Biodynamic wine – asking for the moon?

Posted by admin | June 19, 2020 | Blog

You may be forgiven for a quick eye-roll when you hear some of the scientific jargon used to describe (and sell) food and drink nowadays. Some of the claims can seem doubtful or contrived, or like a statement of the obvious. How do the terms organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly differ? Where does biodynamic wine come into all of this? And should you care?

Well, the answer to that last question, at least, is simple – yes, you should care. There are now over 700 vineyards worldwide who produce biodynamic wines, including a growing number here in Burgundy. This method of production has been around in the wine world for decades now and incorporates some fascinating techniques based on the land we farm, our planet’s ecosystems, and even our moon.

In France, the body responsible for Vin Bio (biodynamic wine) is ‘France Vin Bio’, otherwise known as the “Association Nationale Interprofessionnelle des Vins Bio”. We can learn a little here by looking at an official definition; biodynamics is “the world’s oldest system of organic growing, that promotes a uniquely holistic approach to organic agriculture, gardening, food and health”.

What does that mean in practice for wine growing? Well, take Domaine de Suremain, one of the producers that is stocked by Elden Selections. Eric de Suremain compares biodynamic farming to an orchestra conductor – he keeps nature ‘in tune’ with his vineyards, rather than simply treating or preventing problems. At Domaine de Suremain, they’ve worked to organic principles since 1996 – and they believe biodynamics is in the very essence of the soil. It certainly creates some great wines. The influence of the sun and even the moon on the four earthly elements (earth, air, fire and water), are believed to hold everything in harmony – with the winegrower’s biodynamic interventions aiding this natural balance. 

In Burgundy, many significant wine estates have made the change to biodynamic – another example is Pascal Marchand who Elden Selections knows well. He, along with his Canadian partner Moray Tawse, owns many acres of vineyards under the name Maison Marchand-Tawse, which have been converted to the biodynamic approach and produce an array of fabulous wines. 

Biodynamics is about more than just principles or rules – it is a deeper understanding of your land, your identity and your vines that underpins everything, and a respect for whatever you take from, or put into, the ground. 

So how do biodynamic wines differ from organic wines? ‘Organic’ is a term that’s slightly less specific – organic wines are grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers, (in the USA it has to be USDA-Certified Organic). There are often regulations around the use of sulfites in organic farming too, which can vary by country. 

But the term ‘biodynamic’ goes further than this – the method specifies certain mixtures of natural minerals and herbs which can promote growth and soil quality. The practice also uses an astronomical calendar (much like the old Farmers’ Almanac) to ensure sowing and planting is done at the optimum time. Not everyone adheres to this belief in lunar calendars, but as with so many things in the world of wine, how something feels and the historical traditions which are passed down through generations, can count for a lot in viticulture, even if some of the science behind ‘fruit days’ (good for wine tasting) and ‘root days’ (not good for wine tasting) is still ambiguous. 

Many proofs are founded on principles that are not themselves necessarily logical. But what a lunar calendar will give you is an awareness of nature and astronomy that you otherwise might not have had. It makes you think, plan, test and wonder – and these are not bad things to be doing if you’re dealing with something as important and complex as wine. 

There is no question that the people making biodynamic wines have brought the world back to basics after a generation of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. But most of these same producers would be the first to tell you that grape-growing and wine-making would be impossible without recourse to some chemicals.  Any form of instability can easily lead to microbial problems and off-tasting wine, (hence the reason sulfur is still used, and fining and filtering is still viewed by many as an important part of a wine’s journey from vine to glass). As with so many things, it is a question of balance, and of respect for every part of the wine making process.


Now is the perfect time to try one of our Elden Selections producers!

JEAN DAUVISSAT PERE ET FILS

He is one of a generation that sees the value in producing not just good Chablis, but great Chablis. So he has taken the domain organic, using only copper and sulfur, no weed killers, no chemical fertilizers and no systemic.

12-bottle case of Chablis 2017 is on sale now!

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