Biodynamics: just pull up a few weeds

Biodynamic Wine bookNicolas Joly, of the French vineyard Coulée de Serrant, is one of the strongest advocates of the super-organic method of making wine known as biodynamics. In his book What Is Biodynamic Wine?: The Quality, the Taste, the Terroir (2007 paperback and still available from Amazon from £4.39) Joly explains that only by putting back into the soil everything nature produces, and I mean everything, can vines can grow and wine be made in harmony with the earth’s rhythms.

cattleFollowers of biodynamic theory spray infusions made with dandelion, valerian and chamomile flowers; water and cow dung on their vines. These ‘teas’ are a crude supplier of essential plant nutrients and are supplemented with the composting remains of cow horn and stag’s bladder stuffed with manure. Their great advantage to any grower is that they’re free. All the vineyard owner needs do is walk to an untended corner and pull up a few weeds and tidy up anything dropped from the cattle wandering about their vineyard.

This my kind of gardening. Why spend hard earned cash on petrol driving to the local agri-merchant and on fertilisers supplied in uncompostable plastic containers? Biodynamicists do have to spend some money on getting in crushed quartz stone to make preparation '501' - quartz dynamised with water (that's stirred vigorously to you and me). Sprayed on grapes it helps to concentrate their flavour.

astronomyQuartz rock contains silica. Silica absorbs water – just think of those small silica-gel sachets found in new shoes that help remove moisture – and it's very useful in taking excess moisture from over-rained on grapes that have become swollen and diluted.
Biodynamic grape-growing practice contains some sound gardening chemistry and common sense. If it didn't surround itself with mumbo-jumbo words like 'dynamising' and 'life forces' it might have a lot more followers.

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