If you’ve been anywhere near a trendy wine bar or retail shop in the last five years, especially in wine-savvy cities across Europe and in the United States, chances are you’ve heard this word. A lot.
Recently, I’ve been hearing it a lot more.
As organic products, sustainability, and mind-body living become increasingly significant to American consumers, (see “Largest dollar gain ever for the booming organic sector even with supply challenges, says OTA survey“, if you think I’m exaggerating), there is a measurable growing interest in and demand for Biodynamic wines.
This is certainly apparent on the retails sales floor in Los Angeles wine shops. No longer a wine geek secret, Biodynamic wines have captured the imagination of a broader demographic of Eco-conscious and conscientious consumers.
The thing is, while more people are asking about Biodynamic wines than ever before, these same people often have no idea what it means or why it matters.
Evocative and memorable; the logical combination of the root bio (from the Greekbios – life) and word dynamics, “the branch of mechanics that deals with the motionand equilibrium of systems under the action of forces” (Dictionary.com), “Biodynamics” is both an agricultural system and a practice; a philosophy, lifestyle, and to some, a religion.
It’s like a hybrid of yoga, Ayurveda and astrology for wine-with a generous dose of mysticism for good measure.
As its etymological roots suggest, it is has everything to do with life, systems, forces, and maintaining equilibrium.
And, not unlike those aforementioned topics, Biodynamics is simple in essence, yet expansive in nature. It’s hard to define.
Here’s my stab at a simple definition: Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to agriculture, informed by the cycles of nature.
Its principles and practices are inspired by the work of Austrian theosophist and scholar Dr. Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925), who gave a series of lectures in 1924 outlining “the spiritual foundations for a renewal of agriculture.” These lectures inspired the Biodynamic movement that today offers guidelines that may be applied to all forms of agriculture, such as grape growing, as well as gardening, food and nutrition. His lectures were compiled into a book, What is Biodynamics: A Way to Heal and Revitalize the Earth, and is a must-read for anyone interested in sustainable living.
As it relates to wine, a founding belief of Biodynamics is that if the ecosystem of a vineyard is in perfect harmony, there will be no disease and thus no need for pesticides. It ensures all Biodynamic wines are free of any man-made chemicals. This should register as pretty important to my yogi readers (no to mention anyone trying to consume cleaner, purer, less toxic products.)
Other protocols include vineyard work done manually or with the assistance of animals such as a horse and plow (no machines), the use of preparations and cover crops to naturally maintain soil health, harvesting grapes by hand, exclusively native yeast fermentations, and the list goes on.
“Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself…Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.” – Biodynamics Association
Followers of Biodynamics believe that all elements in the production process are in a synergistic relationship with the forces of nature and that everything–from the microbes in the soil to the grapes on the vine and even the finished wine in the bottle–is alive and responding to the moon’s rhythms.
According to Biodynamics, the cycles of the moon govern not just when it is optimal to prune vines and pick grapes, but also the best times to taste wines.
Yup. Biodynamically speaking, there are good days and bad days for tasting wine. It is also believed that the same wine will taste different on different days of the year. Maria Thun’s Biodyanmic calendar categorizes days into four cycles: “root,” “leaf”, “fruit” or “stem.” These cycles are lunar in origin and relate to the moon’s impact on the vital forces of the plant. In this system, wines are believed to taste their best on “fruit” days. It is not advised to taste wine on “root” days.Whether the Biodynamic calendar is scientifically accurate is a debated subject between believers and non-believers, with convincing arguments on both sides.
Whether you believe a wine tastes better on a “fruit” day or whether Biodynamic wines in general are “better” than other wines is ultimately up to you. However, even the biggest skeptics of Biodynamics will concede that to the extent that Biodynamic winemaking is very hard, labor-intensive work done by passionate, committed people with a calling to produce wine free of chemicals, pesticides, and other stabilizers, it is often the case that wines made this way, Biodynamic or no, are better.
Not just better tasting, but better for the environment and better for our bodies.
And from a mindfulness perspective, these are exactly the kinds of wines conscious drinkers should seek out.
-Chiara Rose Shannon
“The mechanics may appear complex but the premise is simple.This planet, and everything on it, is an integral part of both the solar system and the cosmos: every last blade of grass is affected by the whole.” -The Biodynamic Association of India
To assure consistency and quality when shopping for Biodynamic wine, look for the certification logo on the back label of the wine bottle from an agency such as Demeter, the oldest and best-known Biodynamic certification organization.