How does packing cow horns with fermented manure and following the lunar calendar lead to a process of creating incredible wines? Well, this was exactly what I wanted to know. A few years ago, I worked for Evening Land Vineyards giving tours of their Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola Amity Hills of Oregon. They had recently started employing biodynamic viticulture principles. Prior to this experience, I had never heard about biodynamics and was eager to learn as much as I possibly could.
Biodynamics was founded by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861 to 1925) and is based upon the principles that farming is a holistic process between all living things focusing on biodiversity and sustainability.
‘Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing the resonance between wine, man, earth, and stars. Essentially, biodynamics is a holistic view of agriculture.’ (Wine Folly)
Nine Biodynamic preparations (numbered BD 500-508) consisting of mineral, plant, or animal manure extracts that are usually fermented and applied in small proportions to compost, manures, soil, or directly onto plants after dilution and using a stirring process called dynamizations. These are believed to enhance soil quality and stimulate plant life.
- BD 500 (horn manure)-cow manure fermented in a cow horn and buried for six months. (Soil spray to stimulate root growth and humus formation)
- BD 501 (horn silica) – powdered quartz packed inside a cow horn and buried in the soil for six months. (Foliar spray to stimulate and regulate growth)
- BD 502 – BD 507– used to make compost- 502 (yarrow blossoms), 503 (chamomile blossoms), 504 (stinging nettle), 505 (oak bark), 506 (dandelion flowers), 507 (valerian flowers)
- BD 508– silica-rich horsetail plant used to suppress fungal diseases
Additionally, livestock are released regularly throughout the vineyard to consume and thus regulate the growth of weeds. In return the livestock provide natural fertilizers throughout the vineyard to nourish the soil and promote healthy vine growth.
Cosmic and earthly influences are considered to determine when agricultural activity should be scheduled in accordance with the position of the moon and planets as well as when to taste wine.
- Root Days (not good for wine tasting) – moon is in any of the Earth Signs (Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo).
- Fruit Days (best for wine tasting)- moon is in any of the Fire Signs (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius).
- Flower Days (good for tasting aromatic wines)- moon is in any of the Air Signs (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius).
- Leaf Days (not recommended for wine tasting) – moon is in any of the Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces)
Supporters claim that not only are there environmental benefits to biodynamic viticulture, but the consumer also experiences more vibrant, fruit flavors in the wines. From my experiences, I have also found this to be true. Simply stated, happy vines lead to happy wines! The trend is now leading away from simply employing organic vineyard practices and favoring biodynamic ones.
I recommend experimenting with a variety of biodynamic, organic and sustainable wines. Truth be told, the differences may be subtle but on some occasions they are very pronounced. I have listed some of the top biodynamic vineyards below that I’m familiar with. Hopefully, you will be able to indulge, enjoy and taste the benefits for yourself!
France: Domaine LeRoy (Burgundy)