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Sip & Savor: Biodynamic Wine

Apr 12, 2012 12:15PM ● By Anonymous

For some, this holistic leap is just too far. For others, it’s the natural approach—and when we say “natural,” we mean it in every sense of the word.

On the most basic level, the biodynamic approach to grape growing contends that a vineyard is more than just the rows of vines. It also encompasses the soil beneath the vine, the moon, sun, and stars above the vine, and the other life— human, animal, and botanical—that interacts with the vine. All these components affect the vineyard, and in the end, affect the wine just as much.

“You want to walk as softly on the grass as you can,” says wine educator and sommelier Laurie Forster. “In making the wine, you’re not just thinking of what you’re doing with the vine, but everything else you’re producing.” She refers to the process as “organic on steroids” because biodynamic vintners take everything to the next level. For those not schooled in the cosmos, agriculture, or philosophy—it was, after all, the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who came up with the concept—an explanation of biodynamics that might make your head hurt. For example, some of the nine processes a biodynamic vintner must go through include burying both a cow’s horn and its manure, as well as ground quartz, and hanging chamomile flowers sheathed in a cow’s intestine. It’s just kooky enough to draw smirks from the non-believers.

So let’s talk about what you really want to do: Is biodynamic wine better? The answer is, of course, yes and no. According to Scott Carney, master sommelier and director of wine education at the International Culinary Center in New York City, serious tasters have often preferred biodynamic wine in a series of blind tastings, though there are no scientific data “confirming some inherent superiority,” he says.

There are a lot of delicious biodynamic wines out there, but there are also wonderful non-biodynamic wines. In the end, just as with all other types of wines, it’s going to depend on the winery, as well as your personal tastes. However, for someone who is always trying to consume natural products that emphasize the importance of being eco-friendly, then a “bio wine” might be just the ticket for you, particularly in comparison to a commercial wine.

But just like those farmers who want to call their wine “organic,” biodynamic farmers can’t just throw around the term willy-nilly. There are currently more than 450 biodynamic winemakers reported worldwide, though the real number is certain to be higher. To label their wines as such, biodynamic vineyards must be certified, a rigorous and expensive process. Some farmers choose that the certification itself isn’t worth it and will produce a biodynamic wine without the label. But despite this, consumers—some of them, at least—have begun to ask for biodynamic wine as they become more interested in consuming responsibly when it comes to the environment.

“There is some sort of art and philosophy to biodynamics that you don’t get in organics,” Forster says. “If you’re a person that believes that we’re all connected and that everything you do effects something, somewhere down the line, and you want it to be the positive affect, then it probably doesn’t seem too weird to you.”

Biodynamic Wine Recommendations
Sommelier and Wine Educator Laurie Forster recommends the following biodynamic wines and vineyards:

Quivira Vineyards and Winery, Healdsburg, California.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace, France.

Clos Puy Arnaud, Cotes de Castillon, France.