Biodynamic wines like the one pictured above consistently score higher, last longer, cause less of a hangover, and can help save the planet.
That’s right, biodynamic wines are the badass superheroes of the wine world.
I’ll admit that lasting longer and causing less of a hangover is anecdotal, but there is solid research that shows that biodynamic wines score 4-5 points higher on a 100 point scale, as presented at the International Biodynamic Symposium that I attended in San Francisco last May as well as this research that asked whether organic wine tastes better.
Because a biodynamic approach seeks to improve the soil and looks at grape growing and wine making from an ecosystem approach it IS absolutely better for the planet.
That’s why this year, 2019, I will be focusing on biodynamic wines as well as organic wines and other sustainable practices, and highlighting those wineries that are certified biodynamic and organic as well as other sustainable certifications and what those mean.
To this end, I proposed to the French Winophiles group of bloggers and social media influencers that we focus on biodynamic wines — and the group agreed, giving me January to introduce this topic. In May, we will also be focused on biodynamic Gérard Betrand Wines with host L.M. Archer; in March I will be hosting the Italian Food, Wine Travel group as we look at biodynamic wines of Italy and in April I will host the Wine Pairing Weekend crew on Biodynamic Wines of the World.
In a 2004 Fortune Magazine article, Jean K. Reilly writes that “Many of the top estates in France, including Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, Chateau de la Roche-aux-Moines in the Loire, Maison Chapoutier in the Rhone Valley, and Domaine Zind Humbrecht in Alsace” follow biodynamic practices.
HOLD ON THERE: What is BIODYNAMIC anyway?
One way to understand the term biodynamic is to break the word down into its core parts: “Bio” means life and “Dynamics” means in action. Maison M.Chapoutier certified most of its vines in 1999 and is committed to organic and biodynamic practices because it best enables “the terroir (soil, climate, know-how) to express itself fully. In fact, the expression, transmutation of mineral into vegetal, can only exist with a living terroir, able to transmit life.”
“Biodynamic agriculture is a method made popular by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the early 1920s. Often compared to organic agriculture, biodynamic farming is different in a few ways. Biodynamic farming prohibits synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in the same manner as certified organic farming. However, although organic farming methods focus on eliminating pesticides, growth hormones, and other additives for the benefit of human health, biodynamic farming emphasizes creating a self-sufficient and healthy ecosystem,” writes Magali A. Delmas, Olivier Gergaud and Jinghui Lim in their 2016 article “Does Organic Wine Taste Better? An Analysis of Experts’Ratings*”.
“Wines and foodstuffs that carry the Demeter logo are Biodynamic, which means their growers use methods such as crop rotation, composting, and homeopatic sprays to cultivate the long-term health of the soil,” states Real Simple magazine April 2008.
According to Demeter, biodynamic “Farms are required to maintain at least 10% of total acreage as a biodiversity set-aside. Riparian zones, wetlands, grasslands, and forests: all are considered an integral part of the life of the farm. Specially prepared medicinal plants, minerals, and composted animal manures help increase the vitality of the grapes grown and further anchor each individual farm in time and place.”
A healthier vineyard begins with healthier soil. Healthier soil results in expansive root systems, which essentially channel terroir into the grapes. This ensures a wine with an expressive and unique individuality: a “taste of place”.
Do biodynamic wines really score higher? Why?
Using data from the Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine Spectator, researchers Magali A. Delmas, Olivier Gergaud and Jinghui Lim assessed the quality for 74,148 wines produced in California between 1998 and 2009 and found that
yes, there is a difference: scores higher by 4.1 points.
One reason might be that they more fully express the Terroir which in France in particular, says Caroline, “means place of origin… It includes the soil, the micro climate, the people and their traditions… In English when we speak of terroir, often only the soil and the microclimate are taken into account.”
Biodynamic wine practices help bring minerals in the soil to the plant which requires that water “be able to freely move in the soil,” explains Caroline.
How is biodynamics a superpower? IS it about the soil?
Yes in part!
Why does it matter that a wine is certified?
In an interview last summer with Caroline Henry, author of Terroir Champagne: the Luxury of Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Cuvees.said that wineries really need to be certified as organic or biodynamic; it is not enough to simply practice these techniques as they see fit: ”I do not believe you can have your cake and eat it too. If it’s part of your communication, then you should commit and certify. Certification means sticking with the practices even in difficult years.”
One way to think about it is that organic is what you can’t do and biodynamic is what you must do — add micro-nutrients (preps), create biodiversity, create a sustainable ecosystem, create a healthy soil.
All right you’ve convinced me! How can I tell if a wine is biodynamic?
This indicates organic content. According to “In France, organic certification was introduced in 1985. It has established a green-white logo of “AB – agriculture biologique.” The certification for the AB label fulfills the EU regulations for organic food. French buyers and retailers often ask operators to label their products with AB trademark which refers to French organic products and is well-known by French consumers.
But organic and biodynamic aren’t the same; you need to see this logo above on the label to know that it is certified by Demeter as biodynamic. Demeter certification in Europe can also be denoted this way but also with the word Demeter on the label as illustrated below.
Where can I find biodynamic wines?
Go to your favorite liquor store and ask; you may be surprised! Look at the back of bottles — again you may be surprised! Also wine.com recently added a Biodynamic landing page (wine.com/biodynamic) for all the wines that they sell made from Demeter-certified vineyards.
Want to join us?
Simply choose a bottle of wine from any region of France that is certified biodynamic!
- If you’re a blogger, and want to participate with a post telling us about the biodynamic wine you tasted, leave a comment with your title below or email me by next Tuesday Jan. 15.
- We love to see wine and food pairings and to learn more about where the wine came from. We’ve learned that what grows together goes together, but no need to do French cuisine.
- Stay tuned for the preview post sharing who will be writing about what, and where I will also discuss a biodynamic bottle of bubbles from Alsace that I plan to open to celebrate my birthday which is tomorrow.
- Publish your post between 8am Friday Jan. 18 and 8am Sat. Jan. 19.
- Plan on joining us Sat. January 19 for our live twitter chat from 8-9am Pacific time by following our hashtag #Winophiles.
What are our 2019 themes? Right now, on the Third Saturday of the month, the French Winophiles #Winophiles plan the following themes:
- January 19, 2019: Biodynamic Wines of France | Host: Gwendolyn Alley, Wine Predator
- February 16, 2019: Provence | Host: Wendy Klik, A Day In The Life On The Farm
- March 16, 2019: Women of Champagne | Host: Julia Coney, Julia Coney
- April 20, 2019: Chablis | Host: Liz Barrett, What’s In That Bottle?
- May 18, 2019: BIODYNAMIC Gérard Betrand Wines | Host: L.M. Archer, L.M. Archer
- June 15, 2019: French Cheese & Wine | Host: Martin Redmond, ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- July 20, 2019: Loire Reds
- August 17, 2019: French Basque Country (or Jurançon) | Host: Lynn Gowdy, Savor the Harvest
- September 21, 2019: Corsica | Payal Vora, Keep the Peas
- October 19, 2019: Cahors | Host: Nicole Ruiz Hudson, Somm’s Table
- November 16, 2019: Rasteau with Thanksgiving| Host: Michelle Williams, Rockin Red Blog
- December 21, 2019: Vouvray | Host: Jeff Burrows, FoodWineClick