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Biodynamic Wine - what's it all about?
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'A root day won't make a good wine taste bad, but on a fruit day the wine is almost leaping out of the bottle and singing "ta-dah!"'- David Motion, Daily Telegraph
Most of us understand the principles of organic production through our fruit and vegetables and there is little to expand on this in relation to wine. The ‘biodynamic’ label, however, is sometimes mystifying.
Fundamentally, we like to think of biodynamics as a return to the traditional understanding of the symbiotic relationship between all elements in the natural environment. The modern movement owes much of its momentum to the teachings of Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s (yes, he of the schools too) and has been carried forward by Maria and Matthias Thun.
The biodynamic movement has grown tremendously in recent years. It has a very attractive ambition which is to produce wine in a manner that understands and respects the vineyard as part of its terroir. However the biodynamic label is not lightly accorded and is governed by a strict set of principles initially set down by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 including the adoption of nine naturally produced 'preparations'.
While some biodynamic prescriptions may seem to take winemaking into an almost spiritual realm with, amongst others, 'fruit', 'flower' and 'root' days and alignment with zodiacal movements and the phases of the moon, it seems harder and harder to deny the superiority of the final products. One might argue that any winemaker prepared to fill cow horns with dung, bury them for six months and then ‘dynamise’ water with the resulting super-concentrated manure to use as a spray for the vines (known as preparation 500) might appear to have lost his or her marbles. Even if you don’t subscribe to the metaphysics, we believe that anyone this committed to their craft is going to take extraordinary care over the more day-to-day aspects of viticulture.
It must also be noted that the general health of biodynamically-tended vineyards is significantly superior than those maintained in a more industrial manner. Without the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, the vines remain free from fungal and bacterial infection and the soil supports an astonishing diversity of friendly flora and fauna. The grapes are happy, the winemakers are happy - and this is reflected in the production of some of the loveliest wines we have ever had the pleasure to taste.
The principles of biodynamism are also catching on commercially, with some major retailers scheduling their tastings to fall on biodynamically favourable days. We have found a clever app which will help tell you when your wines are likely to taste their best. You can find it here.
At Wine Sensations, our primary aim is to bring you delicious wine, whatever its accreditation; if it happens to be made in accordance with organic and biodynamic principles, that's a truly massive bonus. Our biodynamic category is reserved for those wines that achieve accreditation by the Demeter Association. That said, some of our smaller winemakers (such as Amistat) are producing biodynamic wines without certification from Demeter; their production is minuscule and membership of the association would, at this stage, be prohibitively expensive for them - but it would be wrong of us not to include them in this category.
If you are unfamiliar with the brave new world of biodynamic wines, our selection is a very good place to start.