Anthony Rose: Sane people think biodynamics is loony – but the techniques employed cancreate intense, delicious wines
Saturday 12 September 2009
"The grapes arrive at the winery facing the rising sun, the natural slope is exploited to allow the wine to move by gravity, and the light, in line with the concepts of feng shui, compensates for the negativity of dark, enclosed spaces." I haven't mentioned the cow horn filled with dung, the deer bladder stuffed with yarrow or the lunar calendar. For lunar, read loony. For certified, certifiable. That's no doubt how many sane people regard biodynamics. Yet when the techniques are successfully employed to create delicious wines such as Tuscany's intense mulberry-fruity 2004 Caiarossa (£34, Berry Bros & Rudd), it's enough to give the agnostic in us all pause for thought.
The American biodynamics guru, Alan York, who advises, among others, Benziger and Sting's new Tuscan venture, compares biodynamics to yoga, "a methodology of arriving at a different state of consciousness that's not drug-induced. We came from a generation where we were exploring other worlds and became convinced that there has to be more to life than what the 1950s had to offer. "
Neither does practising biodynamics have to equate to blind faith. Rhône producer Christine Saurel from Montirius changed her way of thinking, and doing, only after finding homeopathic medicine was effective in curing her daughter's illness. Nigel Greening of Felton Road Estate has adapted biodynamic techniques to his vineyards in Otago, New Zealand, but he's not starry-eyed.
The debate about biodynamics is as healthy as it is lively. You might be surprised to find a wine merchant founded in 1698 taking up the baton, but Berry Bros makes out a good case for it (bbr.com/shopping/organic-biodynamic-wine-list). Jasper Morris MW sums up, "Some suggest that the biodynamic label is a marketing tool, but many of the most active proponents are those with the most to lose: great domaines such as Zind Humbrecht, Lafon, Leflaive and Leroy were already flourishing before they moved in this direction."
A growing list of biodynamic wines at Berry's includes the delicately smoky and fine peachy-crisp 2008 Mâcon, Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, £13.50, the floral and mouthwateringly ginger-spicy 2007 Domaine Ostertag Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes and the spice-laden 2006 Vacqueyras Les Garrigues, Domaine Montirius, £11.95.
It's not "hocus-pocus" insist the dynamic, self-confessed misfits of Les Caves de Pyrène (lescaves. co.uk/about/caves_profiles). Their impassioned support for "natural wines" is a reaction against cheap, branded 'Stepford wines". If you're agnostic, try their brilliant value, juicily damsony 2006 Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano, £6.39, the gluggily cherryish 2008 La Démarrante, Vins de Pays du Vallée du Paradis, £11.79, or the magnificent chenin blanc of the 2008 Montlouis Minérale+ from Frantz Saumon £13.50.
Biodynamics is not mainstream, and with its added costs is never likely to be, but whether you believe or not, Rudolf Steiner's supra-organic techniques are increasingly being adopted to improve vineyard health and wine quality. The result is a growing body of refreshing, digestible wines that don't follow the pack. I can't guarantee you'll be instantly converted, but you'll be refreshed and delighted. anthonyrosewine.com
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