What do nettles have to do with astronomy?

astronomyBiodynamics is a new buzz-word in wine. The 450-plus biodynamic wine producers across the world – including such well-known names as Milton Vineyards of New Zealand and Romanee Conti of Burgundy – believe they must do more than just grow organically to make wine in a truly sustainable manner. Only by putting back into the soil everything nature produces, and I mean everything, do they believe vines can grow and wine be made in harmony with the earth’s rhythms.

Steve Lewis of organic wine merchants Vintage Roots, explains that biodynamics is based on work by Austrian scientist Rudolph Steiner. “It’s a philosophy”, he says, “closely linked to astronomy, tides and the moon.”

nettlesBiodynamic growers spray infusions made with dandelion, valerian, chamomile and nettles on their vines at key points during the moon’s monthly phases. These nourishing ‘teas’ are supplemented with the composting remains of cow horn and stag’s bladder.

“Some dismiss it as mumbo-jumbo,” says Steve, “but in many cases this extreme form of organics makes better tasting wine. There are some biodynamic wines that aren’t so good, but they are in the minority.”

Sandra Hill of organic and biodynamic stockist Wines Naturally started selling biodynamic wines in 2005, and would stock only biodynamic wines if only there were enough of them. “There aren’t many biodynamic producers, but there will be more,” she says.

nose in wine glassWines Naturally customers don’t necessarily ask for biodynamic wines, she finds: “They may ask for a wine low in sulphites.” Used to stop moulds and bacteria infecting wine, the chemical preservative sulphite can cause side effects such as runny noses, headaches and aching limbs in some. Because biodynamic wine makers believe in working with nature and not against it they try to use no sulphites, or very low doses. Sandra reacted strongly to sulphite herself, and finds that by not “stuffing” herself with chemicals she could enjoy drinking wine and not end up coughing and sneezing.

Sandra still finds “there is a lot of explaining to do.” A study has revealed the majority of UK consumers haven’t heard of biodynamics. “Biodynamics will be the next big thing. We’ve had organics, now it’s the turn of biodynamics.”

The main organic wine specialists also stock the largest range of biodynamic wines.

PG Wine Review

Vintage Roots stocks a Biodynamic Six Bottle Case for £73 containing:

Pievalta Verdicchio Superiore, Italy

£10.25 individual bottle price

Nutty, citrusy white

Richmond Plains Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand

£12.50 individual bottle price

Usual gooseberry and lime flavours as you’d find in nearly all New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but it’s biodynamic.

The Milton Vineyards Te Arai Chenin Blanc, New Zealand

£12.99 individual bottle price

Honey, pears and apples.

IGP Lazio Rosso Stafilo No Added Sulphur, Italy

£9.75 individual bottle price

Soft cherry and plums.

Meinklang Pinot Noir, Austria

£12.50 individual bottle price

Could be a bit sharp for some palates: light cherry flavours.

Coyam Emiliana 2007, Chile

£16.99 individual bottle price

Blends of many grape varieties are often overlooked but shouldn’t be, they offer a huge array of flavours that you just wouldn’t find in a single grape variety wine – so expect almost all the red fruit flavours under the sun in this five varietal blend.

This article has also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week at MatureTimes.co.uk