Biodynamic vs Organic Wine: What’s the Difference?
The term “biodynamic” is cropping up more and more often, including in relation to wine. But what does it mean? What exactly is biodynamic wine and how does it compare with organic wine? In this guide, we’ll explore the differences between biodynamic and organic wine, and what makes biodynamic wine unique.
What is biodynamic wine?
It’s useful to understand the concept of biodynamic wine by comparing it with organic wine. We’re all familiar with organic wine, where grapes are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers. Often, the grapes are also harvested by hand and processed without using any artificial additives or preservatives.
Biodynamic wine is similar in that the goal is to produce high quality grapes without the use of chemical additives. The difference comes in the approach used to achieve this.
The principles of biodynamic agriculture
Biodynamic farming is based on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, the late 19th to early 20th century Austrian philosopher. He proposed that the farm (in this case a vineyard) is a self-contained ecosystem with everything interconnected. Each part of the farm contributes to another, making a self-sustaining system producing high quality food without the use of synthetic chemicals.
Biodynamics uses a variety of techniques to promote soil health, including the use of compost, cover crops, and crop rotation. In essence, these are traditional farming practices from before the advent of artificial fertilisers and pesticides. Biodynamic farmers use natural preparations, such as herbal teas and fermented manure, to promote plant and animal growth and vitality, and to protect against pests and diseases. Biodynamic winemakers follow the same principles in the vineyard and in the winery. The ultimate goal is to use natural methods to produce unique wines in a sustainable way.
There is much overlap between biodynamic and organic farming, and indeed with the concepts of sustainable farming and permaculture – all of which are gaining traction in the modern world. Rudolf Steiner’s ideas pre-dated the organic and sustainable movements by several decades. But biodynamics is also notable for incorporating a philosophical, holistic and spiritual approach to food production.
Steiner believed in living and farming in a harmonious way with the earth. This belief led him to blend science with more spiritual practices such as astrology. Biodynamic farmers follow a lunar calendar to help them determine the best times for planting, pruning, and harvesting. Proponents of biodynamics also place great emphasis on the use of certain preparations (for example, burying manure in cow horns, also known as preparation 500) which appear to be quite strange. In this particular case, the idea is to produce a concentrated soil conditioner which can be diluted and applied to the whole vineyard during a certain phase of the moon.
Why choose organic or biodynamic wine?
Biodynamic and organic agriculture both produce food in ways that are sympathetic to the environment. Both produce smaller yields than intensive farming methods. But those yields are potentially of higher quality, better tasting produce with a much reduced and even beneficial environmental impact. Biodynamic farming prioritises the health of the soil, which in turn produces healthier vines. Organic wine production is regulated by various certification bodies around the world, and must meet certain standards in order to be labeled as organic. People also choose organic or biodynamic products because they believe them to be better for human health.
Do biodynamic and organic wines really taste different from other wines?
In a nutshell, no they don’t. However, both biodynamic and organic methods of wine production pay attention to the vitality of the vines and the flavour of the grapes. They do this without synthetic chemicals and fertilisers. Many biodynamic winemakers believe their holistic approach to farming creates a unique energy in the wine, resulting in a more complex and nuanced flavour profile. It is possible that organic and biodynamic wines have a higher quality taste profile than other wines. But at the end of the day, enjoyment of wine is a very subjective experience and it’s always a good idea to do your research and taste test to determine the wine you prefer.