We are a society of label readers, farmer’s market shoppers, CSA members, chicken dossier requesters (obligatory Portlandia reference) – so it stands to reason we would be curious about the origins of our wine and interested in Biodynamic® Wine.
Oregon is big on sustainable farming and winemaking. There are a number of certifications that indicate a commitment to the earth. For this Earth Day (April 22, 2018) we are highlighting one of the more ummmm interesting practices – Biodynamic Farming.
Jade was on KGW Portland Today on April 13th giving a brief overview, playing with cowhorns, and tasting some Oregon wines made with Biodynamic grapes. Check out the link and keep reading for more detailed info.
What is Biodynamic Farming?
First, Biodynamic farming is not exclusive to wine. It can apply to all kinds of farming but we are going to focus on wine. The Biodynamic practice began with Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s work Agriculture Lectures of 1924. Steiner wrote this in response to farmers who following the Age of Industrialism, were concerned about the declining health and vitality of their crops, plants and animals.
Biodynamic philosophy is a holistic approach that focuses on building healthy soil, treating the farm as a living organism, and the interaction of the soil, plants, animals, humans, and the cosmos.
How is Biodynamic Different from Organic?
Farms/vineyards certified Biodynamic must meet all of the requirements for Organic certification. Biodynamic is both more restrictive and prescriptive. In other words, there are products and practices allowed on Organic farms that are prohibited on Biodynamic farms. AND there are things Biodynamic farmers are required to do (certain natural preparations for the soil and plants). Keep reading for an example.
Cows, Compost, Calendars – Tools of the Biodynamic Trade
The most iconic animal of Biodynamic farming is the cow. In Biodynamic farming cow horns (from lactating cows) are filled with cow manure and buried for 4-6 months. The manure interacts with the microbes and natural elements in the horn and creates a very specific concentrated fertilizer that is diluted into a spray to improve the health of the soil and plants. Cow manure is also used in composting – which any gardener knows is good for the soil.
Biodynamic winegrowing also taps into astronomy and follows lunar and celestial phases to create a calendar that guides vineyard and winemaking tasks. There are: Fruit Days, Root Days, Flower Days, Leaf Days, and Rest Days and each have corresponding vineyard and cellar tasks. Think of it kind of like the Farmer’s Almanac.
Some even say the taste of the wine is affected and will be better on fruit or flower days. Does that mean a Rest Day is when you drank too much the night before? Ha! I have been informed, no, it does not mean that.
If you want to taste wine by the Biodynamic calendar, …let us know what you think.
How to Know if a Wine is Biodynamic?
Biodynamic is a certification like organic so there will be special logos and language on the label. Demeter certifies Biodynamic Internationally and in the US.
The bottle usually also says “Biodynamic Wines” or “Made with Biodynamic Grapes”
Made with Biodynamic Grapes – the grapes were farmed using certified Biodynamic practices
Biodynamic Wine – certified Biodynamic grapes were used (as above) AND very strict Biodynamic winemaking practices were used.
Are Biodynamic Wines Better?
That is in the eye (or mouth) of the beholder. For those who seek to taste the place (terroir) then a Biodynamic Wine is the vintage and place laid bare. Commercial yeast and other common winemaking interventions are not allowed. Wines “Made with Biodynamic Grapes” still support holistic farming but have a few more tools for winemaking – similar to organic restrictions. And certainly there are many winegrowers who do not seek certification but combine different sustainable practices to honor the earth and reflect a sense of place in their wines.
Here is a link to the most updated list of Demeter certified Biodynamic wineries worldwide as of April 2018 and we’ve pulled out the Oregon and Washington ones below:
• Analemma Wines
• Keeler Estate Vineyard
• Brick House Vineyards
• Cooper Mountain Vineyards
• Johan Vineyards
• King Estate
• Montinore Estate
• Upper Five Vineyard
• Wilridge Vineyard, Winery & Distillery
• Hedges Family Estate
Wines Highlighted on KGW Portland Today:
Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden 2016 Spiral 36 Applegate Valley Blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne
Spicy, fruity, floral with notes of jasmine, orange blossom, tropical fruit, and spiced baked apples. Try their lovely line up of Southern Rhone style wines.
Keeler Estate Vineyard 2016 Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Gris
The warm sunny floral and light fruit notes of summer. This wine tastes like a visit to Keeler’s beautiful vineyard feels.
Brooks 2015 Rastaban Eola-Amity Hills Brooks Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
The bright fresh red cherry fruit flavors this AVA is known for. Brooks’ Chef Abby says to pair with asiago cheese for maximum enjoyment.