Biodynamic wine, not just a 'new age' silly caprice

Updated: May 12, 2020

Hello everyone, today I will be talking about Biodynamic farming and how its methods are nowadays becoming more popular among wine makers and wine consumers. The word biodynamic might sound naive,

I remember the first time I was told about this method, in my mind I suddenly pictured a wizard doing some magic tricks in the vineyard...or maybe a guy with dreadlocks walking barefoot in the fields with his 10 dogs smoking a joint under a full moon.

Actually it is none of those things. I was the naive one, thinking that this kind of farming would be a 'new age' silly caprice. I realized that these methods were used by my grandfather even before pesticides were invented, before Monsanto started poisoning half of the planet: I decided to go check with my own eyes and I went to Avignonesi estate in Montepulciano. I was stunned when I saw these workers burying cow horns full of manure in the fields and while it looked a bit gross to me to be honest, I was relieved to see such an enthusiasm and care they have for the vines and for the soil.

Workers at Avignonesi burying cow horns full of manure, with their BARE HANDS!

The point with biodynamic farming is "you get what you get", what nature and the hard labour give you. Some of its aspects can be considered a bit silly but the spiritual and mystical perspectives are also a charming part of it

Let's get a bit more technical and "Wikipedic":

Biodynamic wines are wines made employing biodynamic methods both to grow the fruit and during the post-harvest processing. Biodynamic wine production uses organic farming methods (e.g. employing compost as fertilizer and avoiding most pesticides) while also employing soil supplements prepared according to Rudolf Steiner's formulas, following a planting calendar that depends upon astronomical configurations, and treating the earth as "a living and receptive organism.

Biodynamic methods are used in viticulture in many countries such as France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Canada, and the United States. In 2013 over 700 vineyards worldwide comprising more than 10,000 ha/24,710 acres were certified biodynamic. A number of very high-end, high-profile commercial growers have converted recently to biodynamic practices. According to an article in Fortune, many of the top estates in France, "including Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, Château de la Roche-aux-Moines in the Loire, Maison Chapoutier in the Rhone Valley, and Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace," follow biodynamic viticulture. Also in Montepulciano, Avignonesi was converted into biodynamic by owners Virginie Saverys and Max de Zarobe, two attentive vignerons who firmly believe in sustainability and respect for terroir : in Montalcino, Francesco Illy's boutique winery Podere le Ripi has always made wine following this method and his winery leaded by wine maker Sebastian Nasello is now the rising star of Brunello!

For a wine to be labeled “biodynamic” it has to meet standards laid down by the Demeter Association,an internationally recognized certifying body.

Biodynamic agriculture is based on the work of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), who gave Agriculture Course in 1924, predating most of the organic movement. It includes ecological principles, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives. Biodynamics aims at the ecological self-sufficiency of farms as cohesive, interconnected living systems.

Some grape growers who have adopted biodynamic methods claim to have achieved improvements in the health of their vineyards, specifically in the areas of biodiversity, soil fertility, crop nutrition, and pest, weed, and disease management. For example, the late Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive estate in Burgundy claimed that the use of biodynamic methods saved a badly diseased vineyard, to the point that it now produces some of her most highly prized wines. A long-term study of one California winery found that improved quality for both biodynamic and organic could not be explained. This study in different vineyard blocks at a commercial vineyard in Ukiah, California found no difference between biodynamic methods with general organic farming methods with respect to soil quality, nor in the yield per vine, clusters per vine, and cluster and berry weight. However, one of the authors, Leo McCloskey has made the case that consumer quality scores, 100-point scores, are expected to be higher for both biodynamic and organic over traditional farming.

Biodynamic winemakers claim to have noted stronger, clearer, more vibrant tastes, as well as wines that remain drinkable longer. Biodynamic wines are more "floral", according to Spanish biodynamic vintner Pérez Palacios. Biodynamic producers also claim that their methods tend to result in better balance in growth, where the sugar production in the grapes coincides with physiological ripeness, resulting in a wine with the correct balance of flavor and alcohol content, even with changing climate conditions.

In a blind tasting of 10 pairs of biodynamic and conventionally made wines, conducted by Fortune and judged by seven wine experts including a Master of Wine and head sommeliers, nine of the biodynamic wines were judged superior to their conventional counterpart.[12] The biodynamic wines "were found to have better expressions of terroir, the way in which a wine can represent its specific place of origin in its aroma, flavor, and texture." Critics caution that such comparisons of wines of the same type need to be controlled for differences in soil and subsoil, and the farming and processing techniques used.

Now, my personal conclusion is that this method and its techniques are a breath of fresh air in the wine making world and whether you share these principles or not, environmental sustainability and healthiness of what we are actually drinking are two fundamental factors, especially when wine is actually GOOD!

Thanks for reading,

Francesco Maramai

PS. We are happy to share a beautiful article about Homemade Plant food recipes, a natural and smart way to do gardening, using everyday products instead of spraying pesticides or chemicals.

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