The biodynamic culture is above all a careful work of the soil.
It means to insure a balance and create harmonious life terms between soil, plant and environment.
Natural methods allow to develop micro-soils and to offer personalized wines.
A growing conversion
For about ten years, the winery number which practices a biodynamic agriculture conversion is growing. The major part of BIODYVIN union members turned towards this type of culture during the 90ies with a loud increase since 1995. Most of the winemakers working in biodynamic agriculture are located in Alsace. This strong membership is explained, in part, by the influence of Germany. Indeed, Germany is a country informed of environmental problems and practices in less extensive agriculture than France.
A trend? A current? No, a real realization for one who likes his land.
Present agriculture is based on profits and productivity and consumes a lot of dangerous substances for fauna & flora. The use of chemical weeding, insecticides, acaricides, systemic products (which enter in the plant circulatory system) destroys soil and environment balance. To kill pests, also remove their natural predators. With weeding, roots keep on the surface making the plant more sensitive, notably during dryness. Moreover, these substances pollute underground water resources.
Winemakers who follow the biodynamic culture made this choice because they understood that the use of these products could unbalance their vineyard eco-system as well as their soil fertility. We did not look at these “framers”, who refused to ill-treat their soil, as extra-terrestrials. Soon, we will stop to think they are marginal, because we can quantify the results.
The biodynamic culture goes on
Among the “bio” practices, biodynamic culture distinguishes by taking nature rhythm and astral influences into consideration. This type of culture also uses vegetal preparations along homeopathic methods in order to balance and to give vitality to the vegetal instead of treating it in case of illness.
Biodynamic culture proposed in 1924 to answer to winemakers worries who already felt their soil was in danger, does not just exclude the use of synthesis chemical products.
Rudolf STEINER defined biodynamic culture principles in 1924. It could be amount to the three following points:
- Soil and plant valorisation into its natural environment thanks to preparations coming from vegetal, animal and mineral substances;
- Application of these preparations at precise moments in the year cycle: it is the dynamic part. It recognizes into the land (rock, ploughed land, air environment) as a full organism. So it acts as a doctor which would choose specific treatments using life forces to treat his illness;
- Soil work by ploughings and scrapings.
These treats favour:
- Improvement of soil quality by the presence of several varieties of bacteria and micro-biologic life;
- A deep-rooted plant, with dense and lengthen roots;
- A best leaf and flower development by an energy supply necessary for a harmonious fruit bearing.
Ø Biodynamic culture into viticulture
Viticultural winery, as another agricultural field, is considered as a living organism. Cultivated soils as well as air environment are not just a vine support; they are above all a way of life.
So vine – medial organism- creates and feeds its soil in this inhabited and living environment which surrounds root. Exchanges between soil biology, its root and foliar system allow soil expression into the grapes. Their flavours are improved.
Practical in viticulture has to be elaborated to compensate for unbalance risk of this monoculture.
Coming from transformed vegetal, animal and mineral substances:
- MT cowpat compost supports and strengthens soil decomposition process. It contains all elements helping to the formation of the clay and humic complex. We find significant number and variety of bacteria.
- The 500 preparation, horn cowpat, takes effect on the plant. It fortifies underground life. Its effectiveness is confirmed after several tries: roots are lengthen, denser, best shared.
- The 501 preparation, horn silica, help to the leaf development, the flower balance as well as the necessary energy for a good and harmonious fruit bearing.
These three ones have to pass by “dynamisation” before spreading.
Other preparations, elaborated from achillea, camomile, nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerian were all subjected to transformations – fermentation in presence of animal organs for some of them – raising their first properties by transforming them into humus with specific qualities. These latters are essentials; they serve to composts sowing in order to direct fermentation for the soil as well as plant balance and harmony.
Ø Terrestrial and lunar rhythms
We already know solar rhythms, composed by day, night or seasons and lunar rhythms. For 10 years, experimentations managed by Maria THUN have allowed to notice the cosmic influences on the plant-growth. These ones seem to be linked with moon, sun and planet positions in comparison to constellations.
A calendar, linked with these observations, has been developed. Vine works and treatments can be glorified by the choice of the date interventions. But, for thousand years, good farmers have always taken into consideration solar and lunar rhythms!
It favours installation of life process by working soil at different moments during the year, the month or the day. So, a hoeing at lunar spring and an other one at lunar autumn has not the same quality. A morning hoeing will give vitality to the plant whereas an afternoon hoeing will keep water in the soil... winemaker chooses hoeing and ploughing functions of his soil.
Ø Others treatments
If the balance is attained, plant will defend itself against parasite (cryptogams, insect or acarid). However, we could step in with infusions, decoction or plant homeopathic dilutions and, if necessary, natural products as “bouillie bordelaise” and the sulphur flower.
Goal of the “biodynamic winemaker”, throughout his specific vine culture, is to product a high quality wine with its own characteristics coming from singular elements which form the soil of each winery. Qualities and particularities of this soil will be respected, that’s why each wine will reflect each winery.
If a lot of these signed and authentic wines are presented as references, it is because men who gave rise to them are driven by talent and passion.
The biodynamic culture allow to natural yeast to develop. Microscopic mushrooms that we find on grape skin are the aroma key. More there are natural yeast varieties; more the wine will be typed. So, it is not necessary to add selected yeast which adjust specific and identified aromas and finish by standardize wines.
Concerning treatments, the use of sulphur dioxide is not essential. For transport and stocking problems, we add 2g. /hl at the bottling. This is the only additive we use.
Book of specification in bio-winemaking plans about a 50% low of maximal dose admitted by the European regulation. In order to reduce the use during winemaking, we have to divide the portions and work properly in order to limit bacterial spoiling risks. Only the egg fining is accepted. Potassium ferrocyanide, sorbic or ascorbic acid are banned.
Additives and preservatives are not essentials once raw material treated and of a good quality.
We do not need to have recourse to tartaric acid to re-acidify wines or to the chaptalization to attain the wanted alcohol rate. In regions where chaptalization is authorized, years when it is necessary, sugar has to be of biological quality.
Your matter concerning biodynamic culture
How do we recognize a biodynamic cultivated vine?
To this little greenery which grows naturally between rows and develops between two ploughing or hoeing. Also to the presence of animals, red worms and to an important biologic activity of soils.
Vines are mostly less vigorous, of a less darkness with leafs and apex turned towards the sun light.
How do we recognize a “bio” wine?
The “bio” wine does not exist. On the French market, we also find wines coming from the “biological agriculture”. This nuance exists because of the lack of an officially recognized book specification concerning the transformation process of grape into wine coming from biological or biodynamic culture. In others countries where legislation is less strict, wine bottles proudly display “organic-wine” mention. French people cannot do this in France, but they can use the “biological wine” mention on the bottles bound to these markets.
Which are the rules to respect in order to affix the AB mention on bottles?
Mentions: “Contrôlé par Ecocert, Qualité France”, are on the labels of wines coming from biological agriculture.
Production standard for biological agriculture are established by an European settlement (CEE 2092/91) dated 24 June 1991, which imposes:
- To cultivate vines without synthesis chemical products;
- To be certified by an chartered organism;
- To have notified one’s activity to the departmental direction of Agriculture and Forest;
- To carry out biological agriculture rules during three campaigns before to proclaim the mention “wine coming from grapes of biological agriculture” on the labelling.
Some winemakers do not announce on their labels that wine comes from biodynamic agriculture because for them, it consists in a normal approach forming part of their way of life.
Winemakers International Trade Union in Biodynamic Culture (“SIVCBD”)
Founded in 1995, it brings together 37 winemakers all around France and in others Europe countries, notably Germany. Are accepted: winery exclusively cultivated in a biodynamic way or those who join an entire reconversion after 3 years.
In 1998, members judged essential to specify, concretely, fundamental principles that all wine estate have to respect to proclaim a biodynamic winery “status”. So, a specific vine culture book of specification has been established. Each member has to respect the different criterions.
In order to be objective at the time of this check, the trade union decided to mandate an independent organism, ECOCERT SAS FRANCE. This one has to check the respect of this book specification in each membership winery. Then ECOCERT passes on a check report to the union, which gives to the chartered memberships, a certificate of biodynamic culture for the reference year of the executed check up. To finish the “SIVCBD” gives the BIODYVIN approval to the members who have been controlled.
For further information, www.biodyvin.com
Olivier HUMBRECHT – 4 route de Colmar 68230 TURCKEIM
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