We all know that grapes = wine, right? But where the grapes come from and how they are grown is an often overlooked factor when purchasing wine off a store shelf.
Biodynamic Wines and Viticulture – How it Works
One of the powerful truths of viticulture is that all great wine speaks through the soil. The composition, drainage, porousness, pH and mineral content all must find perfect balance if a bottle is to truly be exceptional. What’s more, an understanding of long-term weather patterns will help guide vineyard practices, resulting in sustainably grown vines that make outstanding wine. Biodynamics takes a wide range of factors into account, promoting sustainable, organic practices while viewing the vineyard or farm as a collective, living entity. Winemakers and viticulturists from around the world are adopting biodynamic practices to varying degrees.
Our Favorite Biodynamic Wineries
- Quivira – Healdsburg CA
- Truett-Hurst – Healdsburg CA
- Domaine aux Moines – Savennières, France
- Westwood Estate – Sonoma CA
- Deloach – Santa Rosa CA
Composting and dynamising are possibly the most important aspects of Biodynamic farming. It is all about replenishing essential nutrients using the resources available on most commercial farms. That way, the energy circle is closed and the vineyard doesn’t rely on outside investment. A variety of preparations are utilized to vitalize vineyard soils. These range from the classic, stinging nettles and oak bark, to the truly bizarre such as a cow horn filled with manure and buried for the winter. Ultimately, these compounds will rejuvenate soil, giving vines the perfect balance of minerals for growth. These mixtures also help reduce the need for chemical sprays in vineyards, such as copper sulfate and pesticides.
From Juice to Wine
Biodynamic winemakers rely on natural processes to drive vinification which is particularly helpful for those with certain sensitivities, such as sulfurAmbient yeasts, those which are naturally found on the grapes in the vineyard and in the structure of the winery, are used to drive fermentation.
Because of this, wines don’t need to be sprayed with sulfur upon their arrival at the winery and sulfite levels are lowered in the final wine. It is actually against the law to use sulfur and label a wine as biodynamically produced. That is not to say that there will be no sulfites in the final product, as they are a natural byproduct of alcoholic fermentation. That is why it is always good to have StiQit handy for every bottle out there. Just a few swirls is all it takes for the perfect, sulfite-free glass of wine.
Everybody knows that the moon plays an important role in the tidal shifts of the oceans. It also plays an integral part in transporting water beneath the surface of the earth. Depending on the stage of the moon, different aspects of moisture around vines and their roots can affect a range of issues. All it takes is a light pitter-patter of rain to spread spores that can mean a slow death for the vines and hurt the biodynamic agriculture. The main lunar cycles are the synodic cycle, the anomalistic cycle, and the sidereal cycle. Each of these cycles or months will have drastic effect on water and Biodynamic farming.
- The Synodic Month
- Characterized by the waxing and waning of the moon
- Based on the moon’s position relative to the sun
- 5 day cycle.
- Full moon will:
- Increase moisture content in soil
- Elongate vine growth
- Increase fungal risk
- Increase insect activity
- Quicken seed germination
- The Anomalistic Month
- Due to the elliptical nature of the moon’s orbit, it will be closer or farther from the Earth at different points
- Based on the moon’s position relative to the earth. Close – Perigee. Far – Apogee
- 5 day cycle
- Perigee will:
- Increase fungal risk
- Decrease a seed’s ability to germinate
- Sidereal Month
- Characterized by the moon’s movement in front of static objects in space – Constellations
- 25 day cycle
- At different times, plants here on Earth receive a variety of cosmic energies, affecting growth
- Divides different days into root/flower/leaf/fruit days based on what constellations are being blocked by the moon
- Root – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
- Leaf – Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio
- Flower – Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
- Fruit – Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
- Some wine drinkers even base their consumption schedule around the sidereal month, believing that wine tastes best on fruit days!
Completing the Picture
Back in the 1920’s a man named Rudolf Steiner, a wine producer, took all of the knowledge he had collected on organic farming and cosmic understanding and gave a series of eight lectures. These lectures would lay the groundwork for the biodynamics movement. Steiner argued that by taking lunar influences into account, consistent inferences could be made about rain and moisture. These inferences direct vineyard managers as to what types of composts should be applied, when pruning should be done, and what pests and diseases to be watchful for.
All of these concepts allow for minimal intervention in the vineyard and encourage the same practices in the winery. The goal of closing the energy circle leads viticulturalists toward sustainability and water conservation. With its focus on natural production, organic farming, and conservancy, Biodynamics truly is nature in the glass.