In a world of rapid change and increased global warming, interest in alternative methods of farming as well as production of foods and beverages that adhere to those alternative methods is also increasing. More people are aware of the negative human impact on the earth, and more people are feeling disconnected from the earth and therefore longing for a greater connection. Enter biodynamic farming. The biodynamic movement has spread over the last decades to the point where, today, we have more than 700 biodynamic wine brands embracing this movement. But what are biodynamics, anyway?
What Is the Biodynamic Movement?
The biodynamic movement is one founded in the farming industry that encourages a connection between the earth and all of its creatures large and small and a spiritual element that weaves among us all. The belief in biodynamics is that no man, woman, child, animal, plant, or insect is an island, that we function best when we work together in harmony. It largely goes back to the prescription in the Christian Bible that humans are shepherds of the earth.
The way biodynamics sees it, we humans have been acting as lord and master over the earth, bending it to our will as we see fit in our narrow point of view and largely doing damage along the way, not just to the earth and its plants and animals but also to ourselves. We are sicker, weaker, and worse off now than we were one hundred years ago, according to this philosophy. And if we would step into a space that sees a sociological connection with the ecological, we could thrive.
Thus, biodynamics operates on a cyclical basis, farming on moon cycles, using no chemicals or artificially produced fertilizers. It honors the animals’ contributions to the earth, in the form of grazing, stomping, and defecating to provide manure. It also honors some sacred and religious practices that have no basis in science as of latest publications, but certainly are not harmful to anyone or anything involved.
The founder of biodynamics was Rudolph Steiner, a scientist and philosopher. He was highly respected as an intellectual mastermind in his time and was a prolific writer. He lectured extensively on the scientific-spiritual relationship in all humans, and he advocated for an acknowledgment of both science and spirit in everything we do. His books included studies on Jesus Christ as well as nutrition, on angels and demons as well as regenerative farming.
Today, many of his works, still in print publication, are read extensively by farmers and spiritualists as a way of living a better life and making the world a better place for everyone.
Biodynamic vs. Regenerative
Now, you have probably heard of regenerative farming even if you have not heard of biodynamic farming. To summarize, regenerative agriculture is a style of farming that nourishes the earth and encourages growth rather than depleting the soil, as we have been doing for hundreds of years. This practice includes three sisters farming, with engaging a variety of crops on the same soil, grazing rotations with livestock so the animals eat from, stomp on, and defecate on various parts of the earth where crops will be grown, and diversification of crops, which encourages a wide range of pollinators and other wildlife to thrive.
Biodynamics is a form of regenerative farming. It includes regenerative agriculture practices while also incorporating spiritual and esoteric elements that are not supported by hard science. For example, biodynamics includes information about astrology, which is typically not included in other types of regenerative farming practices.
Biodynamic vs. Organic
Organic farming is another term that comes up commonly in these discussions, and it is important to note that while organic farming and biodynamics have one critical component in common – the absence of inorganic chemicals, that is where the similarities stop. While biodynamic farming is organic, not all organic farming is biodynamic or even regenerative.
Organic farming does not make claims or commitments to regenerative farming practices. The only commitment organic farming makes is to not use chemicals.
How Wine Is Made
Before we discuss how biodynamic wine is made, we should touch on how wine has always been made, since the beginning of time.
In general, farmers pay attention to the production of their grapes. They grow and harvest specifically sweet grapes to make wine as the sugar content is higher and therefore better for fermentation and higher alcohol content. Factors like the sun, the soil, and low temperatures all come into play.
Farmers also wait until grapes are at their ripest before harvesting them as that is when they produce the most sugar.
Finally, once grapes have been harvested, they are crushed. If the winemaker is making red wine, the skins and stems are allowed to soak in the juice. If white wine is produced, the stems and skins are immediately removed. For pink wines, or rose, the skins and stems may soak briefly in the wine.
Ultimately, the grape juice, or must, is strained and allowed to ferment with wild, local yeasts best suited to the type of wine being made.
The wine is racked and allowed a secondary fermentation to smooth out aromas and flavors and clean up any off flavors.
In the end, the wine will be aged and bottled and sent to the market.
What Is a Biodynamic Wine?
The only real difference in biodynamic wine is that no chemical pesticides will be sprayed on the vineyard, no chemicals like additional sulfites will be added, and so you will get a higher quality of wine.
The biodynamic cycle
Typically, biodynamic wine adheres to a sacred Lunar cycle referred to as root, flower, leaf, and fruit, which determines when farmers will harvest, prune, plant, as well as when to simply allow the plants to thrive.
Cow horn manure
There are also select elements and combinations of herbs and compost used in biodynamic farming like cow horn manure, which involves stuffing manure compost into a cow horn and burying it for the winter before digging it up and spreading it over the land to improve the soil.
Biodynamic Wine Brands to Try
- Nicolas Joly
- Montinore Estate
- Benziger Winery
- Sybille Kuntz
- Shinn Estate
- Maison Chapoutier
- Domaine Leroy
In the end, you may not notice a difference in whether a wine is biodynamic, but you will likely notice the higher quality of flavors and aroma that come from biodynamic wine alongside other wines that are made according to regenerative farming practices. And hey, it can’t hurt to add a little spirituality to your spirits.
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