Organic and Biodynamic wines – fashion or passion
What is the difference is probably the first question to ask? Is the organic wine so much better in taste and aromas, than the conventional wine. Does it justify its higher price and what are the biodynamic wines, do we really need to drink them on a specific day, because the Moon could affect their taste?
This post is dedicated to the sophistication of wine making nowadays. We are not talking only about – no chemicals and no preservatives used in the making process, but we are entering completely new holistic, spiritual territory to understand what is so mystical around biodynamic wines.
Conventional, Organic, Biodynamic … the new industry grades .
Organic in comparison of the conventional wine does not involve usage of chemicals, fertilisers, herbicides (weed killers) or systemic fungicides (stop mildew diseases, etc), or insecticides are allowed in organic vineyards. Soils are kept healthy and fertile using composts, green manure cover crops such as clovers, etc. which also improve wild-life habitats for insects (bees and butterflies) and birds.
The only crop sprays allowed at the discretion of the certification body are non-systemic minerals such as sulphur and copper which stay on the plant surface and do not enter the sap system or leave residues in the fruit like the systemic chemical sprays used in non-organic vineyards do. These rather ‘primitive’ organic sprays are less effective at controlling diseases meaning much hand work shoot positioning and de-leafing around the bunches is also required to keep the vine canopy open and airy to help prevent fungal diseases. Many organic vineyards, are gradually switching their vineyards over to newer disease resistant vine varieties requiring little or no spraying.
Organic wines are clean of chemicals and they express the natural aromas and vitality of “free range” fermentation. I personally prefer organic wines and definitely can feel that elevated earthiness in the reds and a gentle intensity in the white wines. My dad produces organic wine and the first impression you get is this natural aroma, which is softer, than the conventional wine. Taste is wild and not always very distinct. It can bring wider amalgamated fruitiness and the finish can be shorter, but much more pronounced. Yes, organic wine can be in times more expensive that the conventional, but it does require enormous effort and dedication, which is priceless.
These are originally organic wines with a bit more to it. The “bit more” is quite significant, as it involves celestial energy. In it’s core Biodynamics is an energy management system and the concept behind it is that everything in the Universe is interconnected and gives off a resonance or “vibe”. This interconnectivity includes planets, the Moon and the stars. Essentially biodynamic is a holistic view of agriculture, started in 1920’s. This is homeopathic manner of farming. It sounds very fashionable and almost too sophisticated to understand, but in simple language this is what ancient Greeks and the Egyptians were doing, before modern wine making.
How does it work? All the various tasks from planting, pruning to harvesting are synchronised with a special biodynamic calendar. The calendar defines which days are good for the relevant activity and recommends this to happen at specific days/time of the year.
The calendar divides the days into four categories Root, Fruit, Flower and Leaf Days. It reflects the power of the Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. For example – Fruit Day is best for harvesting, Root Day – for pruning, Flower Day for leaving the vineyard to rest, Leaf Day is good for watering the plants. To make things even more confusing the biodynamic wine have a special days to be consumed (the Fruit Days). You should check the “Calendar” on Internet if you really want to follow religiously this experience. I wouldn’t think that this is something the Ancient Greeks has managed to follow, neither Egyptians or Romans, but some of my fellow sommeliers truly believe that the taste of certain wines in specific days is more enhanced and definitely different.
I have to admit that I need to do much more drinking research on this, as still not convinced how this holistic approach influence the taste. One of the challenges for these wines are that they are really expensive and require very scientific approach and passion to explore their qualities. An average bottle can be around £80-£100 and high street supermarkets don’t sell them.There are nearly 700 producers in the world and the biggest advocates of this winemaking are in based in USA (Sonoma Valley), where I intend to extensively travel and promise to keep you posted on the spiritual impact these wines are supposed to have. Is it fashion or passion? I believe it is a bit of both and trying in innovate the way we make, sell and drink wines makes us more thoughtful and mindful of the nature, spirituality and relationship with the wine and people we share it with.
In a meantime, I strongly recommend to try Eastern European organic wines, which are great value for money and winemakers from Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia are doing their best to compete seriously with the big organic names on the world wine shelves.