What is biodynamic wine?

Sunday, March 1, 2015



What exactly is Biodynamic wine? I think it's organic wine on steroids. Ok, maybe that's not the most politically correct, albiet eloquent response, but it is a product of organic farming, performed on a whole other level.

While I was studying wine business, I did my final thesis on the profitability of organic wines. As with any tedious venture, it's not so much about the destination as it is the journey that gets you there. And it was on this journey, that I had my first encounter with biodynamic wines.

Take everything you know about organics, now throw in astrology and the energy of the cosmos and your getting a bit warmer as to what biodynamics is all about. Most think of these theories as witchery or hocus pocus, I mean who really wants to pack the horn of a once lactating bull full of manure and then burry it underground for countless months, only to dig it back up and stir it with water in a certain direction, for a certain amount of time, on a particular day and then spray it on the vineyard in order to protect it from disease? It may sound crazy, but this is a glimpse into just one of the many preparations that take place in a biodynamic vineyard.

When I began working at Southbrook Vineyards in the spring of 2010, it quickly became apparent that I had to find a way to explain this type of agriculture in a way which was easy to understand. As the summer went on, and countless visitors came up to the tasting bar with questions about the mysteries of biodynamics it finally clicked. Biodynamics, for me, meant treating the vineyard holistically, as a naturopathic doctor treats their patient.

Think of a person who is sick. A traditional doctor gives them a hefty dose of antibiotics to kill off the bacteria or infection, which simultaneously kills off the good bacteria in the patient's body. This little scenario is exactly what occurs in traditional farming. In conventional farming, the "sick" or infested vineyard with pesticides and herbicides. The intention is not to make the vines healthier, but to kill off the disease.

But a naturopathic doctor aims to understand to the root of the problem (no pun intended). They prescribe herbal remedies in order to strengthen the patients' immune system. The end goal being to make the patient stronger, and healthy enough to fight the disease. The aim is to bring harmony back to the body; balance. This is the theory behind biodynamic farming. The goal, to make the vineyard healthier, and the vines stronger. The intent is to manage the vineyard as a diverse eco-system, full of life and balance.

There is more to this type of viticulture, but for me this is what makes sense. If you know me, you know my passion for naturopathy, and maybe this is why I have fondness for biodynamics, because it brings the vines to life. It takes into account the energies within the universe, and we can argue with this all we want, but one cannot deny the fact that the tides comes in, the moon has its' cycles and there is a rhythm to life.  There is a life force, and energy in every living organism, and biodynamics works with this energy, rather than against it.

And one more thing, it's hard work. I have such respect for the biodynamic farmers, viticulturist and winemakers. They are humble enough to learn new techniques, to trust new sciences and selflessly devote almost every waking hour to their harvest. I tried my hand at biodynamics while working with my uncle on our first vineyard endeavour. Our goal, to make the vineyard biodynamic, our reality, we needed help and lots of it. I remember cooking large quantities of nettle tea in my family's kitchen. After which, I would fill up my back pack sprayer, and head to the vineyard the next morning. I never quite knew whether or not this homemade tea was doing anything other than give me bruised shoulders, but after seeing the results my faith was renewed.

So try biodynamic wine. Drink it on a leaf day, or drink it on a fruit day, and perhaps you will notice a subtle difference. But my sincere hope is that you taste the quality, the care and the commitment that goes into these wines. From the vineyard, all the way to your glass.


3 comments:

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