Oh, wine. It’s like the best friend we know will always be there for us when we need a shoulder (or glass) to cry on but of course, like any toxic friendship, sometimes it can hurt us, too. After all, there’s nothing worse than a wine hangover is there?
So, when the concepts of organic and biodynamic wines started to become more popular in the mainstream, we asked, could this make our relationship with vino healthier?
Well, the answer is actually yes! So we quizzed Alastair England, Head Sommelier and Wine Buyer at The Shard’s Oblix as well as Luca Duso from Passione Vino (the supplies behind TOZI Restaurant and Bar) to find out what exactly biodynamic wine is. When we found out that much like organic wine, we can basically drink it without enduring a hangover the next day – we were pretty much sold!
What is biodynamic wine?
Alistair explained, ‘Biodynamic wines are made through the process of biodynamic farming which originates from Rudolph Steiner’s theories of the farm as its own ecosystem: self-sustainable and its own living entity. This theory follows the most prudent ethical and ecological standards whilst also incorporating the lunar cycles in relation to the vineyard.’
How is biodynamic wine made?
Alistair revealed, ‘The grapes are grown with no interference of synthetic materials such as pesticides and chemicals.
So, the biodynamic system of making wine also entails that you follow both lunar and astrological cycles that fall upon the vineyard. This allows for certain cycles to be followed in the vineyard regarding pruning, picking and tending to the vines.
On specific days, you can carry out specific actions as the vines will be more responsive on those days because of the lunar cycles.
The lunar calendar includes four different groups of days: flower, fruit, leaf and root. These different days affects all aspects of the farm: from the right time to pick all the way through to the right time to taste.’
Are biodynamic wines organic?
‘Biodynamic wines have the same approach as organic wines but biodynamic wines follow the theories mentioned above regarding vineyards processes.
‘Organic wines are made through a similar non-interference approach in the vineyard, but there is a difference between wineries that use organically grown grapes and those who have organic wines.
Organic wines follow the non-interference approach and use organically based materials to create their wines,’ Alistair answered.
Luca chimed in, ‘An organic wine certifies that the grapes have been cultivated in total absence of chemicals such as pesticides and weed killers; it refers to the process of chemical free agriculture and does not mean anything in regards of the final quality of the wine.
‘Biodynamic wine making is a very strict procedure, which applies to the cultivation of the grapes as well as wine making (including additives) and wine ageing. Unlike organic wine, nothing but natural elements can be used or added to the wine. Biodynamism is a very old school of thought brought to light by Rudolf Steiner back at the beginning of the 20th century.’
Does biodynamic wine taste different?
‘The taste in biodynamic wines differs depending on the region you are in or the style of the wine. Those who follow biodynamic wines will say that wines taste better on fruit days. Apart from this, it is very much on a wine by wine basis in regards to specific flavours,’ Alistair explained.
Luca also pointed to the health benefits of biodynamic wine, saying, ‘In commercial and mass produced wines there are several addictive substances, and other ingredients which have nothing to do with wine or fruit, such as copper, glycerine, ascorbic acid, colouring agents and even rubber just to name a few, so choosing a natural wine and not ingesting these is definitely much healthier!’
Where to buy biodynamic wine
‘At Oblix, we really enjoy Cullen Winery from the Margaret River in Western Australia. Vanya Cullen is one of Australia’s greatest biodynamic viticulturists and winemakers and the history of the wines goes back to her parents starting the vineyard in 1971.’
The best biodynamic wines
Mangan vineyard Semillon/sauvignon Blanc 2015
‘For me, this is one of the greatest expressions of the Semillon and Sauvignon blends coming out of Australia. It is very well balanced between the fruit forward apple and pear flavours and a great level of acidity. A perfect wine to enjoy by itself or paired with green asparagus or our market bowl at Oblix.’
Cullen ‘Kevin John’ 2014 Chardonnay
‘This wine has the beauty and charm of any great white burgundy whilst also having the distinct flavour intensity which truly represents great Australian Chardonnay. The use of whole bunch press and French oak helps this expression of Chardonnay shine on an elite level and the purity of the fruit is exceptional. All of this whilst being from a biodynamic vineyard site in the maritime climate of the Margaret River.’