Here’s the deal, blogs are normally opinions of the writer. They should be convincing and sprinkled with good old fashion facts that are easily verifiable. But opinion is just that, opinion. And claiming to be a self confessed prophet is ridiculous. I do have strong beliefs honed from experience but most of you do also and your evaluations should be equally considered. But if we engage in civil discord then I’ve done my job. For engagement can only heighten our awareness of the subject and bring us closer to understanding.
Today I am diving into one of the more controversial subjects in the business. You’ve seen labels promoting and claiming the art of bio dynamic farming or bio dynamic vineyards. Let me start by saying I believe what some farmers a thousand years ago believed, that planting and harvesting around the bio rhythms of the earth and moon work. I believe we should add as little to the soil in the way of chemicals as we can. But I also believe a farmer has the right to save his crop and his vineyard if spraying is all that’s left. Bio dynamic farming is all about being in touch with the Earth and its different stages…to only use organic sprays, to plant at the right phase of the moon, to bury a horn in the ground. I admire those who go through this painfully hard method of farming. It’s not only financially exhausting but physically difficult as well. But there’s a big difference between bio farming and bio vineyards and the latter is claimed way too often, even by some certified producers.
If you bio farm, and the focus should be on the “if” because many who claim this are just not being truthful. But let’s deal with those brave soles that are adhering to the age old process. Just because you bio farm does not mean you are a bio vineyard. What? Yes, that’s right. Let me explain further. As an example, we go back to Burgundy which seems to be making my blogs more often than most. For those that have not been there, the vineyards are very close to one another. Say Vosne Romanee Les Boumont or a Grand Cru Vineyard Romanee St Vivant, it matters little because all of these great vineyards are in the same proximity to one another and by U.S. standards you might think they are all one in the same, one big vineyard. But that’s the point. Within each individual vineyard there are many owners. Some have one hector (approx. 2.6 acres) and some have more. Some prominent, well known and great producers only own a few rows and yet maintain a bio vineyard.
This can only be true if certain criteria are achieved:
1-The vineyard was a monopoly (all owned by one person) farmed bio, or every owner in the vineyard farmed the same way.
2-The vineyard would have to be isolated far away from others, measured in miles.
3-The vineyard would have to have a natural filter surrounding itself, like a forest.
If these three things are not met then it is nearly impossible to be considered a bio dynamic vineyard. That’s because chemicals from others will most certainly find their way into your soil or on your plants. We have all heard the stories of contamination that spread through air, and water. Sometimes for long distances measured not in feet and yards but in miles. Even if all in the same vineyard were bio dynamic or it was a monopoly, it’s out amongst the rest of the vineyards. Meaning it has to be influenced by what they’re doing. This does not mean they should stop what they believe. They can certainly claim to be bio dynamic in their farming practices they just can’t be a bio dynamic vineyard. I say can’t because that’s my opinion but they can according to law and prevailing wisdom. You judge who’s right. In the end it matters only to geeks like me who strive to be accurate about such things. For the record, we have made wine from organic and non organic sources. Our experience is that if the farming is of high quality and we are willing to make due with what’s left of the fruit after sacrificing in these vineyards, both make great wine. One, however, is better for the environment.
So, does it matter? I believe if you’re a grower and do things naturally then your end result is a vineyard that struggled earlier and if it survives will produce longer because it’s healthier. I also believe many of the people claiming such things are disingenuous and if audited would be embarrassed. There are those who purchase an existing vineyard and just start farming bio after the fact. The horses are already out of the barn and it may take centuries to get the chemicals out of the soil. I believe, if possible, this is a worthwhile endeavor but doing so has become increasingly complicated and in most cases, by my definition, nearly impossible.
Till we cross paths again,