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Biodynamic & Organic Wine

Biodynamic & Organic Wine

Biodynamic & Organic Wine

Chateau Feely

Biodynamic and Organic Wines

The wine industry has been harshly criticized for its negative environmental impact and overuse of pesticides not to mention the amount of water it takes to grow grapes, which is a lot. Finally, some producers are working to offset their impact by switching to eco-conscious packaging, growing organic grapes and biodynamic vineyard practices.

There are numerous types of biodynamic and organic sparkling wine from Cava to Prosecco and other sparkling varieties. The most well-known variety to consumers may be Champagne using natural fermentation to produce those beautiful bubbles that make us all smile.

To take winemaking to another conscious and organic level, other than just natural fermentation, means going back to the grass roots, literally. Conscious farming and using no chemical pesticides is a start. Then the use of natural yeasts and composting the land with natural ingredients results in wines that are not only healthier but ooze more terroir and nuances of their surroundings.

Biodynamic and Organic Wine

These wines come at a cost, however. Natural and wild yeasts can be unpredictable and destroy the wine leaving it undrinkable. Diseases in soil or on vines need to be controlled with natural product which in some cases can compromise growth and ultimately the longevity of the wine.

That being said, wines have been produced organically for centuries and the losses associated with the process were “just the way it was”

So why the over use of pesticides and chemicals? To be blunt - money, but you didn’t need me to tell you that!

Biodynamic and Organic Wine

What is Biodynamic?

Essentially, biodynamics is a holistic view of agriculture. Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of finding balance between vine, man, earth and stars. “Spooky, bizarre, gimmick” - they have all been used to describe wines made this way but the process isn’t new. 

The concept of Biodynamics started in the 1920’s with an Austrian philosopher named Rudolph Steiner. It is a homeopathic manner of farming that includes viticulture. It is the oldest, anti-chemical agricultural movement that predates the creation of organic farming by about twenty years.

Biodynamics occur primarily in the vineyard before winemaking even happens. All the various tasks, from planting, pruning, to harvesting, are regulated by a special biodynamic calendar. 

The calendar was originally devised by Maria Thun, who divided days into four categories: Root, Fruit, Flower and Leaf Days.

Similar to the concept of Lunar Planting in gardening, the biodynamic calendar suggests optimum days for certain vineyard tasks that give the best results.

You can get the Maria Thun biodynamic 2017 calendar online at Amazon or the 2018 calendar here

Each biodynamic calendar day coincides with one of the four classical elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water that have been used since before Plato’s era:

1 Fruit Days: Best days for harvesting grapes

2 Root Days: Ideal days for pruning

3 Flower Days: Leave the vineyard alone on these days

4 Leaf Days: Ideal days for watering plants

 

Biodynamic and Organic Wine

What's the difference between Biodynamic and Organic?

Bio and Organic are much the same in many ways although the biodynamic route is definitely a personal and conscious choice. Look at this link from Decanter that describes the differences in easy-to-understand terms.

Biodynamic wines must be certified. The strict rules and regulations are overseen by 2 governing bodies:

1 Demeter International

2 Biodyvin 

Besides the biodynamic calendar, no chemicals or ‘manufactured’ additions (like commercial yeast) are allowed in biodynamic wine. Instead, wine growers make special compost preparations with natural ingredients to bolster their vineyards.

Controversial stuff to many but the changing face of the wine industry to most who care about what they consume and where it comes from.

You may think that it's only small boutique labels that produce Biodynamic wine but there is a long list of established producers who have perfected their sustainable techniques and are now offering great alternative wines:

Benziger, Bonny Doon, Chapoutier, Pommery, Pol Roger, Veuve Cliquot, Nicolas Joly, Bonterra Vinyards to name a few.

Biodynamic and Organic wines are getting better and they are here to stay.

But are they any good?

The answer is "yes and no".

It's still early days for a lot of producers switching their vineyards from normal to biodynamic and it is a very long process that doesn't just happen. With that in mind a lot of vignerons still have their training wheels on as to which recipes and techniques work within their vineyard - they are all different. The result is that there is a mixed bag of qualities out there...for now.

However, when you find a vigneron who has worked through those challenges and disregarded the training wheels, the results are impressive.

Why should I buy them?

I wouldn't say that you "should" buy these wines but you should let the wines speak for themselves in terms of quality. And, if you're conscious about what enters your body then you will be drawn to this type of winemaking as you will be by the food you consume. To me, there is no difference; If I would rather eat an apple straight from an unsprayed tree it makes sense that I would drink a wine produced from unsprayed vines.

Chateau Feely

Chateau Feely

One winemaking couple who have taken biodynamic viticulture to heart are Caro and Sean Feely who own and run Chateau Feely in Bergerac, SW France.

With a passion for wine and a dream of winefarming they have worked tirelessly to turn their vineyard into a sustainable biodynamic and healthy vineyard.

A small producer they are indeed but to me they are testimony to: 

(1) An incredible but lesser known part of France, Bergerac, where fantastic wines are now being produced.

(2) Vision, passion and longevity - it takes a lot to create what they have.

(3) Courage, which you need in bucket loads to stand the test of time, ESPECIALLY when nurturing a farm back to biodynamic health.  

Read all about them and their vineyard at Chateau Feely.

Feely have a great website with great products. They ship wines all over the place and are open to visitors for tastings so I would urge you to take a look.

Caro is also an established author who has created a selection of 4 books called the Caro Feely Wine Collection are is well worth the read. Find links in the side bar.

Chateau Feely

I have been lucky enough to have tried some of Chateau Feely's Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling Brut Rosé which was delightful on a warm Autumnal day sitting outside for a lunch of Warm Goats Cheese Salad.

Made from 100% Merlot this is an interesting fizz that I'm happy to say works on all levels. It was medium bodied (great for Autumn drinking) and dry which made it an especially great pairing with the goats cheese. The Brut Rosé has great acidity leaving a freshness which is necessary especially with medium of full bodied wines.

Being from the Dordogne, this wine can't be classified as a Crèmant de Bordeaux but names aside, this ticks all the right boxes AND it is Organic so for me it's a win win.

I include a Crèmant de Bordeaux for my Festive Fizz and Winter Warmer wine tasting and have been looking for a good representation from the region for a while. This Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling Brut Rosé fits right in with the principles of the tasting; warmth, sunshine in your glass, beautiful bubbles to brighten up your day and food friendly - especially seafood (of course), turkey, soft cheeses, fruity winter desserts - think plum and apple crumble...yummy!!! Oh....and it's pretty darn good on it's own!

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