Understanding Biodynamic Wine – What it is and Why it Matters

Get to know the basics of biodynamic wine and take your knowledge of wines to the next level.

Biodynamic Wine

It’s no secret that the world of wine can be complex, with many different terms and practices to keep track of. Among the buzzwords in recent years is “biodynamic” wine, a type of wine production that has been growing in popularity among aficionados and newcomers alike. But what is biodynamic wine, and why does it matter? In this blog post, we’ll explore the ins and outs of biodynamic winemaking, taking a closer look at its practices, philosophy, and potential benefits.

What is Biodynamic Wine:

Certified biodynamic wines are a type of wine that is produced using the principles of biodynamic farming, a holistic approach to agriculture that takes into account both the physical and spiritual aspects of nature. Biodynamic farming was first developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, as a response to the growing industrialization and standardization of agriculture in Europe. His philosophy emphasized the interconnectedness of all living things, and the need to work in harmony with nature.

Biodynamic farming involves various practices to care for the soil, crops, and animals, including the use of natural preparations (made from herbs, minerals, and manure), composting, crop rotation, and the cultivation of diverse ecosystems. Biodynamic wine production goes a step further, employing specific techniques to align the vineyard with the movements of the moon, stars, and planets.

Why Does Biodynamic Wine Matter:

While biodynamic wine might sound a bit esoteric or new age, there are actually some compelling reasons to care about this type of wine production. For one thing, biodynamic farming has been shown to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than conventional farming methods. By avoiding the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and promoting the health of the soil and ecosystem as a whole, biodynamic farmers can create healthier and more resilient vineyards.

Biodynamic wine production also tends to result in higher quality wines, with deeper flavors and better aging potential. This is in part due to the attention paid to the specific terroir of each vineyard, and the use of natural preparations to encourage healthy, balanced growth of the vines. Additionally, many people find the philosophy of biodynamic farming and winemaking to be appealing, as it emphasizes a deep respect for nature and the interdependence of all living things.

How Is Biodynamic Wine Made:

So, what exactly does biodynamic winemaking entail? Here are a few of the key practices involved:

  • Aligning with the Biodynamic Calendar: Biodynamic winemakers adhere to a special calendar that takes into account the phases of the moon, the astrological signs, and other celestial events. This helps to guide their planting, harvesting, and winemaking decisions.
  • Natural Preparations: Biodynamic preparations (such as horn manure, horn silica, and yarrow) are made from natural ingredients and used to stimulate biological activity in the soil and encourage healthy vine growth.
  • Cover Crop: Rather than tilling the soil between vine rows, biodynamic winemakers often plant a cover crop of clover or other plants to help improve soil health and prevent erosion.
  • Composting: Composting is an important aspect of biodynamic farming, and many winemakers create their own compost using grape pomace and other vineyard waste.
  • Hand-Harvesting: To achieve the highest quality grapes, biodynamic winemakers often hand-harvest their grapes. This allows them to carefully select only the ripest, healthiest fruit.

Best Biodynamic Wine:

Biodynamic wines are garnering global recognition for their quality and sustainable production methods. Here are some top-notch biodynamic wine producers that are worth exploring:

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Wines

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht is a highly regarded biodynamic wine brand based in the Alsace region of France. The winery was established in 1959 through the amalgamation of two established vineyards owned by the Zind and Humbrecht families. With a deep commitment to biodynamic practices, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht is recognized for producing wines that express the unique terroir of their vineyards with intensity and precision. Key varieties include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat. The brand's commitment to biodynamic viticulture, meticulous vineyard management, and minimal intervention in the winery gives life to wines that are a true reflection of their natural surroundings and a distinct expression of their specific vineyard origins.

Frey Vineyards

Frey Vineyards is a pioneering biodynamic wine brand located in Redwood Valley, California. Established in 1980, it has the distinction of being America's first certified organic winery, and it has also been Demeter-certified Biodynamic for over a decade. The family-owned winery is famed for producing wines with zero added sulfites, a unique feature in the wine industry. Varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Frey Vineyards' commitment to organic and biodynamic agriculture methods expresses itself in the wines they produce, which are noted for their vibrancy, expressiveness, and authenticity. By nurturing the soil and the vines with meticulous biodynamic practices, Frey Vineyards ensures that their wines capture the true essence of the vineyard, offering a taste that is as pure as nature intends.

Querciabella

Querciabella is another noteworthy biodynamic wine producer, hailing from the renowned wine region of Tuscany, Italy. The winery was founded in 1974 and shifted to organic viticulture in 1988, later adopting biodynamic farming in 2000. Querciabella is acclaimed for its rigorous adherence to biodynamic principles and for producing wines that are outstanding expressions of their terroir. The winery cultivates a range of varietals including Sangiovese, the primary grape in their Chianti Classico, and Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are blended in their flagship wine, Camartina. From the elegance of their Bâtard-Montrachet to the richness of their Chianti Classico, Querciabella's wines embody the winery's commitment to biodynamic viticulture, showcasing the full potential of their vineyards' unique characteristics.

