To certify or not to certify. This has become an increasingly hot topic of discussion in the wine industry. Especially as this wine niche has continued it's strong growth cycle.
Consumers care about not only what they put into their bodies, but just importantly, they care about how the surrounding earth and waterways as well.
I have always had a healthy anti-authoritarian streak and have therefore been sympathetic to winemakers who have chosen not to certify. I enjoy many of their wines and I trust that they are making them without chemicals, even without a piece of paper to prove it.
However, I do understand the need for proof and certainty that a product is truly what it claims to be.
I asked a few wine industry leaders for their view on this thorny subject:
Alice Feiring, well known wine writer
Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker at Bonny Doon Vinyards (and recent published author as well)
Joseph Kaulbach, head buyer for N California Wholefoods
Alice Feiring said, "Slippery.
The anarchist in me says no. The public advocate in me says yes. At least it gives the consumer some direction."
Randall Grahm had this to say, "I am utterly torn on the subject. The deepest, most soulful, Nietzschean part of me resists the whole idea of certification with every ounce of his being. Certainly the certification practice can only address the most superficial aspects of one's practice and largely speaks to the things that one hasn't done (pesticides, exogenous, synthetic materials, additives, etc.) than to what one positively has done. Those who publicly parade their virtue seem to me to be nothing more than Pharisees, money-lenders in the Temple. (Note that we at Bonny Doon do this as well.)
And yet. There are certainly any number of people who would happily assert their "green," organic or even "biodynamic" credentials in the absence of any real practice that supported these characterizations in any way. For that reason, some form of certification seems useful, at least on some level, at least to exclude the most obvious charlatans from insupportable claims. The downside of certification is that it can be relatively expensive, especially for very small growers. Going through the certification process as a cynical marketing ploy is not, as it turns out, a particularly useful strategy. The customer is still not quite ready to pay the premium required for this level of diligence. And, as I have said more than once, being certified, either biodynamic or organic is not in itself a guarantor of positive qualities; if the practice is done right, it is a very good thing for the planet (and for the practitioner as well). But wine quality, grape quality is determined by so many factors (not the least of which is the quality of the site, and the skill of the farmer) that all we can truly say about a "certified" wine is that it will do no its consumer no harm."
I also asked Joseph Kaulbach, Head Wine Buyer for Wholefoods N. California, and this was his response, "A lot of wineries claim to be terroir-driven, sustainable, green, etc. Those of us in the wine industry go on tours of cellars, eat grapes from the vines, and talk with the winemakers directly.
The public is left with our word, a story, or a wine label. Biodynamic and organic winegrowing certification adds legitimacy to the claims of connection with nature. If a winery believes organic farming is important, then they should get organic certification and put it on the label. How would their customers ever know about their commitment with it?"
What do you think? Is certification important for organic and biodynamic wines?