Biodynamic wine: Find out more about biodynamic wines – Oé
" The best soups are made in old pots ".
All about biodynamics
The old adage could very well apply to wine made in the production of organic wines and biodynamic wines.
Biodynamics deserves to be seen as an original philosophy or vision of the world, which affects the practice of agriculture in various ways. You must first think "biodynamic" to practice it. It does not replace the good practices of organic farming (which it actually precedes), but improves and amplifies them.
The "roots" or the foundation of biodynamic agriculture
Biodynamic viticulture is not new . Like organic viticulture, it is also not a result of current scientific and technological advances in cultivation.
Biodynamics dates back to the interwar period, in 1924 to be exact, when Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist and philosopher, undertook a major program of training farmers using the precepts resulting from years of observation and experimentation in the environment. natural.
In the early 1920s, a group of farmers facing declining soil , plant, and animal health sought advice from Rudolf Steiner.
This Austrian scientist and philosopher, who was also the founder of the anthroposophical current , had devoted his entire life to the research and study of the subtle forces in nature.
From a series of eight lectures held in Germany in June 1924, he set out the basic principles of biodynamic agriculture. These conferences were both a response to these farmers, and the beginning of a revival of agriculture.
Moreover, this approach constitutes the oldest organic agricultural movement . It also predates organic farming, which aims to be more moderate.
Today, it is practiced on thousands of gardens, farms, vineyards, and in France, its results in viticulture no longer need to be proven.
The guideline of biodynamic agriculture
The agricultural organism is a whole whose parts (the soil, the plant, the men, the animals, the biodynamic preparations and the cosmic and climatological influences) are in interaction.
If we had to define biodynamic agriculture in two words, it would be the long term . Yes, it is a movement which, through its philosophy, wishes to guarantee future generations a quality of soil , better land and agricultural production managed in a more optimal way.
Today, traditional agriculture makes massive use of herbicides and chemical insecticides . Biodynamics chooses to change this trend and cultivate healthier land. In the soils, it is the first soil which is the most important because it is rich in humus.
What is humus? It is all the decomposed organic matter found in the soil. Organic contains carbon and is often derived from living organisms. In general humus is black in color, it is a lumpy, moist material, often on the surface of the soil.
It is therefore very important to take care of the soil, its plants so as not to destroy the earth.
Insecticides, weedkillers used during conventional agriculture completely destroy the microscopic populations in the soil.
An important thing that biodynamics allows is the return of the earth to a state of good health.
Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides (all chemicals) are not used and are even prohibited in grapes. One of the distinctions of biodynamic agriculture is the use of plant preparations composed of compost additives for example.
Biodynamic agriculture is increasingly used by farmers who have realized the bad impact of conventional agriculture . Also, being and producing in biodynamic agriculture demonstrates the desire of farmers to be less dependent on the chemical industry.
This philosophy of biodynamic wine is based on the fact that each farm is considered as a form of living organism that aims to become self-sufficient.
Based on respect for biodiversity, this vision of agricultural production tends to regenerate landscapes and preserve soil fertility rather than depleting its resources, in order to produce healthy and sustainable food.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Steiner had probably not included viticulture farms in his studies, based on pre-war farms, most of which lived on rather mixed farming.
Wine estates and their winegrowers have seen an increase in the production of biodynamic wine since the 1980s .
Since then, and thanks to scientific progress, these methods have continued to evolve, keeping ancestral techniques in their foundations.
Our good red Bordeaux is produced biodynamically by Véronique & Franck, nature enthusiasts.
The life and health of the soil in biodynamics
In the holistic vision of biodynamics, the soil is considered not only as a substrate for plant growth, but also as an organism in its own right.
The idea of using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides is anathema to biodynamic practitioners, especially since the quality of agricultural production is tied to soil health.
Hence, in order to guarantee the good health of the soil, the working methods used must be reasoned (use of light tools for example), and the inputs intended to nourish the soil must be of organic origin. In organic viticulture, winegrowers generally have the AB (Organic Agriculture) label.
Just like in organic farming, the objective here is to promote biological life in the soil.
Food and cultivation of the plant
The action of chemical fertilizers on the plant is more harmful than it helps. These force the plant to feed on salts when it needs water.
Eventually, the plant exposes itself to diseases, to the hypertrophy of its tissues, which sometimes require the use of phytopharmacy.
Therefore, in order to ensure healthy nutrition of the plant, Steiner recommends feeding it with humus.