Nicolas Joly

Nicolas Joly is a prominent figure in the world of biodynamic wine production, renowned for his influential role in promoting this sustainable approach to viticulture. Joly took over the family estate, Coulee de Serrant, located in the Loire Valley of France, in the late 1970s. Under his stewardship, the vineyard transitioned to biodynamic practices in 1984. Coulee de Serrant is one of the few vineyards in France to hold its own appellation due to its exceptional quality and distinct terroir. Joly is recognized for producing superb Chenin Blanc wines that are characterized by their complexity, longevity, and expressive terroir. Beyond his winemaking, Joly is also a leading advocate for biodynamic farming, sharing his knowledge and passion through lectures, writings, and his involvement in various biodynamic associations. His contribution to the industry is immense, making him a pivotal figure in the evolution and growth of biodynamic winemaking.

Monty Waldin

Monty Waldin is a leading figure in the biodynamic wine industry, known for his comprehensive knowledge of organic and biodynamic wines. As a wine writer and broadcaster, Waldin has made significant contributions to the understanding and promotion of biodynamic principles in the winemaking community. His hands-on experience, which includes working on biodynamic vineyards in both France and Italy, has given him a unique insight into the practical application of this holistic farming method. Waldin's books, such as "Biodynamic Wine" and "Organic Wine: A Marketer's Guide", have become key resources for anyone interested in sustainable winemaking. His work is celebrated for its depth of information, clarity, and commitment to advocating for viticulture that respects and harnesses the power of natural processes.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does biodynamic wine differ from certified organic wines?

While both methods avoid chemical inputs, require organic farming and organic grapes, biodynamic wine goes a step further by treating the vineyard as a complete ecosystem and using biodynamic preparations to nurture soil health. Moreover, many biodynamic winemakers follow astronomical planting and harvesting calendars.

2. Are biodynamic wines also organic?

Yes, biodynamic wines are inherently organic. The principles of biodynamics mandate the prohibition of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, similar to organic practices. However, biodynamics goes a step further by viewing the vineyard as an interconnected living system. This holistic approach encourages biodiversity, soil health, and the alignment of farming activities with lunar and cosmic rhythms. So while all biodynamic wine is also certified organic wine, not all organic wines are biodynamic.

3. What are some popular biodynamic wine brands?

Some globally recognized biodynamic wine brands include Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Frey Vineyards, Querciabella, and the wines produced by Nicolas Joly and Monty Waldin.

4. Is biodynamic wine healthier?

While both biodynamic and organic wines are made without artificial chemicals, healthy drinking ultimately depends on moderation. However, biodynamic wines are often lower in added sulfites, which can be beneficial for those with sensitivities.

5. Does biodynamic wine taste different?

Many wine professionals and enthusiasts believe that biodynamic wines taste of purity, vibrancy, and a sense of place that can make them taste unique. However, as with any wine, taste is subjective and can vary based on the terroir, grape varietals used, and winemaker's style. It is recommended to try biodynamic wines for yourself and see how they compare to other wines. Overall, the focus on nurturing soil health and biodiversity in biodynamic farming can contribute to more complex and expressive wines. So, while not necessarily a difference in taste, biodynamic wines may offer a fuller and more authentic representation of their terroir.

6. Does biodynamic wine age well?

Yes, biodynamic wines can age well due to the focus on quality grapes and minimal intervention during the winemaking process. Many biodynamic producers also use traditional winemaking techniques, such as aging in oak barrels, which can contribute to the wine's longevity. However, as with any wine, aging potential may vary depending on the specific vintage and grape varietals used.

7. How can I tell if a wine is biodynamic?

To know if a wine is biodynamic, look for certification from reputable organizations such as Demeter or Biodyvin. Many biodynamic winemakers also include information about their farming practices on their labels or websites. So, if you are unsure, don't hesitate to do some research or ask the producer directly. Additionally, many wine retailers and restaurants now offer a selection of biodynamic wines, making it easier for consumers to try them out.

Conclusion:

Biodynamic wine production might seem like a niche or obscure practice, but it has been gaining popularity in recent years for good reason. By emphasizing the interdependence of all living things and caring for the soil and vineyard ecosystem in a holistic way, biodynamic winemakers can create healthier, more sustainable, and higher-quality wines. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or simply interested in exploring new approaches to agriculture and winemaking, biodynamic wine is definitely worth discovering.