bio·dy·nam·ic | \ˌbī-(ˌ)ō-di-ˈna-mik,
Definition of biodynamic
1 : of or relating to a system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem, and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles Followers of biodynamic viticulture not only abstain from the use of chemicals, but also take a more holistic approach, viewing their environment—the soil, plants and animals—as a working unity that should be as self-sustaining as possible.— Alison Napjus biodynamic practices
2 : grown by or utilizing biodynamic farming biodynamic vegetables a biodynamic vineyard
Merriam Webster definition https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodynamic
Biodynamics and me
I grew up with a Mother Earth News on the coffee table, the Farmers Almanac from my dad’s shelf was referred to for the garden. I do Yoga and believe in chakras. You will find a stone or crystal in my pocket most days and essential oils in my drawer. I have a dear friend who has a house in Hawaii, she and a friend put out gifts for Pele during the last expansion of Kilauea and I am sure that it protected her home. Yet somehow, when I speak with winemakers or vineyard owners about biodynamics, the skeptic comes out in me. I will talk with them about how it is probably the attention to detail in the vineyard that causes the results to be so good. And they ARE good, of that I am sure.
Michael and I had a discussion about this recently. I value his perspective, as he tends to be analytical with these things. We talked about the preparations, with cow manure in a cow horn buried in the ground. Sounds like a “potion” right? But you are creating something with the biology in the ground, the micro-organisms on the site. That’s science. We discussed the leaf days, which I have been really hesitant to buy into, but they are based on moon cycles. I’m a woman, I believe in moon cycles. Again…there is some science behind it.
Finally we came around to the founder, Rudolph Steiner, and I think I found my answer. I don’t have enough depth of knowledge on him and I am skeptical of one guy coming up with all the answers. (ie, I love Bikram Yoga. Bikram Choudhury, the founder of this style yoga…not so much)
What I will tell you, is that I have yet to meet a biodynamic wine that I didn’t like, and when it comes to the people I have met on vineyards who are growing biodynamically, they are some of my very favorite people in the industry. You can check out a couple of interviews we have done with Jason Haas of Tablas Creek and Rudy Marchesi of Montinore.
But for now, lets get on to a quick explanation of biodynamics and then move on to the wines!
As the definition at the top says, this is about a holistic approach to farming that looks at the farm as a self-sustaining system. It takes organic a step further. These farms work without chemicals and adhere to a lunar calendar.
Biodynamics in Winemaking
Rudy Marchesi reminded me in our interview
…biodynamic practices were established as agricultural practices. …Biodynamic winemaking is an extension of the thought process.Rudy Marchesi, in our interview July 2018.
Biodynamic practices have been adapted to growing wine grapes and processing wine. Demeter International is the most recognized organization for official biodynamic certification. https://www.demeter-usa.org/
Certification is difficult, can be expensive and must be renewed annually. Biodyvin is another organization in Europe that certifies vineyards http://www.biodyvin.com/en/home.html
You can find certification logos on bottles in different forms.
Finding Biodynamic wine
It’s tough! If you are not out in wine country it can be hard to find! In Las Vegas I could not find any biodynamic French wines at the “to be unnamed” wine store that claims to be “total” on the wines is carries. The manager told me that 100% of the people buying wine do not care about biodynamics. After a sharp glance from me, he updated his statement to “only 1 out of 100 customers care”. I did admonish him, that as people in the industry, it was our job to educate people on this subject.
So I searched and finally purchased wine online to be shipped to me. I was lucky to have Jeremy at wine.com who was willing to do the research and provide me with multiple links to wines they had available to choose from. I settled on the Château Maris Les Planels Old Vine Syrah La Liviniere Minervois 2011 and the Domaine Fouassier Sancerre Les Chailloux 2016.
The bottles arrived and I found them to be without Demeter labels. But I had researched and each of the wineries said they grew biodynamically! Well they are. My love/hate relationship with certifications comes out here. Running a winery is a busy all-encompassing business. Certification means extra time and money that many wineries may not have. Also, it depends on when they were certified! I checked my Tablas Creek bottles. They were certified in October of 2017, so it won’t be until the 2018’s are released that they will be able to put the Demeter logo on their label.
They have a great piece on their blog about attending the International Biodynamic Wine Conference that makes for great reading. https://tablascreek.typepad.com/tablas/2018/05/consumers-dont-really-understand-the-difference-between-organic-and-biodynamic.html
So…while I won’t show you Demeter logos on the bottles I tasted, I will tell you about the vineyards and their biodynamic practices. And then…we will get to the delicious pairings.
Domaine Fouassier Sancerre Les Chailloux 2016
Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, Loire, France $29.99
About Domaine Fouassier
This domaine has been in the Fouassier family for 10 generations, with Benoit and Paul Fouassier at them helm. The domaine is 59 hectares of mostly Sauvignon Blanc. Wines are vinified by parcel here to showcase the individuality of the sites. They have members of Biodyvin since 2009.
Biodynamics to them means enchancing the soil and the plant, applying preparations at precise times and working the soils through ploughing and hoeing.
“A wine domaine, just like any other agricultural concern, is considered to be a living entity. The soils that we work are not just there to support the vine but are a living environment and a source of energy for the plant, just as much as the air it breathes.
Biodynamics in Wine Growing from the Domaine Fouassier website http://www.fouassier.fr/la_biodynamie-en.html
The 2016 Les Chailloux is 100% Sauvignon Blanc comes from a vineyard with vines between 10 and 35 years old. It spends 12 months in stainless steel. The soil on this vineyard is clay, chalk and limestone and you get the minerality immediately on the nose. Alcohol on this is 12.7%.
