What is biodynamics? It’s basically organics on steroids/acid. Broadly, it is a belief that all elements of life are connected, and that animals, crops and soil are part of a single ecosystem. For the wine world, like organics it means not using chemicals, but in addition to this, it means using herbal and mineral additives (steroids), and basing this use on the astronomical calendar (acid). It’s really big in Germany for all sorts of farming, and it was basically invented here by a bloke called Rudolf Steiner.
It’s a technique that is also seeing rapid growth in Australia. If you’re a farmer (or specifically a viticulturist, or a wine grower) biodynamics can make a lot of sense. It’s adding something to the vine and the soil, but in a natural way that doesn’t involve chemicals. For the record, in case you didn’t know, commercial viticulture and farming in general usually involves spraying lots of poisonous chemicals on things that we then put in our mouths.
Some common biodynamic solutions that are used in vineyards in Australia include:
BD 500 – You take a horn from a cow which has had a calf and fill it with cow manure, preferably from animals with access to a pasture that has been worked biodynamically. Do this in early autumn, bury it in the soil of a fertile area of the vineyard until Spring. The contents are then removed from the horn, stirred into water and sprayed on the vineyard. Cray cray.
BD 501 – Same horn as above, but this time buried with finely ground quartz, mixed into a paste with water. Buried in spring and brought up in Autumn, sprayed as above. Mental.
This sounds kind of crazy but it’s all about connecting the vine to the soil and its climate using naturally occurring products. It’s also how people farmed before the industrial revolution, so it’s got some solid history. There is a lot more to it but I’m trying to keep it simple. If you’re interested in it, there are some great resources online.