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Biodynamic Wine and Viticulture: Explained

Biodynamic winemaking has some people scratching their heads - and we don’t blame them! It is a very painstakingly detailed process, but many wineries and winemakers around the world using the biodynamic method swear by it.

First off, what does Biodynamic wine or viticulture even mean?

Let’s go back to the 1920’s when this term was coined by Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner, an Austrian philosopher among other self-proclaimed titles. As the narrative goes, he was approached by a handful of farmers who wanted to move away from the use of pesticides to a more holistic, natural way of farming. Their motivation was largely due to their fear of where the industry was headed with the prolonged use of these synthetic chemicals. Steiner’s solution for the farmers was the idea of biodynamics.

Geese in a vineyardWhat is Biodynamic Farming?
Essentially this type of farming views the whole production from soil, to seed, to harvest, and everything in between, as a self-sustaining system. This would involve using natural materials such as nutrient-rich compost in place of chemical fertilizer, using animals such as geese for pest control, as well as the idea of strategic timing for each stage of the growing process based off of astronomical events. The theory is that everything in nature is connected and even if only one aspect of the cycle is off balance, the entire system is thrown out of whack.

Granted, many people back then and today will call Steiner crazy.

Perhaps he is...but we’ve never met the guy! His ideas spread like wildfire to vineyards and wineries around the world. Many wineries reported their wine improved substantially, new flavors and aromas were discovered, and even a highly diseased vineyard was able to turn around and flourish, creating high-quality wines - all because of these practices.

White wine with stars behindIt’s Written In The Stars!
What you're probably really wondering now is what astronomy has to do with it! Apparently the lunar calendar can be divided into 4 agricultural “forces”, which are more ideal for these 4 categories based off of the constellations and the earth’s 4 elements. Root days, Foliage days, Flower days, Fruit and Seed days.

• Roots = Earth (best day for pruning)
• Foliage = Water (best day for watering)
• Flowers = Air (best day for leaving the vineyards to rest)
• Fruit and Seeds = Fire (best day for harvesting and wine tasting)

By planting, weeding, harvesting, etc. on their given “ideal” days will be most beneficial for the plant. Some people go as far as to say wine tasting is aligned with the calendar too; claiming certain wines will taste better on certain days!

Biodynamic Lunar Calendar:
Sourced from Avondale Winery
Lunar Calendar

Cow horns

Biodynamic Viticulture:
In viticulture, to be certified as “Biodynamic” must meet the 16 category requirements, according to the Demeter Processing Guidelines. Some of those include:

• Following the biodynamic calendar for harvest dates
• Hand harvesting is preferred; machine harvesting is allowed but needs to be justified
• Cellar work should be done according to the biodynamic calendar
• Plastic containers are prohibited for use as storage vessels
• Acid and sugar adjustment is not permitted

And the list goes on! (See Demeter USA for more details.) One of the more peculiar ‘preparations’ is using Cow Horn Manure. During the winter months, cow horns are filled with manure and buried throughout the vineyard. After winter, the horns are retrieved from the ground and their contents are then emptied back into the soil. Supposedly, this rejuvenates the healthy bacteria and enhances seed germination.

Wine tastingTaste Biodynamic Wines!
We’ve featured a number of wineries in our monthly wine clubs who have embraced this growing movement and are producing top-notch wines. One of our most recent biodynamic wine features are from our International Wine Club!

Avondale Wine in South Africa is a prime example of this sustainable farming practice in action. The Winery’s ethos is “Terra Est Vita”, or ‘Soil is Life’ and sums up their viticulture methods perfectly.

See the three spectacular wines below:

2007 "La Luna" Red Blend

2015 "Anima" Chenin Blanc

Avondale 2009 "Samsara" Syrah