These wines had a purity, a clarity, an undeniable energy to them that absolutely blew me away.
Sure, these could just have been exceptional wines that happened to be Biodynamic - but I was prepared to believe they were exceptional because they were Biodynamic.’ Max Allen, the leading commentator in Australia
and a growing voice globally on organic and biodynamic farming.
‘Organic’ and ‘Biodynamic’ widely used terms, but what does it all mean? Perhaps more importantly, how does it affect the grapes that make the wine we love to drink?
Organic farming can be defined as farming without the use of any artificial chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides).
Biodynamic farming takes this notion slightly further, Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines puts it well: ‘...biodynamic viticulture is a philosophy combining the maintenance of sustainable soil fertility and the recognition of the link between plant growth and the rhythms of the cosmos. It treats the vineyard as a living system, which interacts with the environment to build a healthy living soil that helps to nourish the vines and general environment.’
Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (part-time yodeler) is the man credited with outlining the basic principals of what is now known today as ‘biodynamic farming’.
In 1924 Mr Steiner gave a series of lectures to local farmers, after there had been great concern with the state of their farms. They had noted that due to chemical use, the soil was losing life and the health and quality of crops and livestock was deteriorating. This led Steiner to begin work on what would become known as Biodynamic Preparation 500. Essentially cow manure, this is the most widely used preparation in biodynamic farming.
It is made by filling a cow horn with cow manure and burying it below ground, and leaving it to slowly decompose over winter. The following spring the horn is recovered and the decomposed cow manure is mixed with rainwater, before being sprayed on the vineyard. Improves soil structure and microbiological activity. Preparation 500 is the cornerstone mixture of biodynamics (there are eight others).
Take from biodynamics what you want.... Whether going all out and worshipping the electromagnetic forces of the earth or simply taking some of Steiner’s biodynamic techniques and ideas created all those years ago, to help you farm smarter and better, it’s up to you... But what we do know is that pumping chemicals into the earth, from which we harvest our food and, importantly, our grapes, isn’t sustainable - especially if we’d like to avoid all ending up like Ozzy Osbourne.
Sebastian Crowther MS