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BioD Backlash from the Restless, Rootless, and Godless

Who knew the California wine industry was the center of the non-believers, not even agnostic, uncertain about God’s presence because s/he has never revealed himself, simply non-believers without faith, atheists.

Atheists are usually reluctant to reveal themselves, as it is something of a social taboo to cop to being faithless. 

Yet, I know a dense number of atheists exist in California and on the West Coast, particularly the wine industry, despite what the statistics tell you about population and religious identification.

There cannot possibly be much Christmas in Napa, Sonoma and elsewhere. 

Despite this obvious Godless existence in the wine industry, I do not hold it against them, I am generally open and welcoming of things I do not totally understand, even if others are not.

There are approximately 80-90 million Catholics in America and I am one of them, at least by baptism, church protocol and 12 years of Catholic education.  One in four people in the U.S. are Catholic, and the numbers add up even more as a percentage of the population if you count total Christians. 

It is a funny thing about Catholics (and all Christians).  We actually believe that Jesus was born by Immaculate Conception.  Immaculate Conception as in: God put Jesus, the Son of God, in the tummy of Mary, without Joseph even getting to do the fun part, and unto us was born a Savior.


Another funny thing about Jesus – he could work miracles – cure lepers and turn water into wine.

And, Jesus was able to do something that nobody I know of has been able to replicate – he was dead for three days and then came back to life.

Wow.  Now that is a party trick. 

Catholics even add to this wonder with some specific beliefs and rituals.  There is communion at every Mass and Catholics believe that the Eucharist and wine, when consecrated by the Priest, actually turns into the body and blood of Christ—literally, not symbolically.

Catholics also believe that we can be absolved of our sins by periodic visits to a priest to confess our sins and serve a penance, usually some “Our Fathers” and “Hail Mary’s.”

Likewise, Catholics believe in purgatory, so, you know, if you are not ready to go straight to heaven because you are carrying venial sin (essentially a forgivable offense) then you can hang out in Purgatory for a while to work the sin off, kind like a New Year’s diet to work off 10 holiday pounds.

You know this Christianity stuff is, if looked at objectively, peculiar stuff.

After 12 years of Catholic schooling, theology classes, Mass attendance, altar boy work and the like, I was imbued in the faith.  I was a believer, or at the least, not a conscientious objector.

Then, I fell in love with a Jewish girl, my wife.  To her, Jesus was a fine Jew and a carpenter, but not The Chosen One, as he/she has yet to grace us with their presence.

We could both agree on the God part, though.  My wife and I have an interfaith marriage.  When we start a family, according to Judaic canon a child born to a Jewish mother is Jewish.  We will raise our kids with respect to the Judaic tradition with a nod to Unitarianism.  Though, admittedly, I feel more spiritual than anything and I worship at “St. Mattress” on Sunday mornings.  St. Mattress is the Patron Saint of Sleeping, particularly on Sunday mornings before drinking coffee and reading the New York Times, you may worship with him, as well ...

Seriously, though (kind of), the Unitarian church is rather welcoming, it is not your God, or my God; it is more of an “All God’s Creatures” kind of thing, recognizing Jesus, but not necessarily his divinity, which is good because I actually like the Eastern philosophical nature of it, very welcoming, very open to a diversity of views and individual expression of belief and faith.  I bet you there are even some neopagans like Wicca practitioners that believe in the religion of nature that happen to attend Unitarian churches.


It is inclusive, not exclusive.

Now, all of this introspection about the nature of religion is well and good, but it really is related to wine, particularly Biodynamic wine. 

There is a backlash against Biodynamic wine.  A bunch of people in the wine business think it’s voodoo, shamanistic withcraft and a quasi-cult.  These people have strong opinions, including St. Vini from the wine blog Zinquisition and Stuart Smith from Smith-Madrone winery (amongst many others not as vocal, albeit at stage right speaking in a stage whisper).

These people, who are vocally critical of Biodynamics are undoubtedly atheists—restless, rootless, faithless and Godless. 

This Godlessness amongst so many in the wine industry is somewhat hard to believe, I know, but it is true.  St. Vini even thanked God twice in his recent post that was rich with Biodynamic skepticism, a Freudian slip, undoubtedly. 

Yet, I know that he is an atheist and without faith.

How do I know?  Because surely anybody that looks down their nose at somebody who practices something that isn’t completely understood, can’t simultaneously also believe that Jesus was dead for 3 days and rose again to be the Lord Savior, as all Christians believe.  Nor, just to make sure I have covered all of my bases, can he have any faith in any religion that relies on divinity in their belief system.

Therefore, I am left with only one conclusion:  if you do not believe in BioD, you do not believe in any higher power. 

Faith does not discriminate. 

