A little loony. In all honesty, that was my first impression of biodynamic wine. Cow horns and moon cycles? That was it. I had heard enough. Maybe if I were looking to pair the wine with granola… but I was not.
However, this questionable process that seemed only to promise a passing fad a few years ago, a process that seemed all-too-conveniently correspondent to the sudden rise of interest in organic culture—the era of Whole Foods fanaticism—has only proved to grow more popular with time and explanation. Admittedly, this meta-green project has even begun to crack my cynicism. And so, I have dedicated some time and this blog into trying to further understand this curious choice of viticulture.
Biodynamic agriculture was created and outlined by Austrian philosopher-scientist, Rudolph Steiner, back in 1924. He was driven by the need to infuse spiritual/holistic significance into the physical world through philosophical methods. He sought to give purposeful weight to material existence—a process termed ‘anthroposophy.’ Biodynamic winemaking stemmed from his agricultural assertions. For him, it was not merely about successfully growing edible fruit or even identifying the pragmatic steps needed to achieve a desired food or flower. To reduce the production of life to a mere scientific equation created a disconnect. Steiner insisted upon encouraging the soul of the land to speak through philosophical practices. He saw the land as a closed, living system where all was integrated—the soils, the growers, the grapes, the animals, and even the insects.
A number of ‘preparations’ go into the caretaking of a biodynamic vineyard. Some include the stuffing of cow manure in a cow horn, burying it for the winter and then working it into the spring soils. Similarly, the earth receives a quartzite and rainwater blend, the flower heads of yarrow fermented in a stag’s bladder, stinging nettle tea, and oak bark fermented in the skull of a domestic animal. These and other components are diluted and then energized through a process called ‘dynamization’ and finally introduced back into the land with respect to various lunar and solar cycles.