The clay-humus complex nourishes the plant with nutrients and water, guarantees the recycling of plant waste, and maintains the life of micro-organisms useful to the plant and the soil.
Moreover, biodynamics is also based on the diversification of crops in space and time , through rotation practices.
The animal as companion and partner of man
According to the principles of biodynamic viticulture, the physical integrity of the animal must be respected , it must live in conditions conducive to its development, and have a diet adapted to its needs.
Although useful for production, it should not be used as a machine. He is the companion and partner of man on a daily basis. In the same logic, the production of the animal must be in accordance with its capacities.
To improve the life of the soil and act on certain metabolisms of nature, biodynamics requires the use of catalytic substances or preparations .
These are eight in number, and the guidelines for preparing them have been described by Steiner. They represent one of the main particularities of biodynamic agriculture, and make it easier to distinguish it from other forms of agricultural production.
In concrete terms, the first two preparations, horn dung and horn silica, are applied by spraying . They respectively allow the amplification of the lumpy structure of the soil, and the supply of additional sunlight to the plants.
The other six catalytic substances are intended for composting, and serve to optimize it.
The cosmic influence and the rhythms of nature
The previous preparations are applied at appropriate times, according to the rhythms of nature.
The objective is to take advantage of the influences of the sun, the moon and other constellations. The seasonal variations of the sun have, and this no longer needs to be demonstrated, an influence on the organization of agricultural activity .
The other constellations act for example on fermentation, conservation of production and sowing.
Biodynamic wine: stimulating the life forces of the vineyard
To produce biodynamic wine, the estates put the vine at the heart of their priority , a link is created between vine and winemaker. Biodynamics is an exchange between the winemaker and his vineyard.
By stimulating the life forces of the plant, biodynamic wine producers offer you a new way of discovering wine, evoking the known influence of the moon on the tides and men, a desire to reduce the doses of sulfur and copper , a progress in taste and also a philosophy of life.
It should be noted that biodynamic preparations are administered in very small proportions to the plant , in homeopathic doses.
This more biodynamic approach places people at the center of its agricultural production by limiting the environmental impact of its activity.
Two very important ambitions to move towards a more sustainable biodynamic agriculture .
What are the differences and similarities between organic and biodynamic agriculture?
Organic and biodynamic have things in common . Like biodynamic farming, organic farming does not use phytosanitary substances .
These substances, used during traditional agriculture, help to fight against insects and they allow to have a better yield with less effort.
In organic farming, copper is used twice as much compared to biodynamic farming . The limit is 15 kilograms for biodynamics. It is twice as large in organic. Copper has harmful effects on soils and plants: it destroys fungi, which makes the quality of the soil less beautiful in the long term.
A piece of advice for farmers who wish to limit their use of copper : there are herbal teas and decoctions of plants (such as nettle, wicker). These plants are added to the treatments of the vine.
These are then natural substances that offer the vines protection against mildew . Thus, copper is used less extensively in biodynamic agriculture than in other types of agriculture (organic, traditional).
The lunar cycles represent an important and central place in the agricultural cultures of biodynamics . They are less taken into account in organic farming.
Biodynamic wines: what is a winegrower working in biodynamics?
A biodynamic winemaker is first of all, for sure, a winemaker who has certification in organic farming.
Few in number but driven by a strong conviction , the biodynamicists go further and strive to restore to the vine as well as to the soil a balance, a resistance and a vitality disrupted by the chemical and repeated treatments of the soil and plants.
In the vineyard, chemical weeding is almost systematic in conventional cultivation . In organic and biodynamic cultivation, it is avoided at best, in order to preserve biodiversity in the soil.
Another point, they "energize" the plant and its environment by the earth and the air , by projecting very small doses of preparations from natural products: manures, cow dung, horns, silica, decoctions of plants and assembled according to methods complex.
But this also involves, for example, the recovery of rainwater, useful for preparing herbal teas and other decoctions.
For the period of pruning and other work in the vineyard, biodynamics takes into account the lunar and planetary rhythms, based on "the sidereal rhythm", namely a cycle of 27.3 days which separates two successive passages of the moon in front of the same group of stars.
Plants are defined, according to their nature, as leaf, fruit, flower or root, and certain days are more favorable for pruning and care for each of these four large families.
Biodynamics also reaffirms the work of the land with the non-mechanization of tasks. Also the draft horse has made a comeback between the rows of vines during the time of plowing the soil in certain areas producing biodynamic wine.
