In Europe, the spring equinox on 21 March heralds longer days and shorter nights and the prospect of summer and shirtsleeves. For biodynamic viticulturists it’s also the most important time for digging up a nice cow horn filled with manure and scattering the contents on the wine crops while paying close attention to the phases of the moon.
This may sound like a ‘Welcome to Hogwarts’ induction manual but biodynamic viticulture is serious business. There are over 600 certified biodynamic viticulturists globally with some classic Burgundy Domaines and Champagne houses ascribing, so chances are you’ve drunk a biodynamic wine before without even realising.
Admittedly, it’s not without some scepticism. Images of burly bearded farmers wearing checked shirts singing in the sunshine in Napa Valley while raking piles of manure spring ineluctably to mind, but biodynamic farming and viticulture has its roots (so to speak) in the 1920s with Austrian philosopher and education reformist, Rudolph Steiner.
Essentially, it uses of the principles of organic farming - no pesticides or chemical fertilizers - but goes further, relying on practices like planting and harvesting according to solar and lunar cycles and combating pests such as moths and rabbits by scattering the ashes of their dead brethren - in a horror film-esque way of deterrent. Soil is seen as a living entity and that a healthy soil devoid of chemicals will produce the best crops.
Ever wondered why the same wine tastes so much nicer on certain days? It could depend on which day you’re drinking it. A ‘fruit’ day is when grapes are traditionally harvested and the best day, apparently, to drink red wine when it’ll be at its ripest, most voluptuous and full-bodied. Conversely, for whites it’s a ‘flower’ day when aromatic wines such as Viognier, Pinot Blanc and Riesling will be fragrant, floral and flavourful. If you want to see what today is before opening that powerful cab sauv, check an online biodynamic calendar or download an app.
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