19/08/2010 - 00:00

Getting in touch with the land

19/08/2010 - 00:00

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BIODYNAMICS in the vineyard is a system of farming reliant on the cycles of the moon and mystical preparations buried in a cow’s horn in the vineyard according to celestial indicators.

Getting in touch with the land

BIODYNAMICS in the vineyard is a system of farming reliant on the cycles of the moon and mystical preparations buried in a cow’s horn in the vineyard according to celestial indicators.

I can envisage sceptical eyebrows being raised as you read this, imagining a druids’ harvest dance and all manner of other pagan hokum getting in the way of good old-fashion winemaking.

As recently as last week I too was one of these sceptics. That is, until I attended a lecture with biodynamics enthusiast Max Allen, who spoke passionately about biodynamic ‘preparations’ and how they are helping big names like Cullen and Howard Park take their brands to the next level.

The first of two processes, called ‘Preparation 500’ involves filling a cow’s horn with cow manure and burying it from solstice to solstice through the winter months, a precise handful of this dark pulsing organic matter is spread across each acre of the vineyard. The second preparation is distributed in to the air, one teaspoon per acre of this one called ‘Preparation 501’. It’s made from a solution of ground silica and quartz, mixed by hand 100 times clockwise, then 100 times anticlockwise, producing a vortex designed to be a symbolic galaxy shape. Preparation 501 is designed to enhance the vine’s absorption of light energy.

I have to admit that I found these celestial references questionable; how can one handful of nutrients, no matter how blessed by the gods of agriculture, possibly have an impact over one acre. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. We were lucky enough to look at soil from neighbouring vineyards – only one following biodynamic practices – and it was immediately obvious which was the healthier and nutrient rich.

Viticulturists are a pragmatic, no-nonsense bunch, so to find so many converts to this seemingly mystical practice is surprising. It’s not the arcane side of the operation that has these vineyard tenders hooked, but rather the results. More and more of our top producers are following these biodynamic guidelines and creating healthier, more sustainable vineyards, and ultimately better wines.

Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines is the flag bearer for the movement in our state but following hot on her heals are the guys from Howard Park – which includes the brands Madfish and the super premium Marchand and Burch. For more info, check out www.redwhiteandgreen.com.au.

So what’s the answer? Should we all flood out and buy only biodynamic wine? Of course not. Are biodynamic wines better than others on the market? Well, no, not always. The answer I have gotten out of this project is the simple fact that, regardless of whether or not a viticulturist is properly aligned with the wishes of the heavens, biodynamic practices are forcing these farmers to be much more in tune with their vineyard. There is greater sense of connection with the earth that they work, they are more in touch with the overall health and sustainability of the process of delivering wine to you, the consumer.

I feel that, ultimately, this is the telling factor and the most relevant question is not ‘are these wines better than their peers?’ but ‘are the producers with buried horns in their vineyards making a better wine because of these practices?’

Well, I think so. The rest is up to you.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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