Biodynamic agriculture can be seen as a particular type of organic agriculture, predating the modern organic movement. The fundamental concepts were developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner during a series of lectures in 1924, which were the first known public presentations of (modern) organic agriculture. In 1972, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) was established to provide support for the growing worldwide adoption of organic agriculture. The guiding principles are listed through these links:
There are certifying bodies for both biodynamics and organics in many countries, including Australia. It is also worth noting, however, that many vineyards are farmed using organic or biodynamic practices, but they are not certified. There may be many reasons why a vineyard may not be certified. For example, a vineyard/farm is in the process of becoming certified (which can take years), or a different part of the farm (outside of the vineyard) may prevent this for one reason or another.
Biodynamics in particular is a fascinating philosophy, involving some curious practices such as using cows' horns filled with manure, and following the cycles of the moon to make important decisions on the farm (or in the winery). To explore the topic of biodynamics a little further, we thought we'd ask Lauren Langfield a few questions on the matter.
Lauren started her studies (in viticulture and oenology) and career in her native New Zealand, working with the local organic and biodynamic community from early on. In 2011, Lauren moved to Australia, establishing an organic viticulture consultancy business, which led to working with William Downie for almost 5 years. From there she moved to South Australia, taking on assistant winemaking at BK Wines for 4 years as well as stints with Gentle Folk and Ngeringa. Lauren is now head winemaker at Orbis Wines and has released the first vintage of her own Lauren Langfield Wines. Lauren was also awarded Best New Act at this year's Young Gun of Wine Awards.
When did you first become interested/exposed to biodynamics in the vineyard?
When I studied and trained in viticulture and winemaking in NZ we didn't learn much at all about BD or organics in class, so I sought out learning on the job, and in second year I volunteered to prune for a BD producer whose wines I loved to drink.
NZ is home to some pretty amazing BD and organic producers and the wider organics community is pretty vocal and welcoming, and from that pruning season I decided to remain working predominantly within Organic and BD companies.
In simple terms, what is biodynamic farming and why is it important?
For me, BD farming is an approach which looks at all aspects of the vineyard as a whole- the plants, everything below ground, as well as everything above ground. The dynamic relationship of all these intertwined elements working together, means that rather than treating an individual vineyard symptom, BD farming considers the ecology of the whole vineyard- the vines are merely one small cog within a greater moving wheel.
Sometimes we hear about horns in the ground, following moon cycles, etc. Can you explain some of these practices some people might consider ‘quirky'?
The prescribed BD practices were developed a long time ago, and written in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner in the 1920's , so things like cow horns and stomaches were very practical 'vessels' for storing and aging compost and other materials inside. Sounds a bit odd now, but they were practical solutions at the time- whats more important is the biological goodies in the materials within the vessel.
Following moon cycles isn't unique to BD farming either, lots of indigenous farming practices around the world use the moon to guide planting and harvesting dates. If you think about the way the moon affects the ocean tides, just imagine how that can affect the water within plants, in their roots, or within the soil too.
What is the process to becoming biodynamic in Australia?
Just like Organics, there are certifying bodies for BD in Australia.
Is there a difference between biodynamic viticulture and biodynamic wine?
There is a difference between BD viticulture and BD winemaking, the same way there is Organic Viticulture and Organic Winemaking, which can be confusing for consumers. It's important to know that if grapes are grown organically, unless the winery also has organic status, they can add anything which conventional legal winemaking laws permit because they're not being held accountable by a certified body.
How does biodynamic farming affect the experience of drinking a wine? How does it differ to non-biodynamic? Is it better?
My experience is that wines made from grapes farmed BD tend to be made with more care and attention and are better than their conventional counterparts.
Knowing that I am supporting BD and Organic farming makes wines more enjoyable to drink. I like knowing that as a consumer my money is encouraging the industry to move away from heavy metals, synthetic agrochemicals and pesticides.
What wine have you been enjoying drinking recently?
When the weather gets cold, I turn to white wines- rich, really textured, full bodied white wines. Had a delicious Melon de Bourgogne from Domain de la Toulaudiere, and Catarratto from Alessandro Viola last week.
We've put together a pack with Lauren's Sauvignon Blanc and 2 other consciously-farmed gems - the Happy Vine, Happy Wine Pack:
The Lauren Langfield Wines Sauvignon Blanc is made with fruit from a beautiful vineyard in Norton Summit (Adelaide Hills) which is tended using Organic practices. Think pear, citrus, stonefruit and slate. Not your typical Adelaide Hills Sav Blanc!
The Domaine De La Garrelière, Le Rosé De La Cabane is a 100% Cabernet Franc rose from the Loire Valley. Bright, fresh, fruit-driven and deeply-flavoured. Gorgeous stuff, and Certified Biodynamic.
The Frederick Stevenson Pinata is a luscious blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre. The grapes come from a Certified Biodynamic vineyard in the Barossa Valley. This is a Juicy, delicious and easy-going red blend.
Since Lauren brought up the Alessandro Viola Cataratto, we do actually have a couple of bottles of that left.
Alessandro Viola is a fantastic producer out of Sicily, his Le Mie Origini is made from 100% Catarratto, a native Sicilian variety (and Alessandro's favourite grape). Think apricot, peach, fresh hay and saline acidity. Unique and beautiful wine from this sometimes overlooked Italian region. Do not underestimate Sicily!
Well this has been a fun and informative (for us) Hump Day Hero blog. That's it for this edition - Til next time, Juiceheads! x