Many wineries have already or are just about to make the biodynamic Preparation 500, where cow manure is packed into cow horns and buried in the soil through the winter. This Spring, the horn will be uncovered, its contents stirred into water to make a “tea” and then sprayed on the vineyards’ soil in the afternoon.
Some may call it hippie wine witchcraft, but Biodynamics, though almost a century old, has made some frequent appearances in the wine media lately. You could almost call it trendy. Don’t tell the hipsters.
Biodynamics implies that agriculture is connected with and influenced by the universe. It means that farmers base their decisions and actions around the lunar calendar. Biodynamic farms and vineyards use several preparations, developed by Austrian Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. The preparations, like the one above, are often made from cow manure (preferably the farm’s own cow), silica, and healing plant material, a concentrate full of rich nutrients that, when applied at very specific times, can stimulate growth, protect, and heal.
The easiest way to grasp biodynamic viticulture is by the calendar. There are certain days for different activities. The four categories are Fruit, Foliage, Roots and Flowers. Fruit days are typically best for harvesting, Foliage for water, Root days for pruning, and Flower days for rest. Abiding by the calendar, one can expect the healthiest and highest form of his vineyard to develop.
Further, the holistic view of biodynamics calls for no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, like organic farming, but goes a step further in that no commercial yeast should be added to the fruit to kick off fermentation. Once picked, and crushed, the must will start to ferment on its own from the native yeasts. This type of fermentation sometimes takes weeks to complete (Commercial yeasts can finish the fermentation typically in about 10 days, give or take). However, a slow fermenation allows for lots of complex aromas and flavors to develop along the way. A fast fermentation can often lead to a one-dimensional wine with little depth. Oftentimes tasted side by side with conventionally produced wines in competitions, biodynamic wines display a grander expression of terroir. It’s no wonder, as traditionally, every material laid on the vineyards, comes from the vineyards.
Below is Gary Vaynerchuck’s interview with Nicolas Joly, a pioneer of the Biodynamic concept. There are two parts
Intrigued? Look for producers like OGs Nicolas Joly of Loire Valley and Zind Humbrecht of Alsace, Clemens Busch from the Mosel Valley, Dominio de Pingus from Ribera del Duero, and new world producers like Benziger and DeLoach in Sonoma and Rippon in New Zealand’s South Island.