The Definition of a Biodynamic Wine
The definition of a biodynamic wine is simple: “a wine made according to the principles of biodynamics”. These precepts apply to the vineyard and during winemaking.
- In the Vineyard: this means that the vines have been grown without synthetic chemicals, and that preparations (based on plants and minerals) have been used to energize the soil and protect against possible diseases. This also implies that any action by the winemaker on the vine must follow the biodynamic calendar.
- During Vinification: This implies a limited number of inputs and dose of sulfur throughout the winemaking process, until bottling.
Inputs Allowed in a Biodynamic Wine?
The list of inputs authorized during vinification:
Egg albumin (Ovalbumin) / Sulfur dioxide (SO2) / Bentonite / Oenological charcoal / Sucrose (Sugar)
Authorized doses of sulfites:
- Red wine: 60 mg/l total SO2
- White & Rosé Wine: 90 mg/l total SO2
What’s the Difference with an Organic Wine?
A biodynamic wine is necessarily an organic wine, but the reverse is not true. Biodynamic agriculture pushes the approach further, particularly in the use of famous plants and minerals preparations and more limited authorized oenological inputs.
The Principles of Biodynamics
In order to fully understand what a biodynamic wine is, it is obviously necessary to understand the principles of this singular agriculture and its history.
Who Invented Biodynamics?
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), philosopher of Austrian origin, is the inventor of biodynamics. In 1924, a group of farmers is concerned about the arrival of chemical fertilizers and the development of industrial agriculture. Steiner will give a series of eight lectures, known as the “Farmers Course”. Hundreds of people attend. During these conferences, the basic principles of biodynamic agriculture are laid down.
It is interesting to specify that these courses will be printed from note-taking. These lectures were meant to be listened to, not read. There are also errors of interpretation. It should also be noted that Steiner, during his lifetime, never used the word “Biodynamics” but rather speaks of “Biological fertilization“. The courses will first circulate in a private circle, before being made public in 1963.
The Biodynamic Lunar Calendar
Biodynamics adheres to the principles of “cosmic force” and “earth force“. That is to say, the positioning of the Moon and the planets have an influence on the cultivated plants.
Maria Thun, a biodynamic farmer and researcher from Germany, has studied for more than 50 years to understand these influences. She deduced that depending on the position of the lune and stars, there were favorable days or periods for growing root, flower, fruit or vegetables. This work gave rise to the first biodynamic calendar, published in 1963. Since then, researchers have continued to complete and refine it.
Concerning the wine-growing environment, this means concretely that the work in the vineyard (pruning, planting, etc.) or vinification (racking, bottling, etc.) will be carried out according to the most favorable days according to this calendar.
Energize the soil and strengthen the protection of the vine
Dynamizing the soil is one of the fundamental principles of biodynamic agriculture. During his course for farmers, Steiner developed the idea of using preparations. This consists of a mixture of plants and minerals that are sprayed, in order to improve fertilization and energize the soil, to facilitate the composting of organic matter. But also to reinforce the natural protection of the vine in the event of illness, frost or extreme heat.
Now that we have seen the foundations of this philosophy, including the revitalization of the soil with mixtures of plants and minerals, we will focus on these different preparations that biodynamic winemakers use.
Horn Dung (500)
In order to improve the root system of the vine, promote the structure of the soil, stimulate microbial life and the formation of humus, preparation 500 is used. This consists of burying, in winter, a cow’s horn filled with dung of cow so that it ferments. In the spring, we dig it up, then we mix it with water that we energize (creation of a vortex), then we spray the vineyard with it.
Horn Silica (501)
The principle is the same as the 500 preparation, except that the cow dung is replaced by quartz. The horn is buried in summer for a period of 6 months before being sprayed. The aim is to facilitate the development of the leaves of the vine, to support the assimilation of light, and to give the grapes better nutritional and taste quality.
Invented by Maria Thun, this preparation is a mixture of cow dung, eggshell, basalt powder… The goal is to develop microbial life in the soil while promoting the decomposition of plants and organic matter.
Note: There are other biodynamic preparations, but we have explained the main ones used by winegrowers.
How to Recognize a Biodynamic Wine?
To recognize a biodynamic wine, it suffices to refer to the different labels that can be displayed on the label of the wine bottle.
The Two Main Labels
- The Biodyvin Label: Created in 1995, the Biodyvin label now brings together 192 estates in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain.
- The Demeter Label: Demeter was first a cooperative before becoming an organization certifying, from 1932, biodynamic products. In France, the Demeter label brings together 1,125 farms and companies (not just winegrowers).
What is the Difference Between Demeter and Biodyvin?
The big difference is that Demeter is a generalist label, whereas Biodyvin, as its name suggests, only certifies wine. It was also created by a union of winegrowers, while Demeter, better known internationally, is managed by the Antrhoposophical society.
Demeter’s specifications are more precise, if you comply, you are certified. That of Biodyvin is less detailed, thus leaving room for experimentation and on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, it should be noted that Demeter does not taste the wines for the attribution of its label, whereas Biodyvin does.
Where to Buy Biodynamic Wine?
Buy in town
To buy biodynamic wine in town, just go to any wine shop. They are bound to have a few vintages to offer you. However, if you want to have more choice, we advise you to go to a wine shop specialized in natural wine. Find here our selection of the best biodynamic wines.
Buy Biodynamic Wine online