When you live in the world of natural wine you automatically meet a lot of wine growers following biodynamic principles. We both remember very well our first tasting with a biodynamic grower in London’s Theatre of Wine with Josef Umathum. And keen as we are on experimenting and moving on it was only a question of time till we gave it a shot.
So what is biodynamic? I’ll keep it short, there is enough over on Wikipedia. Basically there was a guy called Rudolf Steiner working around 1900 on a holistic approach to farming. It’s a lot about the cycle of a farm. Intuitive stuff like cows producing dung for the land that’s feeding them. More sophisticated and slightly esoteric stuff like putting some of that dung in the horn of a cow and burring it during winter (nothing too crazy about that, it’s just fermenting) before spraying it on the soil. Considering the moon and all kinds of cosmic factors for pretty much everything you do. Avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and this kind of stuff. Working with herbs and rainwater … It’s a confusing concept and there are many different interpretations, advancements and enhancements. But it’s still attractive to us. Because we like the idea of working a lot more with nature. Because we believe that there is a lot of old knowledge hidden in these sometimes strange looking advices. Because we like the holistic approach. And because we think that in the end this will let us have a more living soil, healthier vines and better wine.
So how did we start? Thank god there is a much easier definition of biodynamics. If you want to be Demeter certified (here are loads of details) you need to use three biodynamic preparations: horn-manure (also referred to as “500”), crushed powdered quartz (referred to as “501”) and cow pat pit (referred to as “CPP”) plus follow the rules of organic farming which are quite a bit stricter than e.g. the EU rules (lower SO2 limits, lower copper limits etc.).
And that’s what we start with. Not the certification itself but using it as a guidline. The test parcels for 2015 are 0.5ha of Dornfelder and Silvaner. I’ve applied the CCP (which I have ordered here) by sprinkling it on the ground like pepper. The one I use has the beautiful name “Mäusdorfer Rottelenker”.
Two weeks ago we took about 40l of rainwater, added horn-manure and stirred it for an hour. This is how “500” looks like:
The liquid has to be stirred clockwise and counterclockwise, always destroying the built up vortex to power up the water with energy.
This had to happen after 5pm. Afterwards I used a backpack sprayer to apply the preparation to the soil.
Next week I’ll get up early to apply the crushed powdered quartz for the first time. And then we’ll just wait and see how things grow … We’re considering basic preparations, application time and water quality. There is so much more we can do but it’s a start we can build on.