Here at Vineful, we have been exploring what biodynamic wine really involves and want to share the love with you. Because a lot of blood, love, sweat and tears goes into a good glass of wine!
So here’s our cheat sheet to biodynamic wine with a little help from winemaker Dwayne Cunningham and Ben Paxton from Paxton Wines in McLaren Vale, the award-winning winery leading the charge when it comes to organic and biodynamic winemaking in Australia.
Firstly, what is biodynamics?
In a nutshell, biodynamics is a holistic approach to farming rooted in nature, which builds on the organic farming philosophy Rudolph Steiner began back in 1924.
Ben Paxton: “To say he was ahead of the curve is a severe understatement as the biodynamic movement only really began to pick up in the early 2000s.”
Winemakers create their own composts and preparations to enrich the soil, while they look to the moon cycle and astrological elements during planting, pruning and harvesting.
Dwayne Cunningham: “Biodynamic winemaking limits the number of preservatives and additives that can be added to the wine… Synthetic products that are typically used in conventional winemaking are replaced with naturally derived products from yeasts, grapes etc.” Meaning no added nasties - how good is that!
Is biodynamic wine preservative free?
Often a misconception!
“Not all biodynamic wine is preservative-free. Paxton has a range of NOW (Natural Organic Wine) that is preservative-free and has been a huge success!”
What are the benefits of making biodynamic wine?
According to Dwayne and Ben, the practice encourages more individual flavour and aroma characters developing at vineyard-level as well as lower sulphur levels in the finished wine.
“As the vineyard has not had herbicide applied, we see personality developing in our grapes and wine as the vineyard soil is extremely healthy and positive microbes haven’t been ‘killed’ by a strong herbicide,” explains Dwayne.
What’s all this about cow horns?
It’s no mystery that the magic of biodynamic wine lies in its respect for our natural world. As well as environmentally friendly farming methods, biodynamic farmers make their own preparations.
“If you take more energy out of the land then what you put back your farm will slowly deteriorate,” explains Ben.
So to give back, the guys pack quality cow manure into cow horns and bury it under the earth for the winter period.
Sounds strange, we know, but it “stimulates life in the soil” and “increases plant-available nutrients” according to Ben - essentially it’s like a hearty meal for the vines.
Where do the flowers come in?
Homemade nutrient-rich compost is spread across all Paxton vineyards every year. To help it along, they add yarrow flowers, chamomile flowers, nettles and dandelions - which don’t just beautify the compost, think of them as a multivitamin for the soil adding lots of calcium, potassium, nitrogen and iron.
What on earth are fruit/flower/leaf/root days?
The biodynamic calendar is made up of four types of days that are determined by both lunar cycles and astrological signs: fruit, flower, leaf, and root days.
Root Days 🌱
When the moon is in an Earth sign: Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo.
Roots days are apparently the worst days for tasting wine as it will bring on more “earthy” qualities to the wine while subduing the fruit.
Instead, Paxton recommends: “Potato bake, water vineyard” - maybe not in that order!
Flower Days 🌼
When the moon is in an air sign: Gemini, Libra and Aquarius.
Flower days are supposedly the best for aromatic whites like Riesling, Albariño, or Gewürztraminer.
But Paxton also advises that on flower days you should “be nice to your partner,” - maybe with a delicious glass (or two) of white wine!
Fruit Days 🍇
When the moon is in a fire sign: Aires, Leo and Sagittarius.
Many biodynamic winemakers believe that fruit days are the best for tasting wines. As the Paxton fellas put it: “eat grapes, pick grapes”
Leaf Days 🍃
When the moon is in a water sign: Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.
As the name suggests, plants are busy growing their leaves during leaf days, so perhaps not the best to drink wine. Or as Paxton team advises: “enjoy green juices, watch leaves grow,” - sounds like a plan to us, to the juice bar!
Curious to learn more?
To find out more about biodynamic wine, head to our mindful categories page.
And to experience biodynamic wine for yourself, we have put together the ultimate biodynamic wine case: Biodynamic Brilliance.
Discover biodynamic wine from some of our favourite Australian biodynamic wineries.