Biodynamic photo credit


Posted in, The Week in Wine. Permalink | Comments (16) |


On 05/08, Josh wrote:

I’m going to take you at face value here - that you’re not just trying to stir the pot (but I know you, and I think you are). :-p

First, 2 things:

1. I believe in God, I believe that Jesus performed miracles, that he died and rose again three days later.

2. I do not believe in BioD.

And believing in one does not mean that I must believe in the other. If you asked BioD folks if they believe in Jesus, the majority will probably answer no, at least in the commonly understood “mainstream” sense.

Also, beliefs are often mutually exclusive.

(I feel pedantic already, and want to kind of take my toaster in the bath, but I’ll pedal my tricycle onward…)

The Unitarian Church is an extreme example of a totally inclusive, big-tent spirituality. Most other denominations say basically, there is One true God. If you don’t believe in Him, then well, you don’t really understand our faith.

I don’t “believe” in BioD because its practitioners attempt to pass it off as Super Organic, when it are nothing of the sort. BioD folks say that their practices have measurable effects on their vines, but this has never been shown. They believe that if you swirl water in a barrel long enough that water will somehow change its fundamental properties via something called “dynamism”. Unseen forces are credited with causing all sorts of silly things.

But we’re not talking about the eternal questions here. Unprovable and impossible to disprove like why we’re here. We’re talking about stuff we have a decent understanding of, and can quantify and measure.

In this world, the bricks and mortar one, there are laws that we can uncover and rely on. To suggest that these laws can be bent or broken by normal folks by simply churning some water with a stick, well, strikes me as insulting. I mean, if its true, this should be one of the easiest things in the history of viticulture to prove. Just spin some water in a vortex for a few days and measure against a control.

I’m all for invisible forces and miracles, but please, lets keep them out of discussions of the *science* of grape growing and leave them for the quiet time in the vineyard. Like at dawn when the sun peaks over a vine covered ridge, and even the most skeptical among us wonder at the order and beauty that surrounding us.

But bottom line: If you want to go BioD, have at ‘er! Just don’t market yourself as “super” anything and we’ll all get along just fine. grin

On 05/08, Robert Larsen wrote:

Always love the way you put together your thoughts and share them. Thanks!

On 05/08, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I appreciate your logic but BD isn’t a religion. I farm BD.  I don’t want to get into a philosophical debate on the evils or merits of the agro-chemical revolution.  Josh would be interested in the findings of Glenn McGourty UCDavis Ag Advisor for Lake and Mendocino county.  Attached is a link to the findings of his research

On 05/08, Josh wrote:

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the link.

I’ve met Glen and gave a talk to the Mendo Grape growers 2 years back. he’s a great guy, and a huge advocate for the region. For that I applaud him.

But I’m not sure the link you posted furthers the BioD cause much. Assuming the results reported are statistically significant, which I have no way of knowing, all it really proves is that a vineyard that is worked and paid more attention to (whether it be applying BioD preparations or simply walking and observing) will yield fruit in a style closer to the goal of the grower.

But no one I know has a problem getting their grapes concentrated in CA. And nearly everyone I know wants less sugar, not more. And each of these goals can be achieve via convention, sustainable, organic and BioD methods, yielding wines with “balance”, and high quality.

Thanks for the conversation!

On 05/09, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Josh succinctly summarizes. Attention to detail and obsession for quality are the real factors behind the results rather than the unusual methods employed in the process. If Rudolph Steiner is the creator of BioD then one must investigate the whole work of the creator and that which influenced his creation. I cannot think of a better analogy than Margaret Sanger, a founding heroine of the women’s reproductive rights movement, yet a serious investigation of this woman’s philosophies leaves the honest researcher questioning how the movement ignores the obvious flaws in the core principles of Ms. Sanger. The same holds true for Steiner.  How can I seriously debate BioD when the Steiner also founded the school of athroposophy?  Serious practitioners of BioD would never subjectively remove one or two of the processes that make this subject so controversial.  It would be ruinous to the whole pursuit. I cannot remove the philosophies that shaped Steiner’s creation of BioD.

On 05/11, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

“Yet, I know that he is an atheist and without faith.

How do I know?  Because surely anybody that looks down their nose at somebody who practices something that isn’t completely understood, can’t simultaneously also believe that Jesus was dead for 3 days and rose again to be the Lord Savior, as all Christians believe.  Nor, just to make sure I have covered all of my bases, can he have any faith in any religion that relies on divinity in their belief system.”

I’ve reread this portion five times and I conclude that you’re either playing devil’s advocate or you so poorly explained your position that your point became lost in a morass of cloudy thinking and fuzzy logic. You might have a point there, but you didn’t bring it together. 

Criticism is a valuable part of the act of understanding any belief system.  As a Catholic, do you have no comment/criticism on alternate translations (KJV) of the Bible?  Surely you can’t be suggesting that we avoid judgement on things we don’t fully comprehend?  That would be absurd….


