Biodynamic wine is wine made from grapes farmed biodynamically. Biodynamic farming is a holistic approach to farming, which conceives the farm as a living organism and is based on anthroposophy, a philosophy founded in the early 1920s by the Austrian philosopher and scientist Dr. Rudolf Steiner.
We have talked about natural wine and natural winemaking, which is, first of all, a different approach to winemaking. We have seen how natural wine is made from at the very least organic grapes, but more often from grapes grown in a biodynamic farm.
Natural winemakers find that only organic or biodynamic grapes have the necessary characteristics to withstand the natural winemaking method. Only healthy and unadulterated grapes can be transformed into natural wine through a non-interventionist approach without incurring into problems along the line.
So are biodynamic wines also natural wines? Not always. The main difference between natural and biodynamic wine is that biodynamic wine can also be made following a more conventional method and not necessarily the precepts of natural winemaking.
There is as it’s clear, quite a bit of overlap: a substantial number of biodynamic wines are also natural wines. But to assess if a wine can be defined biodynamic, we look at whether or not it’s been made from grapes grown biodynamically, and not at the winemaking method. Having clarified that, let’s now dive into what biodynamic farming is.
The main character of a biodynamic farm is the interdependency between plants, animals, and people. The job of a biodynamic farmer is to make sure that this equilibrium is maintained and enhanced through the application of the principles of biodynamics. The result is a habitat where each element is in perfect harmony.
Biodiversity of plants, pasture, flowers, fruits and also domestic animals is seen as contributing to the overall health of the entire ecosystem. A biodynamic farmer should gradually introduce different species of plants and animals, in order to develop the natural resilience of a place while maintaining its harmony.
The interplay between plants and animal life is one of the mainstays of biodynamic farming, which is generally not found in other types of farming. Animals support plants with their manure. Plants provide animals with food, also creating a favorable environment for their reproductive cycle.
Animals on a biodynamic farm are never fed animal-based products or processed foods and the husbandry method of choice is always free range.
On a biodynamic farm, fertility is achieved without the use of chemical fertilizers or other non-natural methods. Composting, cover cropping, and crop rotation are regularly implemented to regenerate the soils.
Rather than killing living beings with pesticides as a remedy to diseases, biodynamic farming tries to prevent their formation by creating a habitat in which pests and diseases cannot thrive. This is achieved essentially by promoting biodiversity, thereby reestablishing the natural balance of the environment.
Biodynamics is a radical concept where farming is much more than the production of crops or livestock. Farming is a way of being in this world and therefore every action should be regenerative and not destructive as well as integrated within the community.
Biodynamic farming has a strong ethical basis and most farmers adopt so-called triple bottom line approaches, which promote ecological, social, and economic sustainability for the whole community. It is crucial to understand that, in the footsteps of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, biodynamics extends from farming to cover all aspects of life.
Biodynamic is a type of spiritual farming, which works in harmony with all living beings, with the Earth and Cosmos. Biodynamic farmers follow the biodynamic calendar, where the influence of the Cosmo on the environment is mapped out.
1 Yarrow (Preparation 502): mobilize sulfur and potassium
2 Chamomile (Preparation 503): regulates the nitrogen process.
3 Stinging nettle (Preparation 504): promotes the formation of humus.
4 Oak bark (Preparation 505): increases plant resistance.
5 Dandelion (Preparation 506): enables plants and soil life to access silica.
6 Valerian (Preparation 507): protects the compost heap.
1 Cow Horn Manure (Preparation 500)
It’s made by filling a cow horn with cow manure, which is buried in the soil during the winter months – November through February. Preparation 500 is sprayed on the vineyards four times a year following the descending lunar phases and it’s said to regenerate degraded soils.
2 Horn Silica (Preparation 501)
It’s made by filling a cow horn with finely ground quartz crystals and burying it from March to April. It’s then sprayed over the vineyards early in the morning and it’s sad to boost plant immunity.
3 Horsetail (Preparation 508)
It’s made by either boiling or fermenting horsetail, a plant containing silica. The tea obtained is sprayed in the morning and it’s said to prevent fungal diseases and mildew.
Unlike natural wine, for which there is no shared definition and no certifying body, there is a clear definition and certifying institution for biodynamic wine.
Demeter International, a company headquartered in France, certifies biodynamic wine. The name of the certification is Demeter Biodynamic® Standard, which was established in 1928. Demeter International has a sister company in the United States to manage the certification process, Demeter USA.
Demeter Biodynamic® Standard certification builds on the USDA organic certification with the following additional requirements.
► The whole farm, and not just a specific crop, is certified.
► Crops and livestock are integrated and animals are treated humanely.
► Imported fertility is kept to a minimum.
► Biodynamic preparations are regularly applied.
► At least 50% of livestock feed is grown on the farm.
► At least 10% of the total farm acreage is set aside for biodiversity
► The farm upholds standards of social responsibility
As of 2018, there are about 5,000 certified biodynamic farms in 60 countries around the globe.