Biodynamics is a small but rapidly growing style of winemaking.
Basically put, biodynamics is ‚€œExtreme Organics,‚€ going way beyond
avoidance of chemical fertlizers, pesticides and herbicides to include
some rather esoteric practices. The wackiest of these is probably the
only thing many people hear about biodynamics ‚€“ burying cow horns full
of manure throughout the vineyard at the autumnal equinox.
Equal parts agriculture, philosophy and mysticism, biodynamics
somehow stops short of requiring the winemaker to dance naked among the
vines at midnight under a full moon.
Shortly after I posted a link to today‚€™s Washington Post
column on biodynamic viticulture on Facebook, I received a message from
David Page and Barbara Shinn (right), the husband-and-wife team behind Shinn Estate Vineyards on Long Island. I met them a few years back while researching an article on New York wines for the San Francisco Chronicle.
‚€œWe just dripped this year‚€™s first compost tea brew through the
irrigation system,‚€ they wrote. ‚€œTurning millions of beneficial
organisms into billions. Nothing about doing these kind of applications
seems mystical to us, just good feet-on-the-ground modern use of old
farming practices that too many good farmers abandoned for chemicals
with names no one can understand, and only addictive results.‚€
I can‚€™t say biodynamic wines taste better than other wines, but in
many cases, they do taste different ‚€“ more lively and vibrant. They
often defy our expectations of what a wine should taste like, which is
precisely the point Nicolas Joly, the mad professor of biodynamie, makes when he rails against ‚€œappellation l‚€™Or√©al.‚€
Conventional wisdom says biodynamic farming won‚€™t work here on the
East Coast. I don‚€™t know how rigorous David and Barbara are in this
regard, whether they are ‚€œas biodynamic as possible,‚€ ‚€œpracticing
biodynamic,‚€ or working on a Demeter certification. But I do know they
make some terrific wines, and their message gave me a hankering for a
glass of their Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc.
The moon is waning. Do you know where your vines are?