Are you still there? Good. Why might this actually work? Think about it. An incredible amount of time and manual labor is put into biodynamic wine. Not only is the planting and preparation conscientiously ceremonious, the reaping of grapes are meticulously done by hand, the crushing applied with utmost delicacy, and the entire mindset is saturated with respect for the earth and its contents. It is a leveling of life forms; all have equal significance—farmer and fruit.
Jamie Goode’s website, www.wineanorak.com, includes a wonderful guide to biodynamic winemaking practices and politics, fit for the curious passer-by or the deeply enthralled wine enthusiast: http://www.wineanorak.com/biodynamic1.htm. Goode begins by providing a provocative aside regarding a blind tasting at Domaine Leflaive back in 1997. When asked their preference between two whites, 12 out of 13 individuals from Corney & Barrow unknowingly agreed upon the same selection. Anne-Claude Leflaive revealed that although the two wines were essentially the same, they were taken from different plots of land—one biodynamic, one not. It was a 2006 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon. The next year, Leflaive went completely biodynamic.
Of course, as even Goode explains, there remains the concern that biodynamic agriculture is far from scientifically rooted and, therefore, continues to be regarded with skepticism as to its overall unquantifiable effectiveness. As such, biodynamic practices risk becoming a cultish, transient trend. Winemakers, like Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier, believe that “unless the observations of the effects of biodynamics are underpinned by a theoretical scientific understanding, biodynamics are in danger of becoming a sect.” This is a legitimate fear. Unfortunately, few winemakers are in unison with this motion towards scientific development, as biodynamic agriculture is fundamentally unconventional, or, at least, non-western in its approach to farming. Also, as Goode underscores, biodynamic viticulture almost demands improvisation and as such gleans a variety of interpretive alterations—agricultural decisions are influenced by the winemaker’s personal relationship with the land and what he/she feels is necessary to maintain the greatest possible balance—spiritually and physically.
Above all, biodynamic wines represent time, thought, and integrity. These winemakers have a responsibility to hear the song of their soil, outline its character, cater to its particular needs, strengths, and weaknesses. There is no hierarchy—they cannot control the vineyard; they are part and parcel of the process itself. They mediate and motivate, parent and protect, talk and listen to the land. But that is all that can be done. Therefore, each bottle comes to embody the emotions, material, weather and sounds of the vintage itself when given the proper tools to actualize its potential.
Here are a few biodynamic producers I find to be quite exceptional:
Beaux Frères (Oregon, http://www.beauxfreres.com/)
Hegdes Family Estate (Washington, http://www.hedgescellars.com/)
Ceàgo Vineyards (Mendocino, CA, http://www.ceago.com/)
Domaine Leroy (Burgundy, FR, http://www.domaineleroy.com/)
Domaine Dujac (Burgundy, FR, http://www.dujac.com/)
Domaine Leflaive (Burgundy, FR, http://www.leflaive.fr/fr/)
Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau (Loire, FR, http://www.vigneau-chevreau.com/cadre_ang.htm)
G. Humbrect & Fils (Alsace, FR, http://www.vins-humbrecht.fr/domaine-en.html)
Zind Humbrecht (Alsace, FR)
Marcel Deiss (Alsace, FR, http://www.marceldeiss.com/)
Querciabella (Tuscany, IT, http://www.querciabella.com/)
Hirsch (Austria, http://weingut-hirsch.at/)
Nigl (Austria, http://www.weingutnigl.at/)
Nikolaihof (Austria, http://www.nikolaihof.at/)
Clos Martinet (Priorat, Spain)