Bio Dynamic Wine
by Guy Boursot

To some, bio-dynamic viticulture may sound like mumbo-jumbo but increasingly it is being embraced in wine circles. So many quality vineyards around the world now practice it that it has become impossible to ignore bio-dynamic cultivation and one feels compelled to look more closely.

Put crudely, bio-dynamic viticulture could be described as "super-charged organic" production of grapes. This type of cultivation forces growers to be more sustainable and also to produce their own natural composts, which are prepared with the six medicinal plants of nettle, camomile, yarrow, oak bark, dandelion and valerian, each of which has different beneficial effects on soil. Many of these preparations are then put into cow-horn and buried in the earth for months before being applied to the vineyard in consultation with the lunar calendar.

Today’s bio-dynamic principles were established by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s – it was he who proposed that everything in the cosmos was inter-related and that when certain planets were in alignment or the moon was exerting a particular gravitational force on Earth, that was a good or a bad time to be working with plants, including treatment or harvesting. And ultimately that extends to drinking wine.

On the drinking side, there is a calendar of when wines (and other naturally produced products) taste better and worse. As the moon moves through different constellations, the "swingometer" of taste can vary, even through a single day.

On the production side any vineyard claiming bio-dynamic viticulture has to undergo stringent certification, laid down by one of the two globally recognised bodies, Ecocert and Demeter. The qualification is not at all easy to attain.

For my part, several years ago I visited a highly regarded vineyard and after tasting its wine, I was asked by the winemaker what I thought of "his" wine? This is a question to be dreaded if the wine is not up to the mark ("interesting" might be my usual response!). Hesitatingly I responded that the wine didn’t seem to match up to my expectations. A smile came across the winemaker’s face as he responded "Ah, but today is a "Leaf" day and if you were to come back tomorrow, a "Flower" day, the wine might taste differently! Where are you tomorrow?" So, of course I went back the next day and yes, the same wine seemed to be more open, more fruity and generally, it had a better flavour.

I was bewildered – I had heard of bio-dynamics but had dismissed it as something that I might only appreciate if I had been standing naked in a field of sunflowers! I still don’t know (possibly nobody knows yet) the relevance of this rarefied form of viticulture but the fact is that several of the UK’s major supermarkets only hold their Press wine tastings on "Fruit" and "Flower" days, which are considered to be the best for tasting wine: curious. The other "Leaf" and "Root" days are not "bad" as such, but it seems that wines may not taste quite as open as they can.

The circumstantial evidence is strong but there I must leave it with you...

Our daily indicator is a rough guide for how your wines can taste and should be treated as such. If nothing else, it will provide you with some fun – as well as a talking point for your dinner party!

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