Partners who have attend a 3D wine tasting will more than likely have witnessed Andrew referring to ‘biodynamics’ and the ‘biodynamic calendar’, telling you the best days (even hours) to drink wine – if you’re lucky it could be a ‘fruit day’, so in theory this is the most favourable day.
So does the day on which you choose to drink a bottle of wine affect its flavour?
According to the biodynamic calendar, it’s all down to the moon – which as we know controls the tides but it also influences living organisms; human biology and plant growth.
As the moon circles the Earth is passes through every constellation once ever 28 days or so. Each constellation is associated with one of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – and these affect different parts of the plant.
- Earth affects the roots.
- Water the leaves.
- Air the flowers.
- Fire the fruit.
Wine in a bottle is still considered a living organism, so according to the biodynamic calendar, the best days to drink wine is a fruit or flower day. In fact many of our major supermarkets only hold tasting for wine critics on a fruit day.
A pocket-sized book ‘When Wine Tastes Best’ is an excellent quick-reference (pictured below). It shows the optimum drinking windows not only by the day but also by the hour.
The red bar = fruit, the yellow bar = flower, the blue bar = leaf, the purple bar = root, oh and ‘—–’ means avoid (really?!).
When we attend exhibitions we usually show the same wines/vintages over several days, so this is a great opportunity to test this theory. We do generally find our stand busier and sample more wine on a fruit and flower day. On a — the wines do appear more closed. Is there something in it? We believe so.
Of course, there is a lot more to biodynamics than the taste of the wine …. many winemakers, farmers and gardeners are now adopting biodynamic practices, although it requires a lot of time and dedication.
Biodynamics in the vineyard
We work with three biodynamic vineyards. Our winemakers have a deep understanding of their soil and their terroir and completely eschew the use of synthetic fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides.
Biodynamics was founded by Austrian philosopher-scientist Rudolf Steiner in the 1800s. Many thought of him as a bit of a crank and branded him an occultist and ant-semitist. He was not a wine drinker either! He applied his form of spiritual science called ‘Anthroposophy’ to education, medicine and agriculture. It forms the basis of the Waldorf school system which is still practised today. He began to lecture on agriculture shortly before his death.
In 1924 Maria Thunn adopted a practical system of biodynamics for the cultivation of plants and vegetables. Her biodynamic calendar is used by vignerons today.
Biodynamic viticulteurs use naturally occurring elements such as nettle, camomile and dandelion. These herbal preparations are made in accordance with homeopathic principles, based on successive dilutions and prescribed stirring techniques – i.e. they become ‘dynamised’.
They can then be applied to the soils, leaves or roots of the vines at certain times in accordance with the lunar and planetary cycles. Other preparations include specially prepared composts made from cow or horse dung – these can be applied to the soils using cow horns buried in the vineyard, again at certain times of the year.
Amazingly, these special preparations, applied in minute quantities would appear to result, after about three years of application, in much healthier soils.
Experts have observed that microbial activity in biodynamic vineyard soils is much more apparent than in non-biodynamic ones. Healthier soils mean healthier, stronger vines. This in turn can lead to wines that are deeper in colour, more aromatic, fruitier and more balanced.
Most of the 3D vignerons adopt at least a lutte raisonée approach to viticulture. That is to say, they only spray when they have to, rather than doing it routinely (as their fathers and grandfathers would have done).
I know of many of our vignerons who use organic methods, but do not seek authorisation because of the amount of paperwork involved. They tell me they are vignerons not administrators! Both biodynamic and non-organic vignerons tend to use a lot of copper sulphate and lime as these help combat mildew and fungal diseases. These are naturally occurring elements and so are approved by the regulating authorities.
We live in an era where many wines are seemingly made in a very formulaic way and so often taste the same.
Happily, so long as there are consumers who appreciate and demand good quality, individualistic and characterful wine, there will always be a place for those vignerons who turn to biodynamics. Their wines speak for themselves.
3D’s biodynamic vineyards
Our three biodynamic vineyards are part of our regional 3dwinesexperience programme. Many would agree that the wines from these domaines are getting better year on year – perhaps as the effects of biodynamic methods really take hold. It can take around seven years for this self-sustaining system to have a profound effect on wine quality.
Montirius, Rhône Valley
Wine: Gigondas, Vacqueyras
Vignobles François Baur, Alsace
Wines: Riesling Grand Cru Brand, Gewürztraminer Herrenweg, Pinot Gris Herrenweg
Domaine de la Chevalerie, Bourgueil, Loire Valley
Wines: Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes
Ref: When Wine Tastes Best 2016. Forward Hilary Wright (Floris Books)