Organic…it seems to be the term of our generation right after “gluten free”. Natural food with, what is believed to have, no pesticides, herbicides and cancer-causing agents. Everything nowadays is becoming organic and it's even hit the wine market.
There is a new term that consumers are beginning to see on wine labels and it’s creating quite the buzz...mixed with slight confusion. It is a term that makes organic sound like it’s just not trying hard enough. So what is this new category of safety and au naturale that is starting to trend the wine market? It’s called Biodynamics - essentially, organics with a little voodoo, a dash of science and a sprinkle of crazy. Just kidding! It actually encompasses organics, biodiversity and astronomy.
Rudolf Steiner: the madman behind Biodynamics
This form of agriculture has been around since the 1920’s. The study of Biodynamics was created by an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect and esotericist named Rudolf Steiner. Steiner's focus was about finding the connection between science and spirituality. He wrote a few books, gave a lecture here and there and quickly gained a cult following.
His theory is quite simple: lose the pesticides, chemicals and all things unnatural in the vineyards. Then replace it with the most natural substances that can be found on earth. If the soil is healthy, the vines will be healthy as well, creating a wine that will be so damn delicious you can easily taste the difference.
From afar, this concept sounds great and I like where it’s going. However, there is some crazy hippy shit involved that makes you wonder if Mr. Steiner ate one too many of the magic mushrooms and forgot to pass the J!
Now, I am not saying all these farmers are dope-toking stoners. Their work is highly regarded and respected. I mean, Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing this resonance between vine, man, earth, stars and has nothing but the greatest intentions for mankind and the earth we live on.
But, you see, Biodynamic farming has rules and ideas that are, for the lack of better terms, “thought-provoking”. Rules that state things such as picking grapes based on lunar cycles and can even go as far as harvesting in the nude. There is a lot to cover here but, for the sake of time, let's discuss a few of the major rules of biodynamics.
Rules 500 & 502-507
Rule 500: Horn manure (AKA preparation 500), is composed of cow manure that’s buried inside of a cow horn and fermented over the winter season. The manure is then dug out and stirred in water in a process of “potentization” before being sprayed on the soil. Supposedly, this will stimulate processes in the earth for better root development and water uptake in the vineyard.
Rules 502-507: Steiner also recommends six compost preparations that are fermented under, and above, ground. These combinations enrich compost with various properties, from stabilizing nitrogen to stimulating silica to attracting cosmic forces from beyond the solar system to the soil.
These are, in order: yarrow blossoms stuffed into urinary bladders from red deer (502), chamomile blossoms stuffed into small intestines from cattle (503), stinging nettle (504), oak bark placed inside the skull of a domesticated animal like a dog or a pig (505), and dandelion flowers stuffed into the mesentery of a cow (506).
If you don’t know what a mesentery is, according to the dictionary: A fold of the peritoneum that attaches the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, spleen, and other organs to the posterior wall of the abdomen. Why that part of the intestine is beyond me. And, finally, valerian flowers (507).
This all sounds pretty logical right? I mean, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of this practice and to explain it all would take me writing a few books and giving a lecture here or there.
So, one must ask, is biodynamic winemaking the real deal or just a bunch of hippies trusting the cosmos of space and lunar cycles trying to create the most natural wine man has seen in the last 100 years? You be the judge and tell us if you can taste the difference. Here are few biodynamic wines that I actually love a lot. You can find them online and share with your friends. I would just save the talk about the cow shit being tossed all over the grapes until after the bottle is finished!
Your #SommNextDoor: Nicholas Ducos. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier, Nicholas has worked in many prestigious restaurants in Miami, Florida. As a chef and as a sommelier, he is dedicated to creating a memorable dining experience and making wine relatable to others in a witty yet refined style. Nicholas is currently traveling the world learning the art of winemaking and plans to create his own label in the near future. Follow Nicholas's latest adventures through his website and Instagram.