The practice of biodynamics in agriculture is based on the idea that everything in the universe is interconnected. This holistic agricultural movement started in the 1920’s with Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner – about 20 years before organic farming came about.
Biodynamic viticulture focuses on balancing the system between the stars, the Earth, man and vines. It’s a homeopathic approach to farming that focuses primarily on the careful observation of natures rhythms and how the moon and planets affect them.
Work in the vineyard is regulated by a special calendar that divides the days into four categories: Root, Fruit, Flower and Leaf Days. These categories also coincide with the 4 classic earth elements:
Earth, Fire, Air and Water.
The belief is that:
– Root days are ideal for pruning
– Fruit days are the best days to harvest
– Leaf days are the best days for watering
– On flower days it is best not to disturb the vineyard
Some people even believe that fruit days are the best days to taste wine too!
No synthetic chemicals or artificial fertilisers are permitted in biodynamic farming because they deteriorate the earth. Instead, special compost preparations (or teas) made from natural ingredients like chamomile and stinging nettles are sprayed over the vineyard to add vitality to soil and plants. Minerals like quartz (silica) are also used to intensify the sunlight permeated into the vines.
So, it’s basically astrologically influenced homeopathic winemaking, and I think it’s rad.
The Difference Between
Biodynamic® and Bio-dynamic
The main certifying body of biodynamics is Demeter, and the term ‘biodynamic’ itself is a registered trademark.
Demeter doesn’t like it when wineries or farms claim that they practice ‘bio-dynamics’ without pursuing certification. This is because they’re trying to maintain a consistent standard and definition of the practice and also respect those who go through the ‘rigors of certification’.
But that doesn’t stop people from believing in Steiner’s philosophy or practicing ‘bio-dynamics’ outside of Demeter’s control.
And why should it?
Let’s play devil’s advocate!
Wineries who are practicing ‘bio-dynamics’ without certification are often working just as hard to maintain the standard that comes with Demeter’s stamp of approval. This requires a LOT of extra man power, & they’re doing it knowing full-well that they won’t be able to market it as an official ‘biodynamic’ product.
So, why not just certify??
Turns out, there are actually some pretty fair reasons!
Being certified requires following a set of rigid regulations. This means that growers have limited possibilities to intervene and may struggle to protect their crops in a difficult vintage. It doesn’t mean that they can’t still work organically if they choose to – it just means that they have a greater risk to factor in with certification.
It could also just be that, even though they’re working bio-dynamically, they’re happy enough with the support they receive from their organic certification body.
Whatever the reason, in my experience those who embrace bio-dynamics as a philosophy usually have a lot of, if not all of the same priorities & values as those who do certify. And, isn’t that the point?
Well, Demeter will say that this is like being “a little pregnant”… Yes, that is an actual quote from their website. But I think that that’s like saying “You’re only allowed to be religious if you’re giving money to the church.”
I mean, I get it. They have to protect their interests. But at the end of the day, believing in and embracing Steiner’s philosophy is a right we all have – certified or not.
I know that there are wineries who only claim to practice bio-dynamics as a marketing gimmick – some people just suck. But let’s hold onto our faith in humanity and support the efforts made on the road to a happier planet.