Kyle's Blog: Biodynamics is Freaking Me Out

February 26th, 2013

This whole biodynamic thing is starting to freak me out...

Biodynamics: It is still a major talking point in the world of fine wine. Is it right? Is it wrong? Does it make sense? Is burying a cow's horn in your vineyard a key to success?

I don't know. I read Rudolf Steiner's book on the subject but, like those damn “classics” that my high school teacher made me read, I was struggling to stay awake as I read each page twice, trying desperately to soak it all in so I could sound like a genius when I talked shop with the Nicolas Joly's of the wine world. An expert in biodynamics I am not. 

So, all I know, admittedly, of biodynamics is what the winegrowers tell me, which is an overwhelming, "It works!" Peppered with the occasional, "Why did I waste my time?" Cool. Different strokes for different folks...just so long as the wine is great.

But I will say a couple of the non-winegrowing aspects of bio-d are starting to freak me out.

First, let's tackle this whole concept of “biodynamic swirling.”  A Burgundy-based gentleman that I greatly respect once told us during a visit to our offices that we were swirling our wines in the wrong direction. What? Who cares what direction you swirl in? He told us that we had to swirl the wine in our glass clockwise to go with the natural flow of things on the northern half of the planet (if memory serves) and we were going “against the grain.” Ok, fine. We gave it a try right then and there in the office with two different wines, not knowing which glass was swirled which way. Which one tasted better? Both times we picked the wine swirled clockwise. Dang.

After he left, our curiosity was piqued. We grabbed four more wines and did the same test among three of us, all random, with someone else doing the swirling and handing out of the glassware. All three of us, with all four wines, picked the wine that was swirled clockwise (Jack Palance voice): Believe it...or not.

Since that day, I've swirled clockwise, essentially tasting left-handed. When I go to the southern hemisphere I go counter, with the same results. Freaky. 

But now we're on a new kick, this one having to do with the right days to taste in conjunction with the biodynamic calendar. Again, we have some heartless, evil wine supplier to thank for providing us with a biodynamic calendar for tasting. At first we ignored it. Then we started to take a glance at it when everything would taste lousy. Hmm. Leaf day. Then we'd take a gander when it seemed our palates were firing on all cylinders. Super- taster? Nope, fruit day.

So, wanting to get down to the root of the matter, we decided to investigate further. Recently, a friend of ours had brought a bottle of Chianti Classico in on a (unknowingly to us all) leaf day. The wine was a bit lean, pinched and just OK. We then started talking about this damned calendar and, before you know it, he went on Amazon, ordered one up, then called us to set up a tasting of the same wine, but on a fruit day...which is the prime time according to those horn-burying types to taste, drink and probably bathe in wine. 

So he shows up last Friday, bottle in hand. I'll be a monkey's uncle. The wine was completely different. You know, I taste over 5,000 wines a year, and I know when a wine is corked, bottle-shocked, tired, oxidized, whatever. This wine was simply...better.

What do I do? Sit in front of my calendar and turn suppliers away on a root or leaf day? Funnier yet, the calendar is in tune with Greenwich Mean Time, meaning some days will turn from leaf to fruit or whatever the heck...in the middle of the frigging day. I'm verklempt. There's something to this whole biodynamic thing, as much as the “normal” guy in me begrudgingly does not want to accept it. Maybe have the stopwatch handy? "Ok supplier, we can taste your wine starting...now!"

Any help from someone with more knowledge than me on the subject is greatly appreciated. Please comment at the bottom of this page and help a brother out...


Kyle Meyer is a wine retailer in Southern California, formerly with the Wine Exchange, and now with his own venture, BestWinesOnline.com.

Comments

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Nikka

February 26, 2013


Thoroughly enjoyed this, Kyle. I did not know about the swirling! Will have to give that a try. If you have an iPhone, download the app "Wine Tonight." It's a biodynamic calendar the daily version is free and will tell you the time span of root/leaf/fruit days. It's useful and entertaining.
Cheers!

Nikka

February 26, 2013


Oh snap. Wine Tonight has yet to receive its 2013 update, but there is another biodynamic calendar app around.

nobleroute

February 27, 2013


Hi Kyle! Thanks for the post.. I loved your approach, acceping the fact that these things have an impact, even if we can't make any sense of it with our scientific analyses. I study the conceptions of science in the wine world, and am coming to believe that maybe biodynamics could be a type of 'science', just with an entirely different set of laws and logic.. if you're inerested at all in my thoughts on the topic, see this article for a start, and I'd love to continue the discussion!! goo.gl/wG6Lp

Alissa
nobleroute.wordpress.com

Kyle Meyer

February 27, 2013


Hey Nikka, Let me know when you find it! Hope all is well with you down the road...

Kyle Meyer

February 27, 2013


Hi Alissa,
If you ever get back to South Africa you should check out Johan Reyneke's wines. He's one cat making some pretty interesting, pure, focused bio-d wines. As you know, once some bio-d grapes get in the cellar wine quality can go either way based on cleanliness, philosophy, etc.
Thanks for reading!

nobleroute

February 27, 2013


thanks kyle - i'll check him out!

epark3

December 15, 2013


Hello Kyle, I know this blog post is old but I hope you can shed some further light on this subject . I started getting into this whole thing about drinking according to the calendar. However, there are two biodynamic calendars. One according to sidereel zodiac and the other according to tropical. Maria Thun book "When wine tastes best" is based on the sidereel zodiac. http://www.rhythmofnature.net/biodynamic-calendar which was recommended by winefolly.com uses the tropical zodiac. Both sources swear that if you drink wine on a fruit day, that wine tastes better. However, the irony is, if its a fruit day according to the tropical zodiac, it's a root day according to the sidereel zodiac, etc.
So they can't BOTH be correct. Some days, I'll drink wine on a fruit day according to Maria Thun's calendar and it tastes great. Other days, not so much. Then I'll look at the calendar according to rhythmofnature and sure enough according to them its a root day. So now im just confused and wonder if there's any real validity in wine tasting better on fruit days. Would love to hear your thoughts as an expert on wine.

Kyle Meyer

December 16, 2013


Howdy epark3,

We've only ever used the sidereel and I'm not versed on the tropical calendar. Could it be a northern hemisphere/southern hemisphere situation accounting for the difference? All I know is using the sidereel in California I'd say the calendar rolls about 70% right. Not perfect, as other factors, (human, barometric pressure, wine's condition) can all have an impact. Again, I did not have the patience to get through Steiner's book so paint me as an enlightened novice with an open mind when it comes to biodynamics. Cheers!

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