Heal the Earth, Treat Your Palate
The age old, yet recently revived practice of Biodynamics is steadily proving itself in the wine community. Although the notion of combining the cosmos with an organic and holistic approach to farming may seem a bit far-fetched to some people, others are reaping the benefits. The health of the plants, combined with the unbelievable depth and vibrancy of the wine has even the skeptics eager to learn more.
In a world where chemicals and pesticides are the norm, Biodynamics takes a different approach. The method was originated by Rudolf Steiner in response to the depletion of the soil nutrients and subsequent decline of food quality. It was developed as an alternative to chemical farming which weakens the soil quality as well as the vitality of the crops. The goal of biodynamic farming in wine is to produce grapes of superior quality, while maintaining the health of the land.
The basic principle of Biodynamics is to view the farm as one entity. The farmers recognize that the soil, plants, water, sun, etc. all work together in harmony. The soil must be kept rich and nourished by the use of organic compost, and crop rotation. Pests and weeds are kept under control by the planting of various neighboring herbs, flowers, and trees known to reduce certain species of unwanted weeds and insects. The winemaker develops a schedule of planting, pruning and harvesting based upon the rhythm of the universe, homeopathic elixirs and timing the phases of the moon.
The approach (although unusual) seems simple enough, and certainly makes sense from an environmental stand point. Not to mention the wine, arguably, tastes far better. So why are only a handful of winemakers practicing Biodynamics?
Unfortunately, the answer is simple' quantity. The amount of fruit produced under this method is far less than the conventional approach. When plants are in their natural state, they produce berries of incredible health and intensity, but often in less quantity. For a winemaker to give up the large amount of wine he or she is producing, and move to a smaller amount of high quality wine, takes a leap of faith. It requires complete devotion to the method, and the winemakers have to entirely turn their backs on traditional, chemical agriculture. And of course, economics plays a role; especially in an age where so many vineyards offer mass quantities of budget-style wines. In order to maintain a competitive edge in the wine market, many wineries are forced to focus on quantity and bottle price ' not quality.
As consumers, we have the choice of selecting wines grown and produced through sustainable methods. The more we support biodynamics and organically grown grapes, the more likely winemakers will be to dabble in this holistic approach ' a movement that will not only benefit our environment, but will also please our taste buds. Stephane Derenoncourt, who has been practicing Biodynamics on his vineyards and vines for years, states that his aim is to create wines which are 'completely authentic and a true reflection of nature's wonders.' Imagine enjoying a bottle of wine created in respect to the terroir, and grown through Biodynamics' Now that is a true wine experience!
The relatively short but growing list of wineries and winemakers practicing this method includes; Domaine Leroy, Domaine Lafont, Quintessa, Olivier Laflaive, Alvaro Espinoza, Chapoutier, Araujo Estate, Nicolas Joly, Stephane Derenoncourt, and Philippe Charlopin.