Organic Compared to Biodynamic
What is the difference between organic and biodynamic?
cow horns for horn manure
stirring preparation 500
Ok most people understand the basics of organics, no use of synthetic herbicides pesticides fertilizers etc. Sourcing nutrients and compounds needed to grow your produce from natural and sustainable sources and being as self contained as possible. Biodynamics, sometimes referred to as 'enhanced organic' or 'super-charged organic', is all of the above but goes further. It employs an overlaying philosophy that comes from the teachings of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner back in the 1920’s. His is a holistic approach to agriculture, where all animals, plants and the solar system are thought of as living inter-related system that impact on each other.
"we are helping wines catch the climate and soil"
Nicolas Joly » renowned French biodynamic winemaker
In practical terms, biodynamic agriculture focuses on having healthy, alive, nutrient rich soils and a well balanced environment to allow the plant to harness everything it needs to grow. It uses specific herb and mineral preparations to achieve this – quite similar to homeopathy. These preparations are used to enhance the vitality of plants, soils, composts and livestock. One of the main preparations is called preparation 500 or cow horn manure. It is produced by burying cow manure in a cow horn over winter, digging it up in spring, stirring the resultant rich humus in water to dynamise it and spraying it over your vineyard. Manual/ mechanical weed control, nontoxic pest management, and sustainable animal husbandry are also employed.
"It’s just such a satisfying way to farm."
John Nagorcka » Hochkirch Winery
Biodynamic also teaches that all specific vineyard and winery operations should be timed to coincide optimally with cosmic rhythms, particularly lunar cycles. This concept is a bit harder to grasp for most of us. But in very basic layman's terms, just as the moon influences the tides, it also influences water in plants and animals.
"Biodynamic grapes are a great expression of terroir and a sense of place"
Vanya Cullen » Cullen Wines
So you can see that some people might perceive biodynamics to be a bit whacky, but anything that we don’t yet have the knowledge to fully explain can be seen as whacky. I think the farmers/grape-growers that are walking around their properties everyday and observing what is happening are the best ones to judge, and the rate at which more and more of them are burying their cow horns is quite convincing!
"But I believe, in well made biodynamic wines, I can taste a difference. I can taste a liveliness on my tongue that really is quite different from conventionally grown wines."
Max Allen » 2008 Sydney International Wine Competition
From a non-practising biodynamicist, this is my brief attempt to explain the basics of biodynamics, it is quite an intriguing topic. There are many websites that can add further to the discussion; such as
» Max Allen's biodynamic wine website
» Grgich Hills Estate