The first thing I want to say about this wine is kind of superficial, but I'm okay with it: the bottle is pretty cool. This bottle just says, "Drink this wine. Feel this wine." It transports you to another time and place. There's something old world about it, its twine wrapping rustically around the neck of the bottle and over the cork, begging you to unravel it like the gift it is. The label is simple but unique, colored tan with a cut-out of a cow.
But the bottle is not the reason I purchased it. The reason I purchased it is because of what it says.
Biodynamic Wine Estate | Austria
I've read a little bit about biodynamic winemaking, and it's definitely an intriguing concept, this whole process of essentially letting the terroir and the vines work together harmoniously and with minimal interference or damage to the surrounding environment. When it comes to vine growth and wine production, doing things biodynamically is about as crunchy as you can get. Since reading about this type of production, I have been insanely curious and have wanted to try a wine produced in this style. But finding these wines is no easy task. According to Hilarie Larson at Wine Folly, there are only about 600 biodynamic wine producers in the world. That might seem like a large number, but not when you consider that there are a little over 8,000 vineyards/wineries in the United States alone, according to Jim Gordon at Wines & Vines.
Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925), an Austrian scientist and philosopher, was convinced of a relationship between the spiritual and the scientific. He rejected the use of synthetic fertilizers and viewed the farm as one organism, each part thriving off its relationships with other parts. He viewed animals as integral to the growth of plants, and plant growth as integral to sustaining animal life. He also stressed the importance of recognizing and integrating cosmic forces with the farm. From his ideologies, biodynamic winemaking was born. While the goal of organic farming is to produce foods completely naturally and do no harm, biodynamic farming goes further. The goal is to not only produce organic foods, but also to work with the earth, to give back to the earth.
The methods for producing wines biodynamically are, truthfully, very out there. Yet, somehow, it seems to save diseased vineyards, renew soil, and produce some of the most superior wines. In order to be considered biodynamic and receive the Demeter label, there are nine preparations that a vineyard must utilize. Using information from Cullen Wines and wineanorak.com, I have constructured the following list, outlining the preparations, details, and the reasoning behind them.
1 (Known as '500') - Cow manure is stuffed into cow horns and buried in the ground over winter. It is then dug up, and the manure is removed and mixed with water to spray on soil. This attracts worms and microorganisms.
2 (Known as '501') - Cow horns are filled with quartz and are buried in the ground over summer. When dug up, the quartz is removed and mixed with water and then sprayed on the plants.
3 (Known as '502') - A male deer's bladder is filled with yarrow flowers and fermented in the sun. It is then buried over winter. When dug up, its contents are added to compost and the bladder is discarded. This makes the vines more resilient to insects.
4 (Known as '503') - A cow's intestine is filled with chamomile and fermented in the sun. It is then buried over winter. When dug up in spring, its contents are added to compost and the intestine thrown away. This stimulates bacteria.
5 (Known as '504') - Stinging Nettles are buried in soil through summer and dug up in autumn; they are then added to compost. This encourages decomposition and chlorophyll production.
6 (Known as '505') - A domesticated animal's skull is filled with oak bark and buried in water or snow in winter. When dug up, the contents are added to compost. This balances the soil and protects against fungus.
7 (Known as '506') - A cow's abdominal lining is filled with dandelions, hung in the summer sun, buried in winter, then dug up. The dandelion filling is then added to compost. This increases flowering.
8 (Known as '507') - "Juice" made from Valerian flowers is added to compost.
9 (Known as '508') - Common horsetail is made into tea and sprayed onto plants to counteract fungus.
Winemakers observe the phases of the moon and also abide by a biodynamic calendar which focuses on root, fruit, flower, and leaf days, all of which happen to coincide with the elements.
Let's be honest: some of this sounds downright ridiculous, almost witchy. But even the viticultural and winemaker skeptics who try it for their own vineyards attest to its positive influence on their land and wine.
One question I did have as I read more about biodynamic wines was this: are they vegetarian and/or vegan? As I researched, the answer wasn't simple; some say yes, some say no. Of course, none of the animal products actually end up in the wine, but the parts of deceased animals are integral to the biodynamic winemaking process. I can only conclude that, as a pescetarian, I would likely shy away from biodynamic wines in the future.
As much as I advocate for better, organic foods and wish that our society would put more emphasis on the environment, I can't help but wonder if the required preparations are truly necessary. It seems to me that winemakers could find simpler and less mystical ways to impart the same ingredients and/or benefits into organic compost.
After learning more about this and then tasting the wine, I just feel more conflicted. I don't know if biodynamic practices made this wine better than it could have been otherwise. But I do know that this mildly sweet and bubbly Rosé is a delicious and easy-to-drink option. With its creamy but light berry flavors, it could be an excellent pairing with hors d'oeuvres, or the perfect environmentally conscious complement to your New Year's Eve.