Thu 13 Feb 2014

What is Biodynamics?


With many distinguished wine producers converting to biodynamic viticulture, there has to be something to this form of farming, doesn’t there?


Burying cow horns – one of the more well-known biodynamic preparations.

Master of Wine Caroline Gilby who has a PhD in plant science finds it all a bit hard to believe. ‘Where’s the science bit?’ she asks in a recent article written for The Society:

Supercharged organics with a hint of spirituality?
‘Biodynamics sounds quite lovely in principle – often billed as a kind of supercharged organic approach to grape growing, complete with more than a hint of spirituality. Demeter, the largest certifying organisation for this system defines biodynamics as ‘a holistic approach to agriculture in which vitality is the highest priority,’ while French group Biodyvin states ‘a wine producing property, like any other agricultural property, is considered to be a living organism.’ The wine trade today seems to hold biodynamics in great, and unquestioning, reverence, partly because of some of the renowned producers who have converted.’

Read the full article in Wine World & News

Wine journalists have been accused of giving too many column inches over to the promotion of this form of winemaking by some in the wine trade (read our blog post on the debate on this matter), so we thought it right to air the sceptic’s viewpoint.

Do read Caroline’s article and let us know what you think.

Joanna Goodman
News Editor

Categories : Miscellaneous


  1. Hugh White says:

    I entirely agree with Dr. Gilby’s very sensible article. The Society’s stance is reasonable and places wine quality first. Although I do not wish to encourage people to subscribe to this sort of new-age mysticism if growers who do so find the care required makes better wines then I am happy to drink them. I hope that they do not move towards human or animal sacrifice……

  2. Michael Gray says:

    I have to agree with Caroline Gilby on this one. It is likely that biodynamic producers will take close and careful care of their vines and wine-making, but this is despite – not because of – the biodynamic rituals and potions.

    (In much the same way that a homeopathic consultation can promote healing though the placebo effect and the chance to talk, but where the remedies have no scientifically proven effect at all.)

    I’d like the Wine Society to change its position to remove the idea that biodynamics is a bonus. Perhaps something like:

    The Wine Society is of the view that in order to produce high-quality wines that speak of the place where they were made, growers, by definition, need to take great care of their vineyards to ensure their long-term health. Many wine makers achieve this by farming organically or biodynamically, as do many who do not subscribe to these certifications. Ultimately the wine has to taste good first and foremost.

  3. James Page says:

    I wish the Wine Society would sell more natural wines as I love their authentic earthy taste. Biodynamics is non scientific nonsense

  4. Alan James says:

    I pretty much agree, though I wouldn’t close my mind to the possibility that (for example) varying states of the Moon might have some influence on biological processes not yet well understood by science, and I’m pretty sure that less use of synthetic fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides is better for the soil, for the grapes and for us. One thing that does disappoint me is the continuing spread of synthetic stoppers at the expense of corks, with the threat this poses to the remaining cork forests and species that depend on them, notably the European lynx.

  5. JerryW says:

    As a mechanical engineer I would not expect to be defending biodynamics, and indeed I am sure there is a lot of unscientific mumbo-jumbo involved.

    What I would say however is that there is more to growing grapes – or anything else, for that matter – than simply the science of agronomics. I think there is room for a little passion, a little sensitivity – I am a great believer in Terroir – and a little innate sympathy with Nature, her seasons, and her moods.

    The absence of these qualities leads to agro-industry: conquering nature by sheer chemical force, rather than trying to work alongside it.

    So I am in favour of a holistic frame of mind, to temper and inform the application of scientific methods

  6. JoeM says:

    My Dad’s been doing this since his being in Italy; learnt it from his ancestors. The moon’s calendar, seasonality, the earth around you (terroir) and under you.. It’s always been noted that terroir, what’s in the ground and the live plants and decomposition, affects the wine. The vine is a sponge and it’s all about chemistry and manipulation, and finding out how the different variables affect the end result… the wine.
    Let’s not forget the crush, the fermentation process and storage of the wine… more variables to consider.
    That’s why wine making is so interesting. Wine produced from adjoining properties can have differing characteristic which created its own uniqueness.

  7. Tom Lyle says:

    As a side issue, I feel it is a shame that the terms organic and biodynamic often get bundled together, and while I tend to agree with the author of the article regarding biodynamics, I firmly believe that the Society should offer more in the way of organic wines, as the current selection is disappointingly small.

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