Green Wines - Organic and Biodynamic
Although wine is essentially a very natural product there are certain producers working closer to nature than others. There are two main forms of doing this; organic growing and biodynamic growing. Growing grapes organically means using no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or chemical fertilizers of any kind on the vines or in the soil of the vineyards. One can often see a deeper commitment to quality and true passion for wine when meeting producers whom work this close to nature with a greater respect for our environment. However, many top producers are doing this without an organic certification since they feel it is such an obvious way to work.
Biodynamic growing take it one step further; in addition to applying the same principles as for organic growing it will consider the soil as a living organism in its own right. In addition, biodynamic growers will schedule the work done in the vineyard in accordance with the lunar and cosmic rhythms of the universe. It is also a form of homeopathic philosophy for agriculture based on a series of speeches done by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 in Austria and instead of using chemicals to treat problems in the vineyard biodynamic growers will spray herbal infusions on the vines.
Two of the main treatments in biodynamic farming is horn silica and horn manure. This is quite exciting stuff really, to make horn manure you take a horn from a cow (a dead cow) you fil it with manure and bury it for 6 month in the ground so it starts a form of fermentation in the horn. Then the content is stirred into water vigorously, first in one direction and then the other (I am not kidding!). This is then sprayed on the soil to promote healthy root growth and the silica is sprayed on the leaves to enhance the health of the canopy.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that biodynamic farming is viewed by many as some sort of “witch craft” and that it can have no real effect on the quality of wine but when speaking to some of the top producers in the world, listening to their experience and tasting the wines there is, in my mind, no doubt about the fundamental effect biodynamic growing has on wine quality. Some of the finest and most tsaught after wines in the world are Biodynamically farmed such as, Romanée Conti and Domaine Leflaive in Burgundy, Pontet Canet in Bordeaux, Pingus in Spain Pelphs in California and many many more. Most of the vineyards for the famous champagne Cristal is also biodynamically farmed but without certification.
So, ‘which craft’ or not, this is a fascinating topic and I look forward to the day I can participate in the vigorous chaotic stirring of the field sprays and helping burying cow horns. Sounds like a very romantic and organic experience, especially if done in one of the above mentioned vineyards!!