copper sulfate, etc.
• No GMO yeast, no DAP
• No micro-oxygenation
• Pomace and seeds should be recycled as nutrients on the farm
• Corks must be easily recyclable
In the U.S., Demeter USA charges 0,5% (half a percent) in crop certification fees.
(Certification fees in Europe are higher.)
EXAMPLE: For a U.S. grower with grapes worth $50,000, certifying the grapes would cost $250 plus fees.
The fees include the annual renewal fee of $220 and annual inspection expenses of $800-$1,000 per year (including inspector travel).
So the total cost to certify the grapes would be around $1,270.
In the U.S., Demeter USA charges 0,6% (half a percent) for wine certification fees.
Certification enables to the producer to bottle label the wine with the Demeter logo and lets consumers know what's in the bottle.
EXAMPLE: For a U.S. grower who sold wine worth $1,000,000 in one calendar year, the additional fees would be $6,000 plus fees.
The fees include the annual processor renewal fee of $320 and annual inspection expenses.
Since the grapes have already been certified and inspection fees collected on the grapes, the wine certification costs would be around $6,320.
• 20 OUT OF 60 PRODUCERS ARE 100% BIODYNAMIC BRANDS
• 40 OUT OF 60 PRODUCERS ARE HYBRID PRODUCERS
1. 100% Biodynamic Brands
Some people like to shop by brand and know that everything under that brand name is biodynamic. The two lists here are for them.
• Number of brands that source only from biodynamic vineyards
Another important distinction for some is whether or not the winery makes certified wines.
• Number of 100% biodynamic brand producers who make only certified wines (subscribers only link)
• Number of 100% biodynamic brand producers who source only from their own biodynamic estate vineyards and do not make certified wines
• Number of producers who make at least one wine from biodynamic estate vines
The other 40 wineries (not on these two lists) choose to certify their own estate vineyards as biodynamic and then, in addition to that, buy grapes from other growers that go into their wines.
Not all of their wines come from biodynamic vines.
Some of their wines come solely from their biodynamic estate grapes. These are called estate wines.
Some make certified wines.
Many worthy producers cannot afford to own all the land they source from.
Those who do own enough land--i.e. "all estate" wineries—to financially support their winery typically are 100% biodynamic brands. Some—Johan, Keeler, and Maysara--are also growers who have plenty of grapes and sell a lot of their grapes to other wineries.
They keep a portion of their crop for their own labels.
Producers who are not 100% biodynamic in their brand make a lot of great wine from biodynamic vines. So, while it's tempting to try to simplify by shopping by brand, consumers looking for the widest selection should look at all 60 producers.
This is why this site gives consumers information on a wine by wine basis, not just by brand.
While Demeter's BiodynamicFood.org website lists all the farms (and vineyards) that Demeter USA certifies in the US., it does not tell consumers which products from that farm are from biodynamic crops. And two thirds of the wineries on the Biodynamic Foods website source from outside of their own estates. Because uncertified estate wines cannot be labeled, this leads to even more confusion.
Assuming a brand is all biodynamic is a mistake that wine shops and internet wine lists often make.
Part of the reason this web site exists is to provide accurate information on a wine by wine basis.
A winery may have a biodynamic vineyard, but may choose not to certify its wines because it is not interested in the Demeter wine standards or because it does not want to pay additional certification fees.
On this site, if a winery is making an estate wine, legally it must be 95-100% sourced from the winery's estate. If that estate is biodynamic, these estate wines are listed on this site.
In the world of organic certification, these wines could be labeled "Ingredients: Organic Grapes." Under that standard, only the grapes (not the wine) are certified.
But under biodynamic certification, Demeter does not offer an equivalent standard, because it wants to maintain stricter limits on purity.
Only producers making Demeter certified wines can use the Demeter logo on the bottle.