The origins of biodynamic farming
Biodynamic agriculture goes back to Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). In 1924 he taught the so called "courses for farmers" to 60 farmers in Koberwitz in Germany. In his speeches which lasted six days, he pointed out a holistic view of agriculture and, based on this, recommended methods to improve farming. Since then, these methods have been refined and developed worldwide.
The biodynamic preparations
Within biodynamic agriculture two preparations play a major role: the horn dung (called preparation 500) and the horn silica (preparation 501). Preparation 500 is done with cow dung which is filled into cow horns and buried in the ground for several months. The 501 is elaborated in the same way, but with ground quartz. During the year, these preparations are dynamised in source water and then applied to the vineyards at specific times of the year depending on the position of the moon and of the planets. We use dung horn twice a year, once in spring before bud break, and again in the fall after harvest. Horn silica is used once in June after flowering. Of great importance are also six herbal preparations (preparations 502-507) that we use to improve our compost maturation process.
The results of biodynamics
On our domaine we are working according to the principles of biodynamics since 1999, hence since the very beginning. Since we started, our experiences were very convincing: the soils of our vineyards are alive, after heavy rains we have no erosion on the hill slopes, plant diversity in the vineyards is exceptionally high, the root system of our vineyards and the natural flora is highly developed and our vineyards are extremely resistant to all illnesses. In the cellar the results are just as convincing: the grapes contain high levels of tannins and acidity which protects them naturally. The use of oenological products in the wine can thus be outlawed, and our wines are characterized by minerality and balance.
These results are consistent with other winemaker's experiences working seriously in biodynamics. In addition, they are supported by scientific studies. The most prominent is a comparative study which has been conducted over 21 years, whose results were published in the prestigious journal "Science" (P. Mader et al. Soil Fertility in Organic Farming and Diversity on 31 May 2002, Vol . 296, p.1694-1697, www.sciencemag.org). The authors conclude that in organic farming, and especially in biodynamic agriculture - unlike conventional production - plants find their vital resources primarily in the soil, and therefore need almost no external inputs as fertilizers, pesticides and energy.
For growers like us, who are looking for expressing the terroir in our wines, biodynamic agriculture is the most convincing way to do so.