The quirky mechanics behind biodynamics
"Biodynamic viticulture is focused on connecting the vine to its environment. The addition of chemical herbicides and pesticides is forbidden
Biodynamic farming is and I fear will always be my kryptonite.
So I've set myself a challenge to once and for all really delve into this and see if by the end, together, we can break this enigma.
The official definition of biodynamic farming according to the 'Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association' is “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.”
...meaning that, Biodynamic farming focuses on the importance of the vineyard being one solid organism with each portion of the vineyard contributing to the next. The idea is to create a self-sustaining system.
I think the best way to start will be at the veeeeerrrrryyyy beginning.
So lets go!
The first written evidence of wine growing was documented by the Greek Poet 'Hesiod' who wrote a lot about grapes, harvesting, wine making processes and how to prepare the wine for storage. He also stated that 'Wine be made according to a sign in the sky'...
Now this is normally when my brain starts singing the whole soundtrack to 'Grease' and logging itself off, but not this time kids.
Here, Hesiod is attempting to direct the farmers to follow a cosmic calendar for their crops, he links wine growing to the heavens. The greeks saw wine as a way to unlock mans imagination (a fancy way of saying “getting loose”) and found great benefits in its rich juice for their health and sustainability - remember water back in the day was a big no no!
The 'Vitis Vinifera' species of European (Eurasia) vines date back to 55-65 million years ago and somehow this was the only species of Vitis that became widely used in wine production... strange huh.
Was this due to social, economic and ideological structures or was it simply because their vine varieties made the best-tasting wines?
- "Wines ability to raise or depress the human spirit and to live on in a bottle even after the vine becomes dormant has historically seen wine become very much the opiate of religion."
Now, let’s skip to the birth of Rudolf Stiener. Stiener was known from an early age to have strong humanistic and spiritual feelings. He believed that farming, together with the earth and its movements, based on the lunar calendar and astrological influences, was the way to create a sustainable and successful vineyard. Even by the 1920's his ideas surrounding biodynamic farming still predated the organic movement by a long shot.
As you may have guessed it’s not that easy to become a biodynamic vineyard. In order to become certified you must complete a series of somewhat 'farfetched' preparations, ideally all the materials needed should be sourced from within the farm but in cases when this is not always possible or practical, they can be purchased as well.
The most infamous of these preparations is the cow horn filled with fresh manure and then buried underground during the winter. - This has been stated to be a powerful means for structuring the soil and “stimulating the soils microbial activity” as well as regulating pH & encouraging seed germination.
Steiner believes that there is a much needed role for cosmology within a farm and that the plants are connected with the suns energy (photosynthesis) which is scientifically proven! So he throws the question, why not the moon, stars and planets? We know that the moon influences water from its effect on ocean tides so could it perhaps be influencing the movement of water through plants? Stiener thinks that the ideal time to harvest should be when the moon is ascending as the vine’s life forces will be concentrated in the fruit...
After Stieners passing in 1925, Maria Thun, a German biodynamic farmer, developed these principles into the biodynamic calendar. (however this is still not very widely used even in the biodynamic farming circle).
- In a nutshell, Biodynamic Farming refers to sustainable, organic farming. Using crops that are kind to the land, and farming methods which do not harm the delicate balance of the earth -
Wine producers that have successfully taken on the Biodynamic approach:
- Nicolas Joly (Loire)
- Sybille Kuntz (Mosel)
- Montinore Estate (Oregon)
- Benziger Winery (Sonoma)
- Domaine Leroy (Burgundy)
- Maison Chapoutier (Rhone)
- Shinn Estate (New York)
So, are you woman enough for the challenge? Why not try some controversial vine growing techniques and well, see what happens? You may be surprised…
Happy growing all!
Stay Tipsy x