If you have spent much time browsing The Perfect Cellar wine list, you'll no doubt have come across the term 'biodynamic' in many of the wine descriptions. It's something that has become a bit of a speciality for us. What does it mean?
Biodynamics is a way of farming. The simplest way to think of it is as a rather supercharged version of organics. Way back in the day (before the 1940s) pretty much all farming would have been organic, and so there was no need for an organic movement. Then came the era of 'chemical' farming, where the ready availability of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides resulted in great increases in agricultural yields, but at the cost of soil health. The natural life in the soil – consisting of bacteria, fungi and small animals, as well as earthworms – which recycles nutrients, was disrupted, creating an ever increasing need for more chemicals. Vast monocultures increased the pest and disease pressure, and chemical solutions wiped out natural beneficial insects and bugs, creating more of a need for chemical solutions.
This is what led to the organic movement: a kick-back against chemical farming, and a desire to respect soil health and natural balance. Where biodynamics takes this further is considering the farm as a whole – a living system – and in the use of special preparations, applied to composts and even the crop plants. The timing of interventions is also governed by a chart that takes into account celestial movements. It sounds quite exotic, and – in some cases – even a bit far-fetched, but the proof is, as they say, in the pudding. So biodynamic winegrowers are registered as organic, but in addition do extra interventions in the vineyard that are aiming to increase the life in the soils, as well as making the vines more healthy and resistant to disease.
Many winegrowers who have switched to biodynamics report that the results are significant, and can be seen in their wines. And if you take a glance down the roll call of biodynamic winegrowers, it contains some of the most famous, exciting names in wine.
Biodynamics is certainly on a roll. In the last decade, the number of biodynamic wines has increased dramatically. The reason we are so interested in it is because not only do winegrowers working biodynamically protect the precious heritage of their vineyards soils, but they also stand a particularly high chance of making interesting wine.