Biodynamic Wines

by Ms. S on July 22, 2010

This section contains notes from our due diligence on this topic.

Biodynamic viticulture (grape growing) has become very popular in recent years.  A number of very high-end, high-profile commercial growers have converted recently to biodynamic practices.  It embodies the ideal of ever- increasing ecological self-sufficiency, while also including ethical-spiritual considerations.  This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system.

Biodynamic farming creates stronger soil than conventionally farmed land.  There is a controlled growth of vines and the grapes are smaller and thus higher quality.  They also have thicker skins which serve as great protection from potential infection.

To avoid the irrefutable damages that arise when farmers used modern technology to harvest their crops, some winemakers employ a method of organic farming called biodynamic agriculture.  The strategy of biodynamic farming is to allow the farmer to assess what is happening on the farm and how to deal with it.  Biodynamic certification varies immensely because each country makes its own determination on what constitutes biodynamic.  A key difference between organic and biodynamic harvesting is that organic does not permit the use of chemical spray or artificial fertilizer however biodynamic farming does use a Biodynamic spray or Biodynamic compost.

The basic “biodynamic toolkit” consists of two critical parts: 1) the preparations and 2) the timing of preparation intervals.  Preparations consist of methods that aid in fertilizing the soil.  For example, Prep 500 consists of burying a cow horn filled with cow dung so that in time, nutrients are released and vitality is restored in the soil.  This is achieved by attracting earthworms to the burial that serve as calcium for the soil.

The second tool in the biodynamic toolbox is intrinsically related with the preparations.  Biodynamic farmers rely on the movements of the moon and other attributes of astronomy to determine what preparations should be used and when.  Biodynamic farmers believe that when the moon is ascending, plants grow upwards from the moon.  Conversely, when the moon is descending, sap flows down.  For Prep 500, the cow horn should be buried during the autumn equinox and disinterred in the spring.

The effect of biodynamic farming on wine grapes is extensive.  The soil is better and stronger than conventionally farmed land.  There is controlled growth of vines in smaller yields of grapes.  The grapes themselves are smaller and thus higher quality.  They also have thicker skins which serve as great protection from potential disease/infection.  Biodynamic techniques are used in the harvesting of the grapes as well as in the processing of the grapes into wine.

As mentioned earlier, certification of biodynamic wines varies immensely which can be confusing.  In most countries, biodynamic certification is a private matter whereas in Australia the government controls certification.  An organization called Demeter International certifies wines made from biodynamic agriculture.  Their name derives from the Greek goddess of grain and fertility, Demeter.  Fisher explained that to achieve biodynamic certification from Demeter, a producer must farm using the herbal sprays and composting techniques developed by Rudolf Steiner (Austrian philosopher integral in establishing biodynamic agriculture practices).  Yet, it is not necessary to follow the biodynamic calendar.

If you are concerned with toxins in your wine, it is best to contact the winery directly to inquire about their methods of production.

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