The concept behind biodynamics is that everything in the universe is interconnected and gives off a resonance or ‘vibe’. The interconnectivity of everything even includes celestial bodies like the moon, planets and stars. Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing this resonance between vine, man, earth and stars. Essentially, biodynamics is a holistic view of agriculture.
“Biodynamic isn’t a word or trend, It is a Life”
– Morgon Fleury Wine Maker, Champagne Fleury, France
Morgan Fleury, Her name is well pronounced in the world of biodynamic wines, and for her contribution to spread the passion and love towards earth, soil and environment. The First time I meet her was in 2012 for a wine Master class and followed by Wine dinner conducted by Madame Morgon Fleury in Maldives.
The real inspiration of biodynamic wines was observed during my visit to Champagne Fleury vineyards in 2014. The original and some would suggest the best of the Biodynamic Champagnes (certified by Ecocert and accredited to Demeter and Biodyvin), Champagne Fleury is based in the less than entirely fashionable Cote des Bars and excels in the production of Pinot Noir.
The great thing about them is that they have been biodynamic for so long (1989) that the vines have now gained maturity under the natural inclinations of this rigorous regime. A beguiling paradox of ethereal purity and an earthy sense of place marks out these wines and underlines their position as one of the very best producers in the south of the region.
The concept of Biodynamics started in the 1920’s with an Austrian philosopher named Rudolph Steiner. It is a holistic, homeopathic manner of farming that, of course, also includes viticulture. It is the oldest, anti-chemical agricultural movement that predates the creation of organic farming by about twenty years.
If you think about it, there’s not really anything ‘new’ behind the theory of biodynamics. Mankind has looked to the celestial sky for guidance from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians all the way to the trusty ‘Farmer’s Almanac’.
Biodynamics occurs primarily in the vineyard before winemaking even happens. All the various tasks, from planting, pruning, to harvesting, are regulated by a special biodynamic calendar. The calendar was originally devised by the ‘high priestess’ of Biodynamics, Maria Thun, who divided days into four categories: Root, Fruit, Flower and Leaf Days.
Each biodynamic calendar day coincides with one of the four classical elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water that have been used since before Plato’s era:
Fruit Days: Best days for harvesting grapes
Root Days: Ideal days for pruning
Flower Days: Leave the vineyard alone on these days
Leaf Days: Ideal days for watering plants
You would never, for example, want to harvest on a Leaf Day because Leaf Days correlate with the Element water and you’d end up picking rotten, waterlogged grapes!
Besides the biodynamic calendar, no chemicals or ‘manufactured’ additions (like commercial yeast) are allowed in biodynamic wine. Instead, wine growers make special compost preparations with natural ingredients to bolster their vineyards. This is where things start to get controversial.
CONTAINS SULFITES: Certified biodynamic wines contain up to 100 PPM sulfites
Do Biodynamic Wines Taste Different?
Although a few biodynamic producers make a different style of wine that focuses more on the ‘Secondary Flavors’ (ie yeast flavors). However, you might be surprised to recognize a few of these famous wine producers who make Biodynamic wine and they do not taste any differently than what you might already be used to:
Domaine Vacheron White red rose – wines from Loire Valley France,
Nicolas Joly White wines from the Loire Valley, France –one of the earliest converts
Cristal Champagne by Louis Roederer Champagne, France
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Aromatic white wines from Alsace, France
There are just over 620 biodynamic wine producers in the world
True biodynamic farming will actually make vegetarians cringe. Biodynamic viticulture requires special compost preparations that are stuffed into cow horns and buried in the soil. Later, the cow horns are dug up and reused and the ’stuffing’ is distributed throughout the vineyard.
Many believe the practice of biodynamic composting pseudoscience. Regardless, the historical precedence perhaps explains why cow horns are used: the animal horn is a symbol of abundance. For example, the Vikings believed that water drunk from a horn contained life-enhancing properties. Today, this belief proliferates in Chinese traditional medicine (e.g. Rhino horn).
There are nine compost preparations used in Biodynamic farming which include everything from manure and cow horns to yarrow blossoms (mentioned in Homer’s Illiad for treating wounds), chamomile (a natural antiseptic) and stinging nettles (a natural cleanser). Of course, there is no serious evidence on whether or not cow horns are a truly necessary component in what is ultimately a dedicated organic gardening process.
Biodynamic soils have been tested against non-organic soils and they showed greater disease suppression, a decrease in compaction and added organic material.