Wine can be confusing. There's a lot to know, between the grape varieties, vintage years and the ever-increasing choice between traditional organic and biodynamic. By now, most of us have a handle on what organic means, but what exactly does it mean for a wine to be biodynamic?
It all started in 1924 when Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner gave lectures known as the Agriculture Course. These outlined what would become known as biodynamic agriculture. The idea is that the universe is interconnected, from the moon and the stars to the soil beneath our feet -- and it should all be considered in a spiritual light when farming. And that's how biodynamic wine is made, with grapes grown following the practices that adhere to that philosophy.
So why does biodynamic wine have a bad rap? The foundation of its practice is to link the sowing and harvesting of crops to the location of the moon and planets, which some folks mock. (The old farmer's almanac, however, uses the lunar calendar to recommend planting schedules.) Then there's the practice of burying manure in cow horns over winter, digging it up in the spring and diluting it to fertilize the fields. This practice is used because when manure is combined with the microbes found in animal parts, it produces the best kind of humus, a very rich soil. Another common animal part that's used is a stag’s bladder.
We know this might sound hokey to some, and maybe it is, but the strength of biodynamic practices is an adherence to growing crops naturally, and that is something many people consider priceless in this day and age. Even when it comes to wine.
"Biodynamics emphasizes observation and a deep respect for the land," said Dana Nigro of Wine Spectator, "and many growers use it to learn their vineyards in a more intimate way." And that, some believe, can result in really great wine.