Friday, February 8, 2019

My take on Biodynamic


My take on Biodynamic



Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" (Wine Discussion) revisited by ©LeDomduVin 2019
Original Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


What better way to introduce the subject of Biodynamic Farming and Viticulture than being depicted as a wine discussion between Jesus and his Apostles on Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper"... (revisited by your humble servant exclusively for this post... I must say I'm really proud of myself on this one 😊 ... my apologies to those who might be offended and no offense to the religion)....

Since it was created, back in 1924, Biodynamic has been the subject of endless discussions, mingling criticism and skepticism, dividing people and forcing them to either stand between the lines or firmly camp on their position and stand with their opinions; hence my illustration above. 

I can hear you say already: "Here we go again, another article about Biodynamic...", which put back on the table this controversial subject that has been debated for now more than 90 years, seen a resurgence over the last 20-25 years and increasingly expanded and gained countless adepts over the last 10-15 years (roughly.... as prior to that, only a minority had heard about it and even a smaller number of people believed into it, and even fewer practiced it.... nowadays it is on everyone's lips...).   
It occurred to me that I wanted (or needed) to write an article about Biodynamic, when, sometimes ago, I read an interesting little article on Biodynamic (here) where the person was roughly saying that (in his opinion (*)):
  • Biodynamic is better than Organic, Natural, Lutte Raisonnée, Integrated Farming, Sustainable agriculture or conventional agricultural methods (in short, better than any other wines produced by other methods)
  • He has never been disappointed by a Biodynamic wine compared to other wines produced with the other methods (cited above)    
In his article, he explains the reasons why he prefers Biodynamic wines over any other wines, and I must say that, for the most part, I cannot necessarily disagree with him. Yet, (and like with many of the other articles that have been written on the subject over the past 2 decades) certain things in his article made me wonder and made me ask myself a few questions. 

The reason why such articles about biodynamic viticulture (biodynamic farming in general) and biodynamic wines always make me wonder, is because, every time I just finished reading an article on the subject, it annoyingly makes me feel that the person who wrote it would rather have all vineyards converted and all wines produced under biodynamic methods, disregarding, or even worst, discarding all the other methods.

And, every time, I feel that way, it really irritates me somewhat... (...you know that feeling that if the guy (or gal) was right in front of you, you would probably tell him/her a few words...)... and always makes me wonder why they don't (or can't) understand that biodynamic methods and processes cannot necessarily be applied everywhere (meaning not in certain regions and/or under certain climate/micro-climate), and thus not every vineyards can be converted to and not every wines can be Biodynamic. 

Of course, it will be great and so much better (to a certain extent), if all the vineyards and wines of the world could be respectively converted to and produced via the biodynamic methods: better for the environment, better for the soil and subsoil, for the plant, for the life surrounding the vines and the vineyards (fauna and flora), etc..etc..

But, and I'm sorry to say, it might prove impossible (for now) depending on the region of production and location (geography, topography, geology, climate, sub-climate, etc..) and with this post I will try to explain to you why...

You might agree or strongly disagree... however, here is my take on biodynamic and what I have to say about it (which comes as a complement to an old post I wrote back in 2009 - read it here)

💥 Work in progress 💥





Simplified Rudolf Steiner's Biodynamic Farming Theory for Newbies by ©LeDomduVin 2019


1. First, let's go back to basic... what is biodynamic?


So, first of all, do you know what is Biodynamic? My illustration above, somewhat, illustrates, (in a simplified way), Mr. Rudolf Steiner Biodynamic Farming Theory. Yet, it is so much more complex than that...  However, it is a start, more especially for all of you, newbies of the millennial generation, who have grown up hearing that word everywhere and for everything, but don't have a clue about what it is or what it refers to really.... (Am-I wrong?)    

So let's google it, shall we? Like everybody else, when searching for a word online (on the internet), one of the first links that come up is "Wikipedia" and Wikipedia says the following:

"Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.Wikipedia

So, there you are! You now know what Biodynamic Agriculture (and thus Viticulture) is... or do you, really?

Of course, you do not know, as no one can fully understand what biodynamic viticulture is without having read and experienced plenty on the subject, and more especially studied and applied the work of Rudolf Steiner.... or without having lived as a farmer in the countryside prior 1850s, or practicing the methods for a few years in a vineyard converted to biodynamic....

So, to learn on the subject, you can always start by reading the Wikipedia article and other articles on the subject (like some of my previous posts here and/or here too), after which you might start to feel that you might have somewhat understood something about it (or at least more than before), which is a good thing....  

Yet, and even if some of you may already consider themselves as experts on the subject and surely do not need any lecture or guidance from a Sommelier like me (which I could definitely understand),  please allow me to try to resume the big lines quickly for you.


💥 Work in progress 💥







2. Rudolf Steiner and the concept of Biodynamic Farming (Agriculture and Viticulture)


The Biodynamic Farming Theory (or concept if you prefer) was elaborated/created (or founded if you prefer) by Rudolf Steiner back in 1924, based on the lectures of ideas, concepts, researches and studies on agriculture he started at an earlier stage, back in 1910, in response to questions asked by farmers and growers facing the depletion of soils and a general deterioration of crops and livestock (in Austria and Germany). 

