Kyle's Article: 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