Learn all about biodynamic farming and discover why some of the most recognized names in winemaking depend on them to create their signature bottles.
You’re probably familiar with organic, sustainable farming, but what if there were an even better way to farm? A method that nourished all elements of the land, from microorganisms to livestock? Well, there is. Biodynamic farming is inherently sustainable, ethical, and organic, and it’s revolutionizing the wine industry. If you’re ready to discover wines that are truly worth your attention, read on.
The History and Practices of Biodynamic Farming
Let’s face it: industrial farming isn’t great for the planet or for us.
Surprisingly, it turns out that we’ve known this for about 100 years. When industrial, chemical farming was introduced in the early 1900s, German farmers began to notice that their crops were yielding less. So they called upon the philosopher and innovator Rudolf Steiner for help. Steiner’s radical ideas had already impacted many industries—from education (think Waldorf) to medicine.
He conceptualized the farm as a living entity that thrived on biodiversity…
Steiner argued that chemical fertilizers would harm plants, animals, the soil, and the humans who depended on them. He conceptualized the farm as a living entity that thrived on biodiversity—one that should be treated as a closed loop, where every element sustains the whole, like a forest. Biodynamic farms are intentionally diverse, filled with plants and livestock that support the entire ecosystem.
The Differences Between Organic and Biodynamic Farming
Organic simply means that the use of synthetic compounds is prohibited, and in winemaking, this includes sulfur dioxide, a compound that conventional vintners use as a preservative. Biodynamic practices go beyond organic and favor biodynamic preparations, compost, cover crops, and crop rotation to create soil fertility. Organic does not require cover crops or crop rotation, although many organic farmers use these practices.
Some have labeled biodynamic farming a pseudoscience because traditionally, it also includes things like farming according to astrology and phases of the moon, or burying a cow horn filled with manure in your field. But a 2009 study found that: “[Biodynamic] preparations express a positive environmental impact in terms of energy use and efficiency. However, the underlying natural science mechanistic principle of [biodynamic] preparations is still under investigation.”
Whatever you think of the more esoteric aspects, many biodynamic practices and preparations are practical and help steward the land for the coming generations. As long as that’s the goal, who cares if the farmer wants to plant during the waxing gibbous or consult her astrologer?
Biodynamic Farming in the Wine Industry
Did you know that when you drink conventionally produced wine, you could be consuming up to 70 extra ingredients, including pesticides, dyes, and added sugar? We don’t know about you, but we’d rather drink the good stuff than synthetic chemicals. And we’re not alone. Although only a small percentage of wine is produced biodynamically, the demand for chemical-free wine is growing.
Around 80 vineyards in the US are certified through Demeter USA, an extension of Demeter International. Their extensive list of requirements includes the use of biodynamically grown grapes and other standards that “allow for wines that can bring this authenticity through in the wine.” It should be noted, however, that Demeter does allow minimal use of sulfur dioxide, while USDA Certified Organic Wine does not.
There are two certification organizations in Europe: Respekt Biodyn, and Biodyvin, and between them, they have certified nearly 200 vineyards.
What’s the Difference Between Biodynamic Wine and Natural Wine?
The first thing that comes to mind is cash-money, the other green stuff, which is what you need to get certified. Many smaller-scale vineyards can’t afford it, so they call themselves natural instead. But since there’s no official definition of what natural means in agriculture, it could mean anything. In winemaking, natural usually means grapes that are grown organically and wine made with minimal processing, but ultimately the grower gets to define it. This is why natural wines often taste similar to conventional varieties, with brighter, more intense flavors, but sometimes can have funky profiles that you may or may not find palatable.
When it comes to choosing a natural wine, the trick is to get to know your grower.
When it comes to choosing a natural wine, the trick is to get to know your grower. That’s the only way you’ll find out what natural means to them. Or visit one of these natural wine bars and get to the hard work of tasting all the wine! We like that option.
Famous Biodynamically Produced Wines
Think about your favorite glass. What’s the aroma? How does it feel in your mouth? Getting thirsty?
All great wines have a few things in common. They’re round. Intricate. Distinct. The tannins and acids swirl around the more profound, grounded elements to create a depth of flavor that keeps you coming back. Here are a few famous biodynamic vineyards:
- Romanée-Conti: This French vineyard is Burgundy’s most famous—the 1978 vintage goes for about $14 thousand.
- Alvero Palacios: The proud producer of L’Ermita, what critics call one of the most important Spanish wines of the modern era, Alvero Palacios is also one of the largest biodynamic vintners in Spain.
- Cullen Wines: This award-winning Australian winery has been organic since 1993 and biodynamic since 2003. They’re also carbon neutral and run on solar power.
- Beckmen Vineyards: Los Olivos-based Beckmen Vineyards has been producing wine biodynamically since 2002. Their wines have been served at the White House and in renowned dining rooms all over the world.
Why We Support Organic and Biodynamic Winemakers
Here at Bliss Wine Imports, we’re big fans of small farmers that are in the business of treating the land like the precious resource that it is. We curate our wine selection accordingly—all of our offerings are organic, biodynamic, or both. Not only are these practices better for the earth, but they also create better wines. With flavor profiles that range from delicate and subtle to big, bold, and diverse, one of these bottles might be your next favorite.
BTW, natural and delicious wines don't have to be expensive. Have you tried any of ours yet?Start tasting now