Moreover, back then between 1910 - 1918, the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918), also the end of and after WWI, between 1918-1924, the market value of Austrian agricultural products and services decreased by nearly 48% (**), which did not help to reassure the worried farmers and growers.  

The depletion of the soils and deterioration of the crops and livestock were, (directly and/or indirectly), the consequences of the "Second Industrial Revolution" (1870-1914), World War I (1914-1918), as well as the end of the Austria-Hungary Dual Monarchy (1867-1918), leaving Austria and Germany in bad shape... A solution needed to be found.  

A man of many hats and controversial public figure, Rudolf (Joseph Lorenz) Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian philosopher, a trained scientist, a social reformer, an architect and an esotericist, who initially gained some recognition at the end of the 19th century as a literary critic and published philosophical works; then founded, at the beginning of the 20th century, the esoteric spiritual movement called "Anthroposophy" (a blend of philosophy and theosophy), and published books on philosophy, theosophy as well as on esoteric and occult science, while attempting to synthesise science and spirituality.  

Around 1910, Steiner, who was everything but a farmer (actively involved into art and architecture at the time), embarked on a personal study and research on farming and agriculture, and thus the science of the soils and the plants and their environments. In fact, he mostly gathered and applied the old know-how and practices of the old days farming and agriculture, to which he applied esoteric concepts and processes with a cosmological-spiritual-ethical-ecological approach.   

Rudolf Steiner gave eight lectures on “the spiritual foundations for a renewal of agriculture.” 

Based on his suggestions and spiritual science, generations of farmers, gardeners, viticulturist, and researchers developed biodynamics as a healing, nurturing, holistic, ecological, organic, and spiritual approach to a sustainable care of the Earth. Biodynamic methods consider the farm or garden to be a self-contained organism, embedded in the living landscape of the Earth, which is in turn part of a living, dynamic cosmos of vital, spiritual energies. The aim is to increase the health and vitality of the whole, including the farmer or gardener. The biodynamic practitioner follows an alchemical, transformative path of working with the Earth through the nine “homeopathic” preparations created by Steiner.


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Bio (Organic), Biodynamic, Natural, Lutte Raisonnée, etc... by ©LeDomduVin 2019




3. How we had to invent new words to redefine what used to be simply know as "farming".... and the use of chemicals....


As I said in my illustration above, people often confuse organic, biodynamic and natural wines... But in fact, it is essential to make the difference between Bio (Organic), Biodynamic, Natural, Lutte Raisonnée, sustainable viticulture, conventional viticulture, etc... 

Anciently simply known as "Farming", "Organic" and "Biodynamic" culture and agriculture have in fact both always existed under the sole and unique name of "Farming"until let's say the apparition and use of the chemicals.

Farming was the way of the past, and when I say "past", I mean the good old days of our great-great-great-grandparents. More precisely, the old days prior chemicals first appearance during the "Industrial Revolution" within the second half of the 18th century.

Rooted in the alchemy of the medieval times, chemistry led to the creation of chemicals roughly around 1750s, then first classified around the late 1780s by Lavaoisier in his "Methods of Chemical Nomenclature" (1787), where he invented a system of naming and classification still largely in use today, including names such as sulfuric acid, sulfates, and sulfites (***).


, Chemicals were further developed around the end of the 19th century, and their use gradually intensified up to the point when they were heavily manufactured and commercialized in the early 20th century, first around "World War I" and then more especially after and since "World War II".

In fact, Farming was the way our great-great-great grandfather use to do it. At the time, treatment of the vines was more natural and respectful of the soils, subsoil and overall environment (obviously as chemicals did not exist and therefore were not around to be used, duh....). Therefore, the knowledge, skills, experiences, and wisdom of the old and wise were passed on from father to son, mother to daughter (and/or vice versa), and work in the field and vineyards was done according to the seasons and the lunar calendar.

The old and wise were men and women of earth. Peasants, or farmers if you prefer, who knew what to do by experiences, experiments, as well as from what they learned from their elders and by observing and following the life circles of nature. All these allowed them to know that certain things needed to be done at a certain time of the year or at a certain period of the vegetative life cycle stages. They knew how to recognize the signs of Mother Nature by living in perfect symbiosis and respect with their environment and the land they were working on and feeding on a daily basis.



💥 Work in progress 💥



(*) Funny enough, when I started to write this post I wrote at first "she said this" (e.g. in her opinion) and refer to that person as a "she" (not a "He") not having realized that it was a man (not a woman) who wrote the article I just read.... even if his picture and a short bio end the article..... Oooops...  I changed it after reading the article a second time... feminine style of writing maybe, eh? ... 😉 I then later on corrected my post by replacing the "She" by "He", but I swear, at first, I really thought "he" (i.e. the writer) was actually a "she".... go figure... 

(**) Info sourced from Encyclopedia.1914-1918 (read the full article here)

(***) Info courtesy of Wikipedia, read the full article here





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