On 05/11, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I am merely a wretch and even I know that Immaculate Conception is the conception of the Virgin Mary without the stain of original sin, not the virgin birth of Jesus.  Sorry to nitpick.
As for BioD, I no more believe in its efficacy than the “belief” that Xenu is the alien ruler of the Galactic Confederacy.
BioD is quackery.
Didn’t Steiner believe bad folks came back as Irishmen?


On 05/11, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Good points made by Josh.  I have little to add other that the observation that it’s quite ironic that someone standing on the lowest rung of the ecumenical commitment ladder would be casting aspersions about the religious commitments and beliefs of others.  What’s next?  Someone who ate at Chez Panisse one time criticizing those who don’t make a lifelong commitment to local and organic eating?

On 05/11, Jeff wrote:


thanks for all the comments.

Generally speaking, I didn’t plan on commenting at all, leaving the post as-is.

But, I do have to note that I used religion as an allegory that belief systems and, yes, science are fallible.

I’m not treading on any one belief system, but rather, trying to point out that there is room for a multitude of beliefs—in religion and viticulture.

Thanks for reading!


On 05/11, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

You can also look at a Swiss 21 year case study by the Research Institute of Organic agriculture that talks about the effectiveness of BD farming.  I just can’t understand all the anger that is directed towards practitioners of BD.  I don’t fault anyone for using round-up.  It’s just not for me.  Since everyone is using the religious analogy I find it hard to believe that someone wants scientific evidence on BD effectiveness but still believes in all the bells and smells of Catholicism.  I am not going to preach on Steiner but many of the things said about Steiner were said before by the National Socialist Party prior to the Second World War.  Sorry, I broke my spoon while stirring. smile

On 05/11, Josh wrote:

Hi Mike,

You’re close! The people who criticize Steiner are actually Nazi *Zombies*, kept alive by quaffing dynamized water. We just don’t want to share our secret undead gift with the great unwashed! :-p

I don’t see any anger here toward BioD at all though. To each his own.

I just don’t think it should be held out as Organic squared. It does not deserve such a distinction.

For instance, if a group of growers in *Texas* decided to stage a PR campaign saying that their grapes were superior because Jesus blessed their crops, and then did some studies to back it up, you’re telling me you wouldn’t raise an eyebrow and cough <bulls**t> into your hand? I would! grin

Re: believing in God and still wanting scientific proof: Another red herring! I’m going to go cook it and pair it with pinot. Delicious.


Thanks again for the conversation!

On 05/11, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

“If you asked BioD folks if they believe in Jesus, the majority will probably answer no”: after 20 years of practice and study of Biodynamic agriculture in different parts of the world, all I can say is that I have met biodynamists with very different systems of belief. Which should not come as a surprise for religion is part of the cultural dimension of a society, and as such will simply obey, at its best, the higher principle of Liberty and self-determination of the individuals. Therefore I have met Christian biodynamists in Europe, Australia and North America (whether Protestants, or Catholics or else Orthodox), but also Muslim biodynamists in Egypt at Sekem, or Jewish biodynamists in Israel at Harduf. Not mentioning the biodynamists in India and Africa. And everywhere also: agnostic and/or atheist biodynamists. And above all: farmers, simply farmers, whose systems of belief were certainly not the topic of our sharing!

On 05/12, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I’m a layman (dropped out of 2nd year law), but I think the above post could be considered libellous.

In any case, if you are the Christian you say you are Jeff, you should take the higher road and issue a public apology to SV and everyone else you cast an ugly and unwanted aspersion on.

On 05/12, Jeff wrote:

Hi Elwyn,

Thanks for the comment.

I take very seriously your perception of this post, but I would strongly encourage you to view this as allegorical satire to make a point.
I think you might be reading it literally, and my point isn’t to call people Godless, my point is to convey that our commonly held belief systems are sacrosanct to many even while different beliefs are open to ridicule.

And, besides, you can’t libel St. Vini, as he’s anonymous.

Thanks for reading and I hope you don’t view this post as a pox on your Good Grape reading experience.  I like all readers (and I like to stir the pot of conventional thinking, as well).


On 05/12, mydailywine wrote:

Nice post Jeff. Tom Wark and I have had some discussion around religion and biodynamics.
And I have mentioned the connection on my blog.
But I think you will find the opposite can be just as true.
Many religious believers might see BioD as worshipping a ‘false god’. They believe this type of devotion and ritual should only be applicable to religion not agriculture.

Have to admit that I am one of those Cali agnostics but I can still appreciate the need for comfort and the beauty of ritual that comes from religious belief.

On 05/12, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Dear Amy, thank you for pointing out expressly that “devotion and rituals” belong to the sphere of religion. While the biodynamists work with the ever-changing rhythmic elements of life. Kind regards, Brigitte


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