It’s hard to believe there could be a higher standard for foods and wine other than organic certification. Yet those who practice biodynamic farming take an even more stringent approach to the way that they grow and cultivate their crops. For wine lovers, biodynamic wines could be your answer to finding that next great eco-friendly wine or winery.
Biodynamic principles were conceived after a series of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian social activist, nearly 100 years ago. Biodynamic growing focuses not only on the crops or vineyards, but also the soil they grow in. Reaching far beyond a commitment to not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides, as organic growing standards dictate, biodynamic techniques work in harmony with the universe on a much more cosmic level.
The Biodynamic Association calls it a “spiritual-ethical-ecological approach.” Thousands of farms around the world already use the principles for biodynamic growing, and Biodynamic Certification is possible through Demeter International and Demeter USA.
For wines, biodynamic growing and production standards go above and beyond organic standards. The two main differences are the use of homeopathic preparations to create healthy soil and the strict timing of farming operations based on planetary movements. Demeter USA has the following standards for biodynamic wines:
- The use of cultured yeast and malolactic bacteria is prohibited.
- Adjusting the flavor with acid or sugar adjustments is prohibited.
- The addition of yeast nutrients is discouraged.
- All grape waste is composted and used in the vineyards.
- The grapes are hand harvested.
- The wine cannot be distributed in a box or bag.
- Enzymes and tannins cannot be used during winemaking.
- Electro dialysis for cold stabilization is prohibited.
- Micro-oxygenation and pasteurization are not allowed.
It’s a big list of no-nos for the production of biodynamic wines, but the consumer is the one who enjoys the labor of the vintners. With very little allowed to be added (sulfites are okay, but many wineries choose not to use them), the wines are a naked representation of the true taste of the grape and the terroir of the land. Nothing hidden and nothing masked.
Wineries around the world have been using biodynamic farming techniques for decades. The Languedoc region of France is among the standouts for organic and biodynamic vineyards and wineries. Chateau Fontanes is one such label from the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Cyriaque Rozier has been patiently tending to 40 year old Cabernet Sauvignon vines and working with the hardened soil in the area to create fertile land ideal for grape growing. Chateau La Roque is another biodynamic vineyard, where Romans are thought to have planted the first grapes on the property. After centuries of use, the vineyards are now grown with organic and biodynamic standards.
We’ll toast to that!
Feature image courtesy of Stefano Lubiana