On the treatment side, only the use of sulfur and copper sulphate is possible. Synthetic inputs, notably fertilizers, are also replaced by therapeutic preparations, on the principle of homeopathy. Preparations based on yarrow, yarrow, chamomile, nettle or silica (quartz) treat the vine to strengthen its immune system. The so-called "horn dung" preparation, made up of cow dung inserted into bovine horn, buried during the winter and then sprayed on the vines, heals the soil to promote its microbial activity and the formation of humus.
During vinification, the addition of chemical compounds to better control fermentation is limited in organic farming and reduced to a minimum, or even prohibited in biodynamic farming. The famous " sulphites " for example, or additions of sulphur, which make it possible to stabilize the wine so that it does not turn sour, must not exceed 150 milligrams per liter of red wine in conventional viticulture , 3 times less in culture in organic, and ten times less (average over 5 years) in Demeter biodynamics. The vinification process works the same way as for organic wines or natural wines : the yeasts transform the sugar into alcohol for a first fermentation of the must. Once the first fermentation is finished, the second fermentation called malolactic fermentation begins!
When working in the cellar, the lunar calendar is also taken into account. For example, racking, filtration and bottling only take place on a waning moon, as it is supposed to favor the aromatic expression of the wine. Concretely, the waning moon has a reducing effect, the opposite of the oxidative effect, which makes it possible to tighten the perfumes and preserve the aromas during racking and bottling. Ultimately, this different viticultural and oenological approach makes it possible to obtain more biodynamic wine that perfectly reflects the quality of the terroirs from which it comes.
And in terms of labels and certifications?
On the certification side, two associations, Demeter and Biodyvin , control the candidate domains and award the biodynamic label, more on the basis of standards and drastic specifications. To obtain biodynamic wine certification, a farm must first obtain the AB organic label.
The Biodyvin label was created in 1995 by the International Union of Winegrowers in B iodynamic Culture ( SIVCB ).
Unlike Demeter, which certifies parcels of vines, the Biodyvin label certifies estates as a whole, entirely run in biodynamics. Compliance with the specifications is checked by Ecocert. In 2017, this label certifies 122 winegrowers.
Demeter was created in 1932 and brings together more than 220 estates on 5500 hectares of vines. This certification mark is international and it guarantees that the agricultural estates respect biodynamic practices and the quality of the products is also respected.
Of course, Demeter has specifications both for agricultural production and also for the processing of products. These specifications are also stricter than those of organic farming and the European organic regulations. In biodynamic agriculture , fewer inputs are allowed and the winemaking specifications are stricter.
This certification guarantees compliance with biodynamic principles in agricultural areas and during product processing in 53 countries.
A recent innovation, the Demeter association has just defined specifications for vinification: the Vin Demeter mention thus applies from the 2009 vintage. on cuvées that have not been yeasted, acidified or flash-pasteurized… Biodyvin should soon join the criteria established by Demeter.
In all of the certifications for the production of biodynamic wine , only estates entirely cultivated in biodynamics are accepted, and those which commit themselves, after three years, to a total reconversion. This is followed by the implementation of many processes, which aim to produce a quality wine while respecting the soil and the plant.
What are the environmental benefits of producing grapes biodynamically?
Why this desire to work in biodynamic wine?
The vineyard, like any other agricultural domain, is considered a living organism.
The cultivated soil is not a simple support for the vine but a living environment, a source of energy for the plant just like its aerial environment.
When you are a winegrower and you are trying to produce the best possible wine, several paths are possible, from the most technological possible to the most natural.
By emphasizing the sustainable balance of the soil-crop system, producing more biodynamically allows a reduction in long-term input inputs .
Its support: highly effective natural fertilization practices, respect for and preservation of biodiversity and optimization of water use. Taking this balance into account also leads to a better capacity for resistance and solutions to current environmental problems: episodes of drought, impoverished soils, consequences of global warming, etc.
Biodynamic wine requires a lot of effort from winegrowers because the path is strewn with obstacles: it is necessary to reintroduce biodiversity, give up large yields, learn to use new treatments, adapt the work of the teams, etc...
But those who have adopted this mode of viticulture say they do not regret it and even feel the difference in their wines. In biodynamics, wine and nature complement each other.
Some wineries specializing in biodynamics
In France, agricultural biodynamics is attracting more and more practitioners, especially in viticulture. Specifically, there are more than 270 certified biodynamic wine estates.
In France, the Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, the Château de la Roche-aux-Moines in the Loire, the Maison Chapoutier in the Rhône Valley and the Domaine Zind Humbrechet in Alsace are counted among the pioneers and greatest in the production of biodynamic wines.