The Pairing – Cod with Lemon Purée
On their site they suggested pairing with oysters, fish & chips or cod with lemon purée. I went with the 3rd as I knew I had cod in the freezer, and searched for a recipe online for the lemon purée. I found a recipe for Sea bass with Meyer lemon purée and zucchini salad on farm to plate and did a riff on it. http://www.farmonplate.com/2013/09/15/sea-bass-with-meyer-lemon-puree-and-zucchini-salad/
My lemon puree came out looking decidedly different than theirs, but regardless, it was delicious and it was an absolutely perfect pairing with this wine. The notes of mineral in the wine reflected in the cod, the lemon notes of the purée mirroring the wine. It was truly blissful.
Michael noted that after enjoying the pairing and then just sipping on the wine, that the wine was enhanced by the lingering flavors on his palate from the food.
This is a dish I will work to perfect. This is one of those “Flavor Match” pairings. You can learn more about different strategies of pairings with our Pairing with Bubbles – Gloria Ferrer And The Amazing Sarah Tracey http://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/pairing-with-bubbles-gloria-ferrer-and-the-amazing-sarah-tracey/
Château Maris Les Planels Old Vine Syrah La Liviniere Minervois 2011
Syrah/Shiraz from Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon, France $31.99
About Château Maris
Wine spectator says that “Château Maris is one of the five most environmentally friendly wineries in the world.”
Robert Eden and Kevin Parker bought this vineyard in 1997 with the idea of growing grapes and making wine, in harmony with nature. They knew they wanted to go chemical free, and decided to do a test with biodynamics. They set up two compost piles and treated one with a biodynamic preparation, while the other went without. Testing later, they found the compost treated with the biodynamic treatment had far more living organisms than the one without…and the path was set.
They have been Ecocert since 2002, and Biovin since 2004. In 2008 they became Demeter Certified and in 2016 set up as a BCorp. You can read more about their biodynamic philosophy here at http://www.chateaumaris.com/gb/about/a-biodynamic-philosophy/
This Syrah comes from a 3 hectare parcel with soil of clay-limestone and clay-sandstone. It sits at 14.5% alcohol. Tasting notes on this wine noted, tar and smoke on the nose with notes of black currants and black licorice.
The first thing I got on the nose was smoke, for Michael it was blueberries. When I dipped my nose back in I could find a little tar, but it was savory. There were nice tannins. This wine was big, but not too big, kind of a gentle giant. This wine did not feel like a 2011. It’s aging is really graceful. It has probably mellowed, but still is vibrant.
The Pairing – bacon wrapped tenderloin fillets
I again went to the tasting notes and pulled from these for my pairing. I picked up a couple bacon wrapped tenderloin fillets and encrusted them with cumin and black pepper (both spices often found on the nose of syrah). These got seared on both sides and went into the oven to finish. While they were cooking I took some red currant jam, added fresh blackberries, a bit of worchestershire sauce and a bit of anise seeds and slowly cooked it down, to drizzle on top.
We did baby potatoes in butter and herbs de Provençe and a baby greens salad topped with fennel and green apple in a lemon vinaigrette with just a touch of lavender.
The pairings all worked pretty well. The fennel in the salad pulling up those black licorice notes (although I would have lightened up on the amount of lemon). The umami from the tenderloins with the berry sauce went beautifully. This was a delicious and very comfortable pairing.
The wrap up – is it worth it to search out Biodynamic Wines?
That’s a pretty easy yes. Here’s my take on why. When I’m searching for a new wine the possibility exists that I may not like it. Even with scores etc…it’s often hard to be sure of the quality of the wine you are getting. I have never been disappointed with a Biodynamic wine. There may be many reasons for this, the farming is one, the attention to detail demanded by this type of farming is another and quite honestly the vineyard that is determined to do this is committed with time and resources to doing this and that may be one of the biggest reasons that it works so well.
Will it be difficult to find biodynamic wines? Probably to start, but if all of you go out and start asking about biodynamic wines in your local wine shops and restaurants, the market will follow! Businesses will add items that they hear people consistently asking for. So do us all a favor and start asking!
The French #Winophiles
The French #Winophiles are a group of wine writers that gather monthly to together, tackle a subject on French Wine. I am privileged and honored to be a part of this lovely group. This month, the topic was biodynamic French wines. You have seen my take on this, now you can read on, to see biodynamic French wines from a variety of points of view! There will be so many different wines and pairings! And…you can join us on twitter on Saturday morning January 19th as we spend an hour chatting about the wines we tasted and biodynamics and the impact on the wines (as well as the impact on the planet!). Gwendolyn from Wine Predator will be leading the discussion at 8 am PST or 11 am EST.
More great pieces from the French #Winophiles on Biodynamic French Wine
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla whips up “Learning about Biodynamic Wines + M.Chapoutier Wines with Some Cross-Cultural Pairings.”
- Jill from L’OCCASION shares “Lessons From A Biodynamic Winemaker In France”
- Wendy at A Day In The Life On The Farm reminds us about “Eating and Drinking Responsibly”
- Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen tells us how “French Biodynamic Wines get Crabby.”
- Jeff from foodwineclick discusses “Our Biodynamic French Friends”
- Kat from Bacchus Travel & Tours tells us how “The #Winophiles Unlock the Mystery of Biodynamic Wines”
- Jane cooks things up at Always Ravenous and shares “Why You Should Give Biodynamic Wines a Taste.”
- Nicole from Somms Table shares “Somm’s Table: Cooking to the Wine: Marcel Lapierre Morgon with a Hearty White Bean Stew”
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares “ Biodynamic Bordeaux- Nobody’s Perfect But The Wine Is Fabulous.”
- Susannah from Avinaire joins us with “Biodynamic Wines Crémant D’Alsace“
- Host Gwendolyn on Wine Predator presents “Still and Sparkling: 2 Biodynamic Wines from Alsace, 2 from Rhone for #Winophiles.”