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Biodynamics: super-duper organic wines

grapes on vineBiodynamic wine producers across the world - including such well-known names as Milton Vineyards of New Zealand and Romanee Conti of Burgundy - believe they must do more than just grow organically to make wine in a truly sustainable manner. Only by putting back into the soil everything nature produces, and I mean everything, do they believe vines can grow and wine be made in harmony with the earth’s rhythms.

Steve Lewis of organic wine merchants Vintage Roots, explains that biodynamics is based on work by Austrian scientist Rudolph Steiner. “It’s a philosophy”, he says, “closely linked to astronomy, tides and the moon.”

ladybirdBiodynamic growers spray infusions made with dandelion, valerian, chamomile and nettles on their vines at key points during the moon’s monthly phases. These nourishing ‘teas’ are supplemented with the composting remains of cow horn and stag’s bladder.

“Some dismiss it as mumbo-jumbo,” says Steve, “but in many cases this extreme form of organics makes better tasting wine. There are some biodynamic wines that aren’t so good, but they are in the minority.”

Sandra Hill of organic and biodynamic stockist Wines Naturally started selling biodynamic wines in 2005, and would stock only biodynamic wines if only there were enough of them. “There aren’t many biodynamic producers, but there will be more,” she says.

Wines Naturally customers don’t necessarily ask for biodynamic wines, she finds: “They may ask for a wine low in sulphites.” Used to stop moulds and bacteria infecting wine, the chemical preservative sulphite can cause side effects such as runny noses, headaches and aching limbs in some. Because biodynamic wine makers believe in working with nature and not against it they try to use no sulphites, or very low doses. Sandra reacted strongly to sulphite herself, and finds that by not “stuffing” herself with chemicals she could enjoy drinking wine and not end up coughing and sneezing.

Sandra’s favourite among the 12 biodynamic wines she stocks is the sparkling brut Champagne Fleury. “Once you’ve tried biodynamic champagne it knocks the others into a cocked hat.”

Believing in her products may help make Sandra a keen sales-woman for biodynamic wine, but she still finds “there is a lot of explaining to do.” A study has revealed the majority of UK consumers haven’t heard of biodynamics. “Perhaps in five years time that will all change. Biodynamics will be the next big thing. We’ve had organics, now it’s the turn of biodynamics.”

The main organic wine specialists also stock the largest range of biodynamic wines.

picking grapesPG Wine Tips

Vintage Roots stocks 50 biodynamic wines. Here are a few:

Meinklang Zweigelt Syrah, Burgenland, Austria

£8.95

A blend of a little-known Austrian grape and the more famous red Syrah. The result is a cherry-flavoured wine with a black pepper finish. Simple.

Te Arai Chenin Blanc, Milton Vineyards, New Zealand

£11.75

Everything about this wine shouts wow! Once your eyes have taken in the wine’s fluorescent yellow colour, your nose will smell fudge and your tongue will taste quinces and lemons. Amazing.

Muscadet Sur Lie Hermine D’Or, Domaine de L’Ecu, Loire Valley, France

£11.75

A bone-dry Muscadet with apricot undertones.

‘G’ Emiliana 2003, Colchagua Valley, Chile

£29.99

A monster blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Merlot with 15% alcohol. I’d like to taste this again in a year’s time to see if the green leaf, blackcurrant and treacle flavours have smoothed themselves out to make an even more enjoyable wine.