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Biodynamic viticulturist Nicholas Joly of Coulee de la Serrant in the French Loire Valley has been a pioneer in this method of wine production since the early 1970s.
The principles of biodynamic farming are based on a series of eight lectures, called “Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture,” written by the German philosopher Rudolph Steiner. Steiner was popular in the 1920s for advancing the “science” of anthroposophy, a spiritual philosophy postulating the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development. His lectures applied this philosophy to agriculture by postulating that the Earth is a living being, that man and Earth are intimately interconnected, and that the soil and its elements are filled with “spirit.” Steiner believed that man absorbs this spirit when he eats the food that the Earth produces.
Many in the wine industry believe that embracing this concept of biodynamic wines takes their organic wines to a “higher” level. Not only is there said to be a “life force” in the wines, but biodynamic farmers also feel that by avoiding the toxins of pesticides, they are healing the Earth and putting a stop to the destruction caused by humans.
Can wine be healing? The key to biodynamics is about life force and the energy that is evoked when one is interconnected with the whole of the cosmos. It’s heady stuff. And so is wine. Wine has long been symbolic of the life force, the blood, in humans. In the same way that doctors support the individual’s life force, strengthen it through natural practices and allow it to grow and be fruitful, so do biodynamic viticulturists strengthen their soil and their vines.
As we consume the produce of land farmed in this manner, we participate in a reciprocal healing relationship. Spiritual renewal, energizing the life force and raising consciousness are said to be byproducts of being in tune with the natural cycles and rhythms of the Earth.
Terroir is the French term in wine that denotes the special characteristics that geography has bestowed upon a particular region. The land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that region. There is great dissension over terroir among viticulturists. Randall Grahm of Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Bonny Doon Vineyards, says, “Biodynamics and terroir fit together … Biodynamics is a methodology or practice, but terroir is an ideal or value. Biodynamics can be thought of as viticultural homeopathy to solve terroir.”
Homeopathy and biodynamics work beautifully together as they share the basic premise of using natural substances to strengthen the “inner soil” or constitution of the individual, the dynamis or life force, in order to prevent disease and be fruitful and productive in life.
Grahm describes the dynamis (an ancient Greek word meaning “power” or “force”) in biodynamic wine this way: “I think we should look at different indicators. Wines of passion and life force. Open it … and if it deteriorates rapidly, it doesn’t have any life force. If you put the [cap] back on and it’s good the second and third day, it has life force.” (http://wine.appellationamerica.com)
Biodynamics is a trend that seeks to heal the planet and the people on it. Healing viticulture is a laudable goal. Trends that decrease toxins in the environment as well as increase the life force of plants and people are worth taking note of. As a health-care futurist, trends are what I forecast. Health and wellness through fine wine can only be a good thing.
At the recent All Things Organic Conference, I had the opportunity to taste the biodynamic wines of Frey Vineyards. John Frey of Mendocino, Calif., produced the first certified biodynamic wines. Being a doctor myself, I am partial to certification as a standard. It could have been the placebo effect, simply knowing that I was drinking a wine catching the harmony of the Earth, but short of being inebriated, I did feel a soulfulness, a connection to the whole on hoisting my glass and offering a toast, “A votre santé!”
Dr. Nancy Gahles is the executive director, Health & Harmony Wellness Education, and president, National Center for Homeopathy (http://www.nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org/). She holds several licenses and certifications, including: Doctor of Chiropractic (DC); Certified Classical Homeopath (CCH); and Registered, Society of Homeopaths, North America (RSHom, NA). She can be reached at: askDrNancy@aol.com.