Mr. Bio-dynamica


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Reign of Terroir

Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards, who sits on the wine-making standards committee within the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, needs little introduction within the wine-making community.  If you’ve never heard of him, he is sort of the Crispin Glover of viticulture.  Usually if you say someone is outspoken, the person who comes to mind is an individual on an angry rant.  Randall has never come across as angry.  Let’s say Randall Grahm is vocal.  There are many personalities who make up the community of winemakers.  What is interesting, and which completely blows out of the water some of the weight of the bio-dynamic argument, is that those different personalities influence how the wine tastes, not by their actions, so much, as by their personality.  If Randall is a joker of a winemaker, then he is our Feste, and wise enough to play the fool on any given Twelfth Night.

what are you doing with that cowhorn?

what are you doing with that cow-horn?

Biodynamic agriculture came about from a series of 8 lectures given in 1924 by the Austrian Ruldolph Steiner, perhaps better know for his creation of the Waldorf School of education.  That, and Anthroposophy.  Again, if you are not familiar, Anthroposophy is a philosophy which teaches that there is a spiritual world attainable through thought and self improvement, without the need of any messy sensory involvement.

Biodynamicism, when applied to the practice of growing grapes for making wine, involves 9 preparations, which emulate homeopathic principles within human health care.  By applying dilute compositions to the vineyard, at very specific times, one alters the environment of the vineyard in subtle ways which influence the resulting wine.  One of the early adherents was Anne-Claude Leflaive, of Domaine Leflaive.  



Anne-Claude made two wines from a single vineyard.  Part of the block of wines, which would go on to become a Puligny Montrachet, 1er cru Clavoillons, was farmed in a straightforward organic manner.  The other half was farmed bio-dynamically.  A cow-horn full of dung was buried in autumn.  Powdered quartz in a cow-horn was buried in spring.  Yarrow blossoms were stuffed in the urinary bladder of a red deer:  dried in summer, buried in autumn, dug up in spring.  Thus was the life of Solomon Grundy, aka red deer.  That’s all, really.  The difference was noticeable.  People who tasted the two wines preferred the one from the bio-dynamically farmed block, often requesting a side order of red deer urinary bladder to go along with their selection.


The birth of Bacchus from Zeus’ thigh.

The madness lies in global warming.  The problem?  Complex dynamical systems.  Weather is one such system.  The laws?  Small changes can result in large bifurcations down the road.  Veer very gradually towards the ditch and after a long interlude of relative peace and calm, the car plummets into a culvert hurling the occupants through the windshield.  Tear up the black currant bushes at the end of each vine row, and the subsequent vintages lack a certain berry characteristic, duly noted by the importer, one Kermit Lynch.  Dump a load of horse manure in the fields next to your soon-to-ripen grapes and your wine tastes like poop, literally.  Add a few tons of carbon monoxide to the gargantuan atmosphere, and even though it only seems like a little, tiny bit, Florida becomes the isle of hanging chad, formerly a peninsula in the Caribbean.

What is important is that winemakers like Randall Grahm care.  They feel for their vineyards, and the vineyards take note.  Biodynamics is not a fad, or a fluke.  It is the sign that winemakers care, that they are connected, and that they have submitted to the heavy responsibility of knowing that every thought, every action will make a difference in how that glass of wine tastes.  Nevermind. Just give me the bottle, you wouldn’t appreciate it.

From Twelfth Night

Feste’s sings:

A great while ago the world began,

With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,

But that’s all one, our play is done,

And we’ll strive to please you every day.

Published in: on February 16, 2009 at 7:38 am  Comments (2)