A Quick and Easy Guide to Biodynamic Wines
With a slew of new labels on wines – natural, organic, low-intervention and what have you, it’s hard to keep up with what each of them mean. Biodynamic wines are a relatively novel term among oenophiles; they refer to very specific farming, harvesting and making processes which are different from organic wines. So what exactly is this biodynamic movement?
What is biodynamic farming?
Originating from the theories of Austrian born philosopher Rudolf Steiner from the early 20th century, biodynamic farming is a holistic, homoeopathic approach to farming. Viewing the farm as a single organism, it aims to create a self-sufficient and self-contained ecology, aligning itself with the fundamental forces of nature.
What makes a wine biodynamic?
The whole winemaking process, from its planting, pruning to harvesting, is regulated by a special biodynamic calendar that also follows the lunar calendar. This was devised by Maria Thun, a pioneer in biodynamic farming and takes inspiration from the four classical elements – Earth, Fire, Water and Air.
The Lunar Calendar and Wine, Photo credit to Wine Folly
The calendar divides days into:
- Root – ideal days for pruning the vines (Earth element)
- Fruit – ideal for harvesting grapes (Fire element)
- Flower – vineyard is left alone on these days (Air element)
- Leaf – ideal days for watering the vines (Water element)
These rules govern the farming process of biodynamic wines, for example, you would never harvest on a Leaf Day as they correlate with the Water element. It is believed that grapes harvested on Leaf Days will be rotten and waterlogged!
On top of following the biodynamic calendar to a tee, no chemical additives are allowed in biodynamic wine. This is similar to organic wines, in that only organic fertilisers, like manure and compost, can be used to bolster their vineyards.
Gut Oggau Vineyard
Why do people choose biodynamic farming?
Compared to regular methods of farming, biodynamic farming indeed has many more rules and restrictions. To be a certified biodynamic farm under the Demeter requirements, the farmer has to make fertiliser out of cow manure, packing it into a cow horn and burying it underground over winter, believed to stimulate root growth. On top of this, the farmer has to abide by a strict biodynamic calendar and is constrained by the kinds of boosters they can give to their crops. Why then has there been a growing shift towards biodynamic farming?
Well, although the spiritual aspects of biodynamics do not appeal to all biodynamic farmers, a common reason for this shift is the real benefits to the farm. Healthier soil, better crops, and more vibrant ecology are some of the many perks that come with biodynamic farming.
Another benefit would be the financial savings of biodynamic farms, as they pay considerably less for fertilisers and pesticides than they would have with traditional methods.
How do biodynamic wines taste?
It is almost impossible to determine if biodynamic practices are implemented simply based on taste, so biodynamic wines taste identical to regular wines! However, the fruit from these farms are organically grown, so biodynamic wines may have a higher quality taste profile than other wines.
Credit to Small Fry Wines
Here at Straits Wine we believe that biodynamic wines are often more complex and interesting due to healthier soil and the biodiversity of the vineyards they’re made from. Hence, we’ve brought in a multitude of labels that hail from biodynamic farms such as Smallfry, who produces small batch organic wines from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Their wines are naturally fermented and with zero to minimal adjustments, allowing the vineyard to speak. Organic, natural and biodynamic, we love the Riesling 2017 for its sweet lime cordial and lemon citrus notes, balanced with a clean finish. Sustainable and high quality vino? What a win!