One of the most fun things I get to do here (besides cracking jokes in this newsletter) is educating employees all about wine. Typically, once a quarter we all get together and go over job happenings and address specific wine subjects related to our work (while sipping the fruits of our labor, of course).
As we discussed what was happening in the vineyard during pruning, one of my coworkers asked what the difference was between being organic, sustainable, biodynamic, etc. What a great question!
All of these vineyard practices share a respect for the environment and the Earth but have key differences in farming.
Can you imagine planting or harvesting grapes based on lunar phases?! Oh yeah, grab your crystals and a glass of wine and let's learn about biodynamics!
By definition, “Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”
Farming and making organic wine starts with the soil. You have to plant on "virgin" soil that hasn't been previously farmed with non-organic sprays or pesticides. If the soil was farmed with non-organic substances, you must wait up to 5 years for the chemicals to dissipate from the earth with the help of a rototill and lots of patience.
Biodynamic viticulture follows the belief that we are all connected; from the animals to the plants within the vineyard eco system, everything has a purpose. The farming practices are centered around the lunar and astrological cycles that are said to affect the biological systems within the vineyard. Think of it as a holistic and homeopathic way of farming.
This revolutionary practice was created by an Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner, in the 1920's. This was the first of the organic agriculture movements. Sprouting from this idea (heh heh), a biodynamic calendar was created to let farmers know when to plant, water, harvest, and let the vineyard rest. These days coincided with the lunar phases and the astrological cycles in the sky.
Fruit Days: Best days for harvesting grapes
Root Days: Ideal days for pruning
Flower Days: Leave the vineyard alone on these days
Leaf Days: Ideal days for watering plants
To even take it a step further, composting in a biodynamic setting is anything but ordinary. The prepared compost ingredients (including crushed up quartz crystals) are stuffed into cowhorns and buried. Once they have composted, they are dug up and turned into a "tea" and sprayed and spread throughout the vineyard. This is said to awaken cosmic forces in the soil. I'll take it!
Both organic and biodynamic practices have little human interference with the earth and rely heavily on soil health. With that said, it is also more labor intensive and costly. The vineyards will also see lower grape yields which means a higher price point per bottle.
Both of these practices are becoming more popular among wine drinkers and growers. Whether organic or biodynamic, vitners want to create a deeper connection with the land and the practices our ancestors used hundreds to thousands of years ago.
It is nice to know that we are coming back to a simpler time, rebuilding our relationship with the earth and creating a respectful way of farming again. It is a means of healing the earth as well as the human being.