Celebrating biodynamic champion, Marion Smith. Passionate about the principles of biodynamics she has worked with producers who are currently certified as organic wine producers. This resulted in the launch of Biodynamic Organic Association in August 2017, (BOWSA.co.za), with the aim to act as the reference point for consumers and interested parties as to which wine producers are certified organic and Biodynamic in South Africa and which would uplift and bring credibility to the organic wine industry.
Biodynamics is organic farming, but there are extra elements. First of all, the farm is seen as a self-contained system, and this way of thinking guides actions.
A vineyard should be full of life, and if it’s possible to keep animals as well, for example for using their manure for compost production, this is encouraged. And then there are a series of preparations, made from plant, animal and mineral ingredients that are prepared in specific ways. Some of these are sprayed onto vines, while others are added to composts. Compost is an important part of biodynamic farming. There is no recipe: these preparations provide a toolkit for the winegrower to choose depending on the time of year or the local conditions.
While some of the biodynamic explanations for how these work can sound unusual to the scientifically trained, it’s likely that scientific explanations could be found for their effects. For example, some might be acting as a microbial inoculum, enhancing vineyard life, while others might be acting as ‘elicitors’ – molecular alarm signals that prime the vine’s defences and increase its immunity.
Probably the best way to understand biodynamics is to visit a vineyard farmed this way. It just looks and feels different. The soil has texture. Instead of the manicured look of a vineyard where herbicides are used to keep the soil clear of weeds, biodynamic vineyards can seem a little untidy, but there’s a natural balance to them, and they just seem more full of life. Frequently, you can taste the difference in the wine. They usually taste more alive, more complex, and more beguiling. You want a second glass.