Several years ago Leclerc Briant made the decision to convert its entire vineyard estate to biodynamic production. The following are the main principles:
First and foremost biodynamics is about taking care of the soil. It’s about creating balance in the soil as well as creating the conditions necessary for the soil, the plants and the wider environment all to thrive together. Amongst the many ‘organic’ practices biodynamics is unique in that it takes into account the influence of the stars and the natural rhythm of nature and also in its use of preparations made from natural elements whose purpose is to rebalance and revitalise plants. The principles of biodynamics were laid down in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner. They can be summarised in the following three points:
- the enhancement of both soil and plants in their natural environment through the use of infusions, decoctions made from plants and other mineral-based preparations;
- the application of these preparations at precise moments in the annual cycle – this is the dynamic part of biodynamics and it involves recognising the land, in its widest sense (the bed rock, the top soil, and the air around them), as being a distinct organism in its own right;
- working the soil with plough and hoe.
The benefits of this are:
- improved soil quality due to the large variety of bacteria present in the soil;
- better rooting of the plants thanks to more extended and more dense root systems;
- improved leaf and flower development because of the added energy which promotes their development.
BIOYNAMICS AND VITICULTURE
A vineyard, just like any other farmland, is regarded as a living organism. The soil that is cultivated is not there simply to support the vines but is itself, alive. It’s a source of energy for the vine as is the air around the vine.
So the vine is a sort of central body, creating and nourishing the living environment around its roots. The exchanges between the biology of the soil, and the root and leaf systems of the vine allow the character of the terroir to be expressed in the grapes. The result is enhanced flavour in the grapes.
TERRESTRIAL AND LUNAR RHYTHMS
We are all familiar with solar and lunar rhythms in the form of day and night and of the changing seasons. However, the experiments conducted by Maria THUN over the past 10 years have given us an insight into cosmic influences on plant growth which appear to be linked to the position of the moon, of the sun and of the stars in their constellations.
A calendar based on these observations has been drawn up showing that work in the vineyard and treatment of the vines can be enhanced by correct choice of the date on which each task is undertaken. Yet farmers have been aware of these solar and lunar rhythms for thousands of years!
TILLING THE SOIL
Tilling at different times of year, of the month, or of the day plays a key role in promoting life in the soil. Thus hoeing carried out in lunar spring will have a different effect to the same work carried out in lunar autumn. Hoeing in the morning revitalises a plant whilst hoeing in the afternoon promotes water retention in the soil… It’s the farmer’s job to decide on what tasks to do and when according to the condition of his soil.
The vinification of biodynamic grapes adopts the same approach as used in the viticulture. The influence of various periods of the year is taken into account: the phases of the moon are important as regards blending, bottling and alcoholic fermentation whilst the date of flowering also influences the date of bottling.
In summary, by using a very specific way of tending his vines a biodynamic farmer aims to produce high quality wines with a distinct character that reflects the unique nature of the terroir in his vineyard. The characteristics and the peculiarities of each terroir are preserved and expressed in the wines which are better balanced and have greater structure and depth.