Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Biodynamic Wines: For Earth Day (and Beyond...)

Apropos of Earth Day (my wedding anniversary, BTW), let's talk about the growing movement toward organics and, especially, biodynamics in wine production. Many wine producers think biodynamics is a load of mystical hooey, but it's hard to argue with the satisfaction that so many producers have gained by converting all or some of their vineyard land to this kind of farming. It's also hard to argue against it when some of the most august estates in France--DRC, Domaine Leroy, M. Chapoutier--are doing it, not to mention top California producers like Araujo, Benziger and Robert Sinskey.

Jack Everitt of the blog Fork and Bottle has started a master list of the world's known biodynamic wine producers. It's a pretty awesome list and will grow both as he becomes aware of more producers and as more producers convert. The latter seems to be happening all the time, such as I learn all the time, as when I was visiting the Four Graces in Oregon a couple of weeks ago.

Anthony, the GM of the place, drove me to see their new plantings--two large vineyards side by side. One was going to be farmed biodynamically, the other organically/sustainably. It was, he said, perhaps the largest side-by-side experiment in the world, which is no mean feat, since it's expensive to farm that way.

I, however, have a strong suspicion how the experiment will turn out. I'll never forget Steve Beckmen of Beckmen Vineyards telling me that with his biodynamic experiment with his Purisima Mountain vineyard, he could actually see the difference in the health of the vines between the biodynamic section and the rest. He then converted his whole vineyard to that kind of farming.

As his website states: "Because consistency and quality are so important, Beckmen carefully tested these methods before committing the whole vineyard. The results were impressive. When farmed biodynamically the vines grew straight up and the leaves were rich in color and healthy. In addition, the soil retained more moisture and there was an increase in sugar and tannin quality. Building on these exceptional results, 2006 marked the transition from grand experiment to a dedicated program of biodynamic farming at Purisima Mountain Vineyard."

I imagine that eventually the Four Graces will go the same way.

As for my anniversary, I would send my wife a virtual bottle of Champagne, but instead will just share an actual bottle of Krug Rosé with her when I get home.