Here’s the most important thing you need to know about biodynamic wine: it’s often exceptionally, potentially mind-blowing good. I applaud anyone farming organically, but don’t usually taste a difference. With biodynamics I usually do.
OK so what is it? I went to a whole talk with Nicolas Joly, one of biodynamics’ passionate pioneers who makes wine in the Loire Valley. Here are a few basics:
- It’s not hippie dippy even though it sounds like it: Basically it’s farming according to cycles of the moon (which physically affects plants). People also try to understand the energy of plants and animals and use it to help farm and grow the best grapes possible. In the end, they do the least amount to the farming of the vines and the making of the wine as possible.
- Location, location, location: This is the concept of terroir – each place creates a different wine because of its weather, dirt, height etc. “The place expresses itself and a winemaker is just a conductor of an orchestra, tuning is different in every place. If you have to act in the cellar, you’re an idiot as a farmer.” (Sounds a little nicer in a French accent.)
- You won’t be bored: A lot of wines are like a “polite person who behaves well but doesn’t have much to say.” On the other hand, you have biodynamic wine: “Wine that creates emotion, that goes right to your heart.”
- It’s not always easy or cheap – but it makes amazing wine: Think about it: if you pay for better-made designer shoes or clothes, why would you put cheap, bland wine in your mouth?
OK enough of all this talking! Let’s start drinking! Here are some pioneers from all around the globe whose vineyards are farmed completely biodynamically and whose wine I’m obsessed with:
benziger – sonoma, ca
Had so many great wines when I visited. The place is phenomenally gorgeous in a completely natural way. I totally got the idea of biodynamics when we went to the insectary – a place in the middle of their vineyards with plants that attract insects that will destroy the pests that are bad for vines.
All over the grounds are other things that contribute to this natural ecosystem: they use sheep to mow, have reusable water ponds, hawks as natural predators, and even make cool decorative entrances out of old wine barrels.
We had this Paradiso de Maria Sauvignon Blanc ($33) right in the insectary and it was super crisp and packed with flavor, not to mention the perfect thing to be drinking on a hot gorgeous day.
nicolas joly – savennières in the loire, france
You know all about him now, he makes killer wines all from Chenin Blanc. Many people think this Coulée de Serrant ($85) is one of the best white wines in the world. In the world, people! This one I had was really young (Savennières wines have a ton of acidity so can age for decades), but LOVED these other two also. The Vieux Clos ($35) had a crazy yellow floral scent, plus a ton of wild honey. The Clos de la Bergerie ($60) had much more mild white florals with crisp yellow apple and jut YUM – flavor-packed but gentle and elegant. These are must-try wines.
chene bleu – southern rhone, france
Probably the best rosé I’ve ever had – and you know I love my rosé! It was like a flavor explosion of watermelon and peach, wild and elegant at the same time. They also use pea powder instead of a plastic-based finer to filter the wine. It makes it more expensive, but when you hear that plastic is getting added to the wine maybe you wanna pay more. Meanwhile, this amazing rosé is only $29! Suck it, Ott.
manincor – alto adige, italy
Don’t even get me started on Alto Adige – it’s one of my favorite regions and I’ll be doing a whole thing on it soon. I weep on a weekly basis that I’m not there, sipping one of their insane white wines in the Alps with some speck and cheese on a plate next to me. Recently, I’ve gotten into their red wines too, and this Lagrein-Merlot-Cabernet blend was great. (Lagrein is a popular red grape in northern Italy – pretty light bodied, similar to Pinot Noir.) Manincor is all biodynamic and I like many of them. You can totally smell the funky in this 2009 Reserve del Conte ($25) – love it. Very fresh and zesty mix of red and black fruit. It’s light, but gets some fullness in the body from the Merlot and Cab. Funky town.
lapostolle – colchagua valley, chile
Their vineyards are 100% organic and biodynamic. Try this 2011 Cuvée Alexandre Carmenère (one of Chile’s best grapes) which is 85% Carmenère and 15% Syrah ($23). It tastes like deep, deep blackberry liqueur, dark chocolate and espresso. A little gritty, but balanced by lush fruit. This is stain-your-teeth territory and sooo good.
Great post, extremely interesting, fascinating really. I have to try Coulee de Serrant sounds amazing.
all 3 were great!
Really interesting blog. I want to learn more about biodynamics.
Come on. Biodynamic isn’t hippie-dippy? I see you neglected to mention the buried cow horns stuffed with powdered quartz, or the red deer bladders stuffed with yarrow blossoms. I find it strange that most people will claim not to believe in magic, yet they do believe in biodynamic agriculture. The truth is that the method itself is 100% bogus. That being said, it does cause a few good things: the winemaker spends much more time in the vineyard carrying around the (ridiculous) preparations, which leads to him/her being much more aware of the vines’ current status. It also prevents a lot of heavy-handed intervention, which leads to wines displaying their terroir more than the vintner’s style. Now, couldn’t we just do those things without the mystical aura surrounding BD?