For decades, many wine lovers and producers discounted biodynamic farming as nothing more than pseudoscience. That’s starting to change as evidence mounts of the philosophy’s positive impact on vineyard health and wine flavor—even as its more out-there aspects remain unproven.
“We found that after converting to biodynamic farming, our vines were stronger, healthier and more disease tolerant,” notes Jasper Raats, cellar master and managing director at Longridge Wine Estate, first planted in 1841 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. “And the wines themselves also have a zest and vitality that was missing previously.”
For those unfamiliar with biodynamic farming, it is a holistic approach to land management rooted in the early 20th-century work of Austrian-born educator and social reformer Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Steiner’s philosophy regards each farm as a self-sustaining system that entails a very specific form