Biodynamics: Part 2 – How does it work? (3 Comments)
In Part 1, I briefly discussed the history, significance and basic tenets of Biodynamics. Before I get into too many details, I should take a moment and talk about certification. Many producers employ only some, not all, of the practices of Biodynamics. Demeter International and Biodivin are the two most recognized certification organizations. Many (if not most) wineries that use biodynamic practices choose to not get certified. Many refrain from certification on principal, holding that getting certified can potentially be viewed as “selling out” or attempting to jump on the “green” marketing hype train. Certainly, someone’s motives for getting certified can be debated but I typically stand with those who farm biodynamically on principal alone, not seeking additional marketing avenues through certification. They humbly go about their ways, doing what they feel is right, not looking for recognition.
Closed nutrient systems (composting), self-regulation (hands-free maintenance based on naturally occurring predator-prey relationships within a diverse habitat of plants, animals and organisms) and the minimal use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. are all standard fare in the world of alternative farming. Biodynamics takes one of it’s two biggest deviations from conventional and alternative farming techniques with the use of “preparations” in the vineyard, as well as on the compost heap. Some of the preps include: chamomile, dandelion, stinging nettle, yarrow, valerian, horsetail, quartz, manure and oh yeah, some really fun stuff: deer bladders, cattle intestines, domesticated animal skulls, cow stomachs… you know, the usual. The preparations are used as sprays or buried in the soil. They all serve unique purposes but ultimately work to regulate and stimulate the life process of a farm or vineyard.
The other major deviation for Biodynamics is the integration of cosmic forces. It is contended that all living things have an intimate connection to their environment, including the movement of the sun, the seasons and the lunar cycles. By understanding these universal energies, we can enhance the harmonious environment and promote the natural drive and rhythms of nature within a vineyard or farm. The penultimate goal of a biodynamic practitioner is that through these practices, an awareness and intuition can be established that connects them with the unique spirit of a place. Got all that? Good.
I know that is not a lot of information, I don’t have a lot of space here. There are several sources out there with more info then you could ever want and I will be happy to refer them to you. I warn you though, from this point forward, expect your future reading to be highly technical, although very interesting.
So… does it work? Is the wine better? Some folks say yes, others say no. Most say “I have no idea.” Many vintners swear it makes a big difference in the health of the vineyard, which of course reflects in the final product. Is it better then other compost-based farming methods? We might not ever know. This is due in part to the very nature of biodynamics… the cosmic simply cannot be quantified. How does one say anything definitive about the cosmic? The bottom line though is that it’s environmentally reasonable. I don’t see how that can be a bad thing. That being said, there is no way in hell I could tell the difference between a wine made from biodynamic grapes compared to other faming methods in a blind test. However, knowing the level of passion and integrity that goes into a biodynamically farmed bottle of wine, for me, only adds to the pleasure gleaned from consuming it. As soon as you can, visit a biodynamic vineyard and prepare to be amazed. Seek out biodynamically produced wines and drink them post haste!
If you have an opinion one way or the other in regards to biodynamic farming, please let me know in the comments section. Questions are welcomed as well. Also, please join me next week for Part 3 as I wrap up this whole mess with my interview of one of the worlds great wine makers, who just happens to have an intimate understanding of Biodynamic farming. Cheers!