VintageTexas Sunday ‘Cyclopedia of Wine: Biodynamic Viticulture
Biodynamic Viticulture is a subdivision of biodynamic agriculture that stems from the ideals of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). At its roots are the precursors of the organic movement. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual, and practical tenets that include consideration of the ecological, energetic, and spiritual aspects of nature.
Distinguishing aspects of biodynamics from other forms of organic farming are: (1) The use of a complex system of herbal sprays and composting techniques, known as ‘preparations’, and (2) The timing of the operations on the land, which are strictly regulated by the movements of the orbs of the universe. The history of the development of biodynamic agriculture is given at:
Biodynamics has made some high profile converts in recent years and is taken seriously by the wine industry purely on the evidence of the wines it produces.
Back in 1997, the sales team and directors of Corney & Barrow visited Domaine Leflaive in Burgundy. Anne-Claude Leflaive poured them two wines, blind, and asked them which they liked best. 12 out of the 13 preferred one of the two wines.
Technically, they were both the same wine, 1996 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon. However, the wines were made from grapes grown in adjacent vineyards; one was organic and the other biodynamic. This latter wine was the one that the Corney & Barrow team chose almost unanimously as their favorite. The following vintage, Domaine Leflaive went fully biodynamic.
In theory, a vineyard is seen as a living system whose function is explained in terms of ‘formative’ forces’. When these forces are out of balance, the vineyard will produce less than optimal grapes, and in turn, wine. Even distant movements of the planets and stars are connected to the vineyard.
It is helpful to think of biodynamic viticulture not as an agricultural system, but rather as an altered philosophy or worldview that, in turn, impacts on the practice of winegrowing in various ways. In other words, to be a biodynamic winegrower, first the winegrower has to think biodynamically.
One of the major problems with biodynamic viticulture is that it seems to be in conflict with mainstream science. Consequently, many see biodynamic winegrowing as voodoo winegrowing; something that is more hype than fact. Some believe that biodynamics is something that is used only in an attempt to differentiate wine subjectively in an already overcrowded and over-supplied wine marketplace, regardless of the absence of any proven technical merits of biodyamics.
Is biodynamic viticulture for real? What would it be like in Texas is something that I haven’t yet gotten my head around; but, probably no one else has either. Perhaps it will be a balance among creatures of our Texas biosphere including rattlesnakes, mockingbirds, racoons, feral pigs, deer, glassywinged sharpshooters along with the bacteria that they exude into the vines that cause Pierce’s Disease. Oh, don’t forget to include the influence of the orbs that circle high overhead Texas and their influence on the late spring freezes and episodic hail known to home in on the vineyards in Texas. What about the gravitational influence of the International Space Station?
More on biodynamic viticulture can be found in the multipart series at: