Biodynamic Wine: A Guide to Biodynamic Wine
We’re proud to offer an extensive selection of both organic wine and biodynamic wine from around the world. We have scoured the globe to find only the best biodynamic wines, all representing great value too.
One question we are often asked is “What is the difference between organic and biodynamic wines?” The term “organic” is one most people are familiar with, but “biodynamic” is less well-known.
We’re more than happy to answer that question, as well as many others about biodynamic wine in this complete Guide to Biodynamic Wine. In this blog post we’ll answer the following questions all about biodynamic wine (note you can click on the questions to be taken to their answers directly):
- What’s biodynamic wine and what does it mean when wine is biodynamic?
- What’s the difference between organic and biodynamic wine?
- How is biodynamic wine made?
- How do you know if wine is biodynamic?
- Does biodynamic wine taste better?
- Where to find biodynamic wine?
What is biodynamic wine? What does it mean when wine is biodynamic?
To understand what biodynamic wine is, you have to understand the term “biodynamic”. Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic approach to farming that goes beyond “organic”. It views the farm as a closed ecosystem, where nothing should be brought in from outside, and nothing wasted. The ideal farm or vineyard is mixed use, with livestock providing manure for compost, although wine estates without livestock will buy in biodynamic compost. You can find out more about what biodynamic farming and viticulture is via Demeter International here.
One major concept behind biodynamics is the belief that everything–the crops, the soil, the farmer, the universe – is interconnected. The sun, moon, planets, and stars all affect the growing of crops. Viticulturists growing grapes for biodynamic wine will try to balance the connection between the farmer, the vine, the earth itself, and the celestial bodies.
This may sound a bit unusual to some, but it’s a holistic form of agriculture that has become widely practiced here and in Europe, Australia, and the new world. Since its introduction in the 1920s, by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolph Steiner, it has become one of the most accepted forms of organic viticulture.
What is the difference between organic and biodynamic wines? Are biodynamic wines organic?
For a wine to be sold as “biodynamic”, it must be certified by an organisation such as Demeter or Biodyvin. Demeter certifies the majority of biodynamic wines, but a large number of French vineyards prefer to obtain the Biodyvin certification as well. To obtain certification, the wines must follow the viticulture and vinification rules established by these organisations.
Biodynamic wines take things a step further on from organics, and follow a very specific biodynamic planting calendar (find out more about the calendar below), based on the moon and the planets. There are days that are ideal for planting, days that are best for harvesting, days that are best for pruning, and days that are ideal for irrigating the plants (where irrigation is permitted that is – see the next section).
Apart from the biodynamic calendar, no chemicals or other ‘manufactured’ additions (such as commercial yeast) are permitted under biodynamic winemaking. Instead, biodynamic winegrowers rely on special compost preparations with natural ingredients to fertilise their vineyards.
For example, perhaps the most popular is the ‘Preparation 500’, which is made by burying cow horns filled with fresh cow manure over winter. After six months, the contents are diluted in water and stirred in different directions to ‘dynamise’ the solution, and sprayed over the vineyard. The aim is to make the soil more porous, encourage the roots to grow deeper and therefore be more protected against drought. Minerals and herbs such as nettles and dandelion flowers mixed in water in very low concentrations are sprayed in the vineyards.
Are biodynamic wines also organic?
In short, yes, a biodynamic wine will be made in accordance with organic production principles. An organic wine, however, will not necessarily be a biodynamic wine. All of the biodynamic wines we have available are also organic as well.
How is biodynamic wine made?
Although we’ve covered this already above, here are four key points describing how a biodynamic wine is made:
- It will be made from grapes grown on a vineyard that views the vines and crops, soil, farmers and winemakers, and the universe as interconnected
- The winegrowing tasks will follow a special biodynamic calendar, which has fruit days, root days, flower days and leaf days
- Like organics, no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers will be used. For biodynamics special compost, herb and mineral preparations are used to enhance and protect vine growth
- When the wines are made, they won’t have any additives, such as commercial yeasts and other adjustments. The use of sulphur is kept to very low levels.
All of these things are done to encourage the natural growth of the vines and fruit, leading to a wine that is in better harmony with the earth, humankind, and the universe. Again, this may all sound unusual, hippy or even crazy, but practitioners point to other lunar effects such as tidal systems to show the potential power involved. It’s a unique form of viticulture, one that has produced a lot of excellent wines.
More about the Biodynamic Wine Calendar
Understanding the biodynamic wine calendar will help you to understand the concept of biodynamics a bit better. According to Wine Folly, the biodynamic wine calendar is divided into four days:
- Fruit Days: the best days for harvesting grapes. A Fruit Day is any day when the moon is in Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius – the Fire Signs. Fruit Days are also said to be the best days for wine-tastings.
- Leaf Days: the best days for watering the plants. A Leaf Day is any day when the moon is in Pisces, Cancer, or Scorpio – the Water Signs. On Leaf Days, chlorophyll production in the plants increases.
- Root Days: the best days for pruning the vines. A Root Day is any day when the moon is in Virgo, Taurus, or Capricorn – the Earth Signs. For those who follow the biodynamic wine calendar, Root Days are not ideal for wine tastings.
- Flower Days: the days when you leave the vineyard alone and let nature take its course. A Flower Day is any day when the moon is in Aquarius, Libra, or Gemini – the Air Signs. Flower Days are said to be the best days for enjoying aromatic wines.
Each of the important tasks (pruning, harvesting, and irrigating) should only take place on their corresponding day of the lunar calendar. Under biodynamic winemaking, performing these tasks on the wrong day can have a negative effect on the wine, as it interrupts the natural cycle of the calendar, it is argued.
How do you know if wine is biodynamic?
If you want to know if a wine is biodynamic or not, you need to look out for biodynamic certification – either from Demeter or Biodyvin. Proof of certification/the logos will usually be on the back labels. Biodynamic viticulturists want you to know that their product is made using the highest-possible quality grapes grown according to biodynamic standards, so they’ll also usually use the word “Biodynamic” along with the Demeter logo or another certifying body. All biodynamic wines on the Vintage Roots’ website, and our catalogue are denoted by the crescent moon symbol.
Currently, you can purchase biodynamic wines through us from the following organic/biodynamic winemakers:
- Meinklang (Austria)
- Chateau Couronneau (France)
- Richmond Plains (New Zealand)
- Amirault (France)
- Domaine de Reuilly (France)
- Barone Pizzini (Italy)
- Stefano Lubiana (Australia)
- Champagne Fleury (France)
- Gaudry (France)
- Closerie Saint Roc (France)
- Laverstoke Park Farm (England)
- … and others!
Does biodynamic wine taste better? Do biodynamic wines taste different?
Now that you understand what biodynamic wine is and how biodynamic wine growing works, we come to the very important question: will a bottle of wine made from biodynamically grown grapes taste any different from a bottle of ‘conventional’ or organic wine?
Both biodynamic and organic wine is often considered superior to conventional wines, with better flavour and aromas, and a more pleasant texture. Growers find that the biodynamic method yields a better growth balance, and ideal sugar content for their wines. Not only that, organic and biodynamic wines are also a better choice for the environment!
Although you may not be able to tell from the taste that it was made using biodynamic winemaking principles specifically, leading (and impartial) critics such as Jancis Robinson MW have suggested there is often a ‘vitality’ and ‘wild-flower’ aromas that can indicate that a wine is biodynamic. This could be because of a style biodynamic producers tend to aim for, rather than a natural result of the method. It could be related to the mandatory use of natural wild yeasts. Their effects are fairly subtle, but they can change and enhance the flavour of the wine. However, many organic and traditional viticulturists follow these same practices. It could also be due to the lower levels of sulphur allowed in biodynamic wines, which can give a more aromatic and ‘wild’ character to the wine.
Where to find biodynamic wine?
We at Vintage Roots are proud to offer a wide selection of high quality organic and biodynamic wines from around the world, including Argentina, France, Italy, Austria, Chile and many other countries. If you’re new to biodynamic wine, here are some recommendations.
For a great introduction to biodynamic wine, we recommend our Biodynamix Mixed Case. This six-bottle mixed case shows the wide variety of biodynamic wines being produced today. It includes three biodynamic reds, two whites and a rosé from the top biodynamic winemakers of Spain, Italy, France and Austria. We like to say that you’ll be backing biodynamics after trying these delicious wines!
Our Biodynamic Gift Box Pair contains a zippy Gruner Veltliner from Austrian estate Meinklang and a Bordeaux from Chateau Couronneau in France that’s received top ratings from our customers.
Next up are wines from Meinklang in Burgenland, Austria. The inspiring Mitchlits family own and run this model biodynamic farm and estate that fully captures the essence of the holistic philosophy that’s so much a central core of biodynamism. Their Meinklang Roter Mulatschak is a light and refreshing natural and biodynamic red wine from St. Laurent and Zweigelt. Its nose is earthy and herbal with plenty of acidity – this is a fantastic wine to have with food.
Meinklang’s Prosa Frizzante is a top biodynamic rosé from Meinklang. This bright and breezy lightly-sparkling rosé was originally created by the winemaker for their own wedding. It’s also received top reviews from our customers.
For an excellent biodynamic Primitivo, go for Cantina Orsogna Winery’s Elementa Primitivo. This full-bodied biodynamic red has a delicious wild berry character delivering a full-flavoured and concentrated palate.
Another excellent biodynamic red wine is this Cabernet Franc from Amirault in the Loire Valley. With deep plum and floral aromas and an attractive vibrant texture, this smooth red also picked up 91 points from Decanter (2020 vintage).
For a biodynamic white wine, it’s impossible to resist the zippy freshness of Meinklang’s Gruner Veltliner. This fun wine has a lovely, citrus, mineral freshness and a white pepper pick-me-up finish.
Another excellent biodynamic white wine option is the Gaudry Sancerre Le Tournebride, which is a classic Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) with flinty aromas and dry citrus fruits. It quite took our breaths away when we first tried it – and we feel sure you’ll love it too.
Champagne Fleury is another 100% biodynamic winemaker, the first Champagne producer to convert to biodynamic in 1962! The Champagne Fleury Blanc de Noirs is an enduringly popular gold medal-winning biodynamic Champagne that’s also picked up high points over the years.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this post all about biodynamic organic wine … if you have any other questions about which biodynamic wine might be right for you, don’t hesitate to be in touch!