Risky Business

What could the global financial panic of 2008 have to do with organic and biodynamic winemaking? Could the high technology trading floors of Wall Street and the Bourse de Paris be more distant from the lovely vineyards of Burgundy and Sonoma? What connection is there between a screaming panic-struck options trader and a farmer behind a horse tilling a vineyard in the Loire? Are there any lessons to be learned from the simultaneous crashing of worlds, the equity, bond and commodity markets? I think there are several lessons to be learned in the 2008 financial panic that would be good for us all to reflect on.

It is clear that man-made complexity can result in unintended consequences and unforeseen calamities. The huge amount of ultra complex derivatives and syndicated financial instruments resulted in a contagion that no one foresaw. Computer geeks and their “quant” trading strategies produced a Franken-trade of fiscal failure that cascaded unchecked around the globe. Way out on a limb leverage, and it’s distribution around the global banking system, caused and exacerbated the panic that has everyone on edge from Reykjavik to Shanghai. Simple loans and their repayment schedules were subjected to torturous mathematical modeling and then sold in tiny pieces so that no one knew what the underlying agreement was.

That, my fellow drinkers of organic wine, is exactly how poisons are used to tweak and alter nature’s way in the growing of conventional grapes. From the outset, conventional vineyards are sprayed and or injected with any one of a hundred chemical treatments to render the soil “ready” for the season. The goal is to eliminate all the variable life forces that interfere in the path for maximum yields. The undisputable fact that these pesticides and herbicides will end up in your glass of wine is of no concern.

Once this poisoned grape has been bitten into, there is no going back. Continuous chemical treatments are required and additional applications of poisons are essential, as the underlying life forces of the vine have been destroyed. This complexity snowballs and the farmer becomes more of a chemist and his most trusted consultant the representative from the chemical company.

This complex unnatural farming dynamic has the potential to collapse one day just as Lehman Brothers did. Piling pesticide on herbicide on fungicide to battle nature is exactly the same as piling derivatives on top of CMO’S and then swapping them.

We have the potential to create Franken-farming that will rise up and strike the earth and us in the middle of the night.

So, just as we are now in the rebalancing phase of our collective response to over consumption and we are all returning to “values and simplicity” perhaps it would be a good time to acknowledge and then thank all the organic and biodynamic grape growers and wine makers. We can just raise a glass of our favorite wine that they made and praise them for keeping it simple and healing rather than harming our soils and our earth.


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