Say What You Like About the Tenets of Biodynamics Dude, But at Least It’s an Ethos…

Where I’ve Been Gulping Rosé All Spring

As you can see from the lack of posts, I have put blogging on the back burner. I have made it a point to take less pictures of what I’ve been eating & drinking and instead, actually enjoy eating and drinking.  And considering the current state of my garden – can you blame me?  Though I haven’t been writing, I have been reading.  Reading lots – wine books, running books, new tomes on my beloved Yankees and even some Orwell (Coming Up For Air is a fabulous read).  And of course, I’ve been reading what seems to be an incessant amount of wine news from around the globe.  Most of it is rubbish, but there are some important stories circulating the blogosphere.  Some are new (Judgment of Princeton) and some are old rehashed arguments (‘appropriate alcohol levels in wine’).  And another oldie but goodie seems to come back every couple of weeks – the debate over the merits of biodynamic winemaking.

I think we can all agree that none of us in the non-winemaking field really knows if biodynamics produces more delicious wine than their organic, sustainable or conventional counterparts.  Personally, some of the most enjoyable wines to ever cross my lips have been made in a biodynamic fashion, while others have been wretched.  Today, wine writer (I dare not label him as a blogger) Steve Heimoff wrote about biodynamics and for the most part, I agree with his stance – it’s quite similar to what I’ve written above and before countless times.  However,  one sentence from Heimoff’s column jumped out at me and convinces me that many professional, highly respected and experienced wine critics don’t give a shit about what’s actually in the bottle that they are drinking:

“So what’s a wine critic supposed to conclude? This: I don’t care how you make your wine. Just make it compelling.”

I am not one to tell anyone, especially those that have a vast experience in tasting wines, what they should or shouldn’t like.  However, I do wonder if professional critics who share Heimoff’s laissez-faire winemaking attitude ever consider that methods such as those listed below are often used to make some of their favorite wines.

  • Thermo-vinification
  • Cryoextraction
  • Ultra-filtration
  • Acidification
  • Chaptalization
  • Electrodialysis
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Vacuum distillation
  • And in the vineyard itself – herbicide, fungicide and pesticide treatment (even though Heimoff ‘knows for a fact’ that many winemakers don’t do this)

And if they do understand what these methods do to manipulate and alter the intent of terroir, do they consider these wines to be any less authentic, real or (here comes another buzz word and some hate mail) natural than those wines that aren’t subject to similar methods of production?  Say what you want about the product that results from the biodynamic approach, but at least the wines aren’t manufactured using a chemistry set.

Heimoff concludes, “… let’s face it, grapegrowing is farming, and a grower can’t let some religious or spiritual belief prohibit him from saving his crop when mold is about to take it over. That’s the Christian Science way of farming: pray, and hope God rescues your babies. Well, that’s not the way it works.”

Thank goodness Steve cleared that up.  And I thought biodynamic winemakers were huddled around their campfires at night eating granola and wheatgrass smoothies while chanting the name of Rudolf Steiner in the hopes that the Great Rot of ’12 doesn’t decimate their vineyard and destroy the fabric of their livelihood.  Because as anyone who has taken the time to investigate what measures biodynamic winemakers take to treat their vineyards would know that comparing their methods to Christian Scientists is nothing more than willful ignorance of not only biodynamics, but how to make a point.