When you’re driving through the vastness of France in a well air-conditioned car, scrolling the newsfeed on the smartphone and reading e-mails on the laptop, the last thing you’d expect to see is plowing with a plow and horses…
No, this is not a show for buyers and certainly not the stage for a movie, it is–a vivid example of a biodynamic vineyard.
The term “biodynamics” was introduced in 1924 by an Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, whose theory of anthroposophy (from the Greek ἄνθρωπος–“human” and σοφία–“wisdom”) covers several disciplines: education, medicine and agriculture among others. His work Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture is known as the bible of all biodynamic farmers.
The essence of his theory is that the vineyard is a living organism that is affected by the solar, lunar, planetary and stellar cycles or rhythms. You can say it’s not a piece of news, because for a long time the Greeks and Romans considered the starry sky and the planets as guiding principles to apply to farming. However, in the age of pesticides and tractors we all have forgotten about that. Steiner revealed the oversight, but his ideas didn’t get very popular–in 1928 only 66 farms started using the system that he had developed. And only in the Hippie decade of the 70’s would biodynamics become widespread.
Nowadays, every tenth vineyard in France is applying biodynamic principles. The number of biodynamic vineyards is also growing in Italy, Spain, Germany, Chile, USA and Austria. There is one in Russia, it is owned by the winemaker Paul Sweden.
What distinguishes a biodynamic vineyard?
Most of the work there is manual: mechanization is reduced to a minimum and animals are often taking part. In a good biodynamic farm the keeping of animals is close to something natural– mainly free-range, productivity is low and the feedstuffs consist of natural products only: hay, grain, roots.
The entire vineyard is interconnected (animals, soil, plants, insects, sun…) so that a lot of attention is paid to all living things.
The best-known preparations in biodynamics are field preparations–horn manure №500 and horn silica №501. Those substances are stuffed in a cow horn and buried into the ground at different intervals of time. Manure preparation from horns is used to cultivate the soil before planting or after harvesting. There are many other kinds of farm-fresh juices, so to speak: made of chamomile, yarrow leaves, dandelion, blended with entrails of animals or animals themselves. As biodynamic farmers say, those natural fertilizers increase the subtle energy, giving vital power to the land and vine.
Biodynamics shapes the wine from the vineyard during the sowing, pruning and harvesting. In a biodynamic vineyard, all of those processes are affected by the movement of the planets, of the sun and of the moon.
How do biodynamic farmers do astrological computations?
The calendar was made by a famous follower of Rudolf Steiner, a German researcher in biodynamics– Maria Thun, who grew up on a farm in Germany and spent much time with her father who paid a lot of attention to nature during the sowing and harvesting phases. Over time, Maria came closer to the ideas of biodynamics, as well as to those of Franz Rulni’s “Planting calendar” which described the effects of the predominance and changes of the planets on the crops and farm work. Maria Thun started actively planting different crops in accordance with the calendar. Finding a correlation, she decided to go deeper into astrology and found that sowing, according to the day it was done, made a huge difference in the size and shape of the fruits produced. It was her who found and then put together this planting calendar, which includes all 12 zodiac signs that we know.
One can argue whether they have an impact on our lives, and if so then how? But the influence of the planets on the animal world is definitely enormous. Days on the calendar are divided into four categories: the days of roots, the days of leaves, the days of flowers and the days of berries. If you have this calendar, but you do not have a farm, do not even think of throwing it out! There you can find not only which the good days for sowing are, but also which are best for drinking wine. If you see the days of berries and the days of flowers on the calendar, it means that the most favorable time to enjoy wine has come.
How to identify a bottle of biodynamic wine in a supermarket or a wine boutique?
There always is a specific certification mark on biodynamic wine bottles. There are particular organizations that certify biodynamic products. The most well-known and strictest is Demeter. A certificate from this organization cannot be received if, for example, high-voltage wires are located over a field. Another organization—Biodivin–will also critically review your crops and plants. To receive a certificate, you must pass complicated procedures: that is why not every winemaker can get it.
We cannot say with confidence what makes biodynamic wines better than others–the principles of biodynamics, or maybe the simple fact that such winemakers spend much more time on their vineyards.
Perhaps it is wiser to spend less time thinking about an answer and more enjoying their results.
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