Biodynamics is a small but rapidly growing style of winemaking. Basically put, biodynamics is “Extreme Organics,” going way beyond avoidance of chemical fertlizers, pesticides and herbicides to include some rather esoteric practices. The wackiest of these is probably the only thing many people hear about biodynamics – burying cow horns full of manure throughout the vineyard at the autumnal equinox.
Equal parts agriculture, philosophy and mysticism, biodynamics somehow stops short of requiring the winemaker to dance naked among the vines at midnight under a full moon.
Shortly after I posted a link to today’s Washington Post column on biodynamic viticulture on Facebook, I received a message from David Page and Barbara Shinn (right), the husband-and-wife team behind Shinn Estate Vineyards on Long Island. I met them a few years back while researching an article on New York wines for the San Francisco Chronicle.
“We just dripped this year’s first compost tea brew through the irrigation system,” they wrote. “Turning millions of beneficial organisms into billions. Nothing about doing these kind of applications seems mystical to us, just good feet-on-the-ground modern use of old farming practices that too many good farmers abandoned for chemicals with names no one can understand, and only addictive results.”
I can’t say biodynamic wines taste better than other wines, but in many cases, they do taste different – more lively and vibrant. They often defy our expectations of what a wine should taste like, which is precisely the point Nicolas Joly, the mad professor of biodynamie, makes when he rails against “appellation l’Oréal.”
Conventional wisdom says biodynamic farming won’t work here on the East Coast. I don’t know how rigorous David and Barbara are in this regard, whether they are “as biodynamic as possible,” “practicing biodynamic,” or working on a Demeter certification. But I do know they make some terrific wines, and their message gave me a hankering for a glass of their Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc.
The moon is waning. Do you know where your vines are?