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Dancing with the Stars

A wine-related goal of mine for the New Year is to figure out biodynamic wines—or, at the very least come to a reasonable facsimile of an opinion grounded in research and pragmatism.

Certainly, it’s one of the more contentious, lighting-rod type issues in the wine industry.

And, I may be biting off more than I can chew.  But, who wouldn’t be interested in theories so seemingly contrary to our modern world as equating farming to the Zodiac.  I mean, for goodness sake, there aren’t horoscopes in every paper are there?

The timing is good to start reviewing it though because another small resolution of mine is to participate in the Wine Blogging Wednesdays (WBW) on a monthly basis and this month’s edition is … yes, Biodynamic wines. 

Though, a hunch tells me that a lot of people for WBW are going to operate in the gray and actually drink a certified organic.  Finding BioD wines is difficult. 

My own tasting experience is limited to just one bottle—a Sineann Pinot Noir that I tasted head to head with other Sineann non-BioD Pinot’s.  To my palate it did taste fresher and livelier, if not a bit restrained—kind of like a ballet dancer performing to a three-chord guitar song.  It seemed nice, but dissonant.  But, because it wasn’t a blind tasting I think I was probably transferring some of my own psychosomatic bias.

The challenge with being a viticulture layperson and trying to discern some sort of essential truth out of BioD, as it’s affectionately abbreviated, is that there is no official documentation.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the movement, gave a lot of lectures in 1924 called Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture that make up the underpinnings of the philosophy.

But, because Steiner died within a year after giving the lectures a lot of his theory is left to wide interpretation.

Ironically, Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, held at the center of all of his teachings the notion that he wanted to bridge the material and spiritual world through a philosophical understanding.

Many Christians view Biodynamics as being equivalent to palm and tarot readers and anathema to Christianity based on many of its teachings.

Steiner, for his part, believed that farming consisted of viewing the farm and farming in its entirety, including cosmic and lunar forces. 

A small bit of irony should be pointed out, though, that both the Bible and BioD require some level of faith because both source documents are anecdotal and opinion based. 

As a part of my primary research, I just bought and received a copy of the book Biodynamic Wines by Monty Waldin—a doorstop the size of an old school Stephen King hardback, coming in at 544 pages.  I bought it off Amazon and it’s probably as good of a primer as any.  I’m not sure where this research on BioD is going to take me over the course of 2007, but I have a hunch I’ll have to do some research with the Demeter Association and with Steiner’s source documents from his lectures.  Or I may just get bored with it and draw a conclusion, if I haven’t sublimely done so already. 

A recent article in Decanter Magazine called Pinch of Quartz, Horn of Cow by Beverly Blanning offers up a somewhat flattering portrait of many in the wine BioD jetstream, but a parting quote before the walk-off line at the end of the article offers perhaps the most telling statement about BioD when Alvaro Espinoza from Chile said,

“It’s harder for a big company to become biodynamic, because everybody needs to believe in it.”

In the end, this may just be about faith and you can’t validate nor shake somebody on either side regarding their faith.

Keywords:  Biodynamic wine, Rudolf Steiner


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (3) |


On 01/06, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I would suggest limiting your reading on Biodynamics, all of the sources seem to say the same thing and do so in a very vague way.  If you have the opportunity visit a biodynamic vineyard and meet with its manager.  It isn’t just about stars.  Infact due to the timming of work in vineyards the (Biodynamic) calender becomes less important than in other areas of agriculture.  What is important is the composting and spray preperation/application.  Remember though, farming ones vineyard biodynamically does notensure superior fruit (hence wine) regardless of farming system lazy and incompetant farming equals bad wines.

On 01/09, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Here’s a “haiku” of BioD to go with your big book. Steiner’s farm goal was a rich composite organism: the mineral of soil, the life of plants, the sensitivity of animals (going all the way through their digestive systems), with the human the creative self directing it all. Which is just a kind of radical common sense, really.

As an aside, since you mentioned it, Steiner devoted a significant piece of his life effort to directly exploring the record of human history, by something like intensified meditation, and what he came up with affirms both the old and new testament much more radically and logically than any institutional dogma I’ve encountered. That doesn’t endear him to any established church, of course.

As for stars, it doesn’t take much to find “the stars” in the bible, too.

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