Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine



More and more wine lovers and professionals are discovering a source of complexity, a surge of vitality and an additional purity in the increasing number of biodynamic wines. There is also no doubt that this type of agriculture can be confusing to those who try to understand it. Biodynamic agriculture adds very small amounts or preparations, varying from 1 to 100 grams per hectare, that have usually been dynamized in water. How can such small quantities have any real effect on the quality of wine? Wouldn’t the result be the same with simple biological agriculture?

Let us begin by observing the corpse of an animal that has just died. In a few weeks its simple elements will again be part of the earth. Thus the question to ask is: where are the energies which constructed this organism in such a sophisticated manner? Who took the calcium to sculpt the bone? Who took the silica to form the hair? Don’t these forces exist in other ways besides forming embryos?

A seed. An egg. Are they not simply receptacles of a perfectly organized world of energy which the forces of life give to Earth? Do they not exist independently of their link with matter through which they become visible? By asking these questions, we enter into the discovery of laws that are very real and concrete, but are no longer, so to speak, terrestrial laws. They are not subject to the force of gravity, to this world of weight and volume discovered by Newton. These are laws that can not be measured the same way.

In the third edition of my book Wine From Sky to Earth, I devote an entire chapter to the presentation of tests, and give images of this world of energies in wine and food and the manner in which different types of agriculture can modify them. The microscope does not have access to these realities. What must be understood is that human beings are only a sum of frequencies or rhythms. It’s a vibratory world. There is no life without frequencies and mini-frequencies.

Our society, and each one of us, use this vibratory world on a daily basis. Through satellites, portables, transmitters and microwaves. We use it to such an extent that it becomes a problem. This abundance of new frequencies disturb the frequencies which influence life itself. No one is surprised to hear the voice of someone thousands of miles away on their cellular phone. The call does not even use a thousandth of a gram of waves. Waves are not measured by weight.

In biodynamic agriculture, a few grams of preparations act as relays or catalysts of precise processes indispensable to the life of plant; a life which we have seen is not tangible. Those unaware of the energy world they use every day become offended. Think about how many grams of quartz make your watch work for over a year. So why shouldn’t a biodynamic preparation based on quartz accelerate photosynthesis, which generates the sugars, the colors and the aromas? Why wouldn’t the preparations destined for the earth accelerate mycorhiza; the linking of roots with earth?

Conventional agriculture inundates the vines and the soil with fungicides, herbicides and chemicals to prevent rot, spiders and other pests. Each treatment strangles, a little bit more, the link between the forces which influence our lives. I offer these observations for wine lovers concerned about the quality of wines you collect and cellar:

1. The use of chemical treatments reduces the capacity of vines to receive solar energy through their leaves, and earth energy through their roots. And there is no way to avoid this increasing. Each additional treatment to control disease will bring about collapse on a large scale, which will necessitate even more treatments.

For wine-growers caught in this dilemma, technology is the only way they can achieve the appearance of quality in their wines. Thus, their wines can be imitated in countries where labor is cheaper. In addition, the wine’s capacity to age properly is greatly diminished.

2. The so-called agriculture raisonnée would be satisfied with the 20% reduction of toxic chemicals. This does not constitute any real progress. The life-forces of the wine need to remain in good health to manifest its appellation. This explains why more and more wineries choose biodynamic as the only method which effectively links the vine to its environment.

3. By using this world of energies more directly, biodynamics increases the possibility for the vines to receive the characteristic of the appellation; providing the basis for what we love in a wine. Also thanks to its special relationship with the life-forces, two or three years of biodynamics can wipe out the harmful effects of herbicides. It takes biological agriculture several decades to reach the same goal.

This was proved in Australia. Land saturated with DDT had been forbidden for further cultivation by the government. However, after three years of biodynamics, it was able to be farmed again. Thus more and more serious wine-growers will continue to swell the ranks of biodynamics, even though attempts are made to ridicule it to preserve lucrative conventional markets.

To pretend that biodynamics is not effective is to be part of yesterday’s world. Unfortunately today’s world is just as alarming. The world of energies is an organized world that can be used either for good or bad. Biodynamics uses it without trying to modify it. Not everyone has the same scruples.


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Rebirth of the Appellation

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Nicholas Joly is the world’s leading advocate for biodyanamic winemaking. In his first article for the Organic Wine Journal, he explains the downfall of vineyards which turn to chemicals and why he believes biodynamics is the road back to true terroir-driven wines.

The creation of appellations in the 1930s was a stroke of genius. Its concept was simple: Different locations produce distinctive vintages from grapes with such a special taste that their uniqueness should be legally guaranteed for consumers.

Seventy years later, what remains of this protection? Unfortunately, not much. What happened to the Appellation Controlée system? How did these AOC wines lose even part of their luster?

Starting in the 1950s, agriculture “advisers” began to frenetically recommend the use of herbicides in the vineyards. No longer obliged to work his soil, the winegrower saves an enormous amount of time. The advisers carefully avoided telling the growers that, at the same time, they would be destroying the microbes and bacteria in the soil. This also destroys the ability of the vines to nourish themselves. No root can feed on the soil by itself without the assistance of micro-organisms.

The “trap” is now carefully in place. Five to ten years later everyone notices that growth in the vineyard has decreased. Now, massive doses of chemical fertilizers are substituted for natural growth. What do these chemical fertilizers consist of? Salts, for one thing, which force the vine to drink more water, to compensate for the salinity imposed on it. Anyone who has seen large vegetables shrink during cooking, returning the excess water they were obliged to absorb, will know what I mean. It is the same false growth that is given to the vine.

The vines are also now more vulnerable to diseases. In order to respond more effectively, “systemics” were invented; a technique that makes chemicals pass directly into the sap. Previously, the products remained on the surface of the leaf, without interfering in the internal organisms of the plant. This response generates new diseases, an ever-increasing problem, as well as increases the number of chemical residues in the wine.

The resulting vintages sometimes have a shockingly unusual taste. To deal with this, incredible technologies have been invented, transforming wine cellars into factories. Over 300 yeasts are available to winemakers, offering an immense panorama of aromatic varieties; from raspberry to banana, all the way to black currant. While these taste additives are legal, they are a complete lie to the historic taste profile of that location.

But nature knows how to take back its rights when the stubborn refuse to listen. Recently, one of the foremost wine journalists in France wrote, “How will credulous strangers look at the bottles of wine they paid 500 francs for, thinking to make an investment or keep them in reserve, when they realize that they have been cheated? The artificial booster, the heavy extract, does not stand up to the test of time.”

In other words, cosmetics do not age well in wine, and time distinguishes between the good and the false. The taste of wine—its harmony, its beauty, its elegance—belongs to a qualitative world of intangible origin, which cannot be restored as easily as one replaces a layer of paint. Quality comes from an organized and indefinable entity, which extends itself into the grapes by respecting a certain number of the laws that generate life on Earth. The man of today is incapable of understanding the macrocosmic laws, since he is only interested in what is at the end of his microscope or on the screen of his computer.


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