Created in 1924 by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner in an attempt to find a synthesis between science and spirituality, biodynamic practices in winemaking treat a vineyard as one complete ecosystem, with all aspects being considered interconnected and symbiotic.
What Does ‘Biodynamic’ Mean In Viticulture?
“Increasingly winemakers are moving to biodynamic production which is more harmonious with nature and with people” says Jean Etienne Bonnaire, head winemaker at Champagne Bonnaire and Champagne Paul Clouet.
Where traditional viticultural practices often damage the soil in which vines are grown, sustainable viticulture aims to replenish and enrich these soils. In particular, biodynamic farmers use a range of methods to ensure that their vineyards are sustainable and self-replenishing. These include promoting bugs and insects to live in the vineyards, as well as following a specific stellar calendar for their farming.
The influences of the moon’s gravitational pull on the seasons, tides and plant growth is no mystery to us, or those following biodynamics, and they even take it one step further by working with these “cosmic forces” throughout the growing cycle for cultivation, sowing, and harvesting. Each biodynamic calendar day coincides with one of the four classical elements; resulting in “fruit-days” [fire] the best days for harvesting grapes, “root-day” [earth] the ideal days for pruning, “flower-day” [air] the days to leave the vineyard in peace, and “leaf-days” [water] the ideal days for spraying special teas.
Another biodynamic viticultural practice is the creation of a specific manure mixture, also known as preparation 500. Organic cow horns are filled with manure and then buried in the vineyard for 6 months. They are then dug up and the nutrient rich substance inside is stirred with water and sprayed across the vineyard. Designed to improve the quality of the crops. the spiritual theory behind doing so is that by planting death into the soil, new life and vitality is born into the earth.
Despite its nonconformist approach, the holistic and harmonious practice of biodynamics is adopted by many well-known wine producers from around the world, including Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux, Viña Sena in Chile, and Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace. You may also be surprised to learn that Cristal Champagne, by Louis Roederer is a biodynamic wine!
Although the methods for biodynamic viticulture and winemaking are not always easy to follow due to challenging environmental factors, viticulturists and winemakers all around the world are constantly making advances in technology that’ll allow them to farm more sustainably year after year.