Biodynamics – Do We Believe?
Author: Jasper Morris MW
More and more of our producers have been experimenting with biodynamic methods of viticulture in recent years. Some go the whole hog and have achieved biodynamic certification; others are experimenting with certain aspects only. A third group is fully committed but not certified.
Of course another viewpoint is that these producers are certifiable and should be committed at the first opportunity. There are certainly aspects which are hard to swallow: the burying of dung in cow’s horns, the harnessing of cosmic forces, too slavish discipleship of the theoretical founder, Rudolf Steiner.
Some suggest that the biodynamic label is a marketing tool. However it should be pointed out that many of the most active proponents are those with most to lose: great domaines which were already flourishing before they moved in this direction, such as Zind Humbrecht in Alsace, Lafon, Leflaive and Leroy in Burgundy or Château Pontet Canet in Bordeaux. See here for further discussion and a list of other biodynamic wine producers worldwide.
The central tenets of biodynamic production are (1) an organic minimum, no pesticides, herbicides, or other chemical input; (2) respect for the biodynamic calendar which charts the movement of the moon through the constellations, along with the location of the sun and the planets – an evolution of theories which date back through the middle ages to Hellenistic and even Egyptian civilizations; (3) a homeopathic approach to preparations and treatments which has enthusiastic adherents and vehement deniers in the medical world – another subject altogether!
What we care about is that the vignerons make the best possible wine from their terroirs. As a retailer, Berrys’ does not, and should not, insist that producers follow certain production methods but, as a rule, we like our suppliers to demonstrate awareness and care for the environment and Biodynamics fits this profile.
Whilst some Biodynamic methods are not instantly understandable or explainable, our number one concern as a business is selling the very best quality wine and we are increasingly seeing that Biodynamic production methods, given the stringent attention to detail required by producers, often result in better quality wine. The individual wines seem to be purer, more mineral and more precise reflections of their vineyards than these same producers were making before. See here for a report on a comparative tasting in New York.
Interestingly, in the difficult 2008 growing season in Burgundy, both the best and the worst looking vineyards were farmed biodynamically, with everything in between to boot. And ‘normal’ farming methods also provided a wide range, from clean and healthy to ravaged by mildew or oidium.
We have not taken a definite stand on this subject but are fascinated by the possibilities. Please do communicate your thoughts. The more we discuss, the more we will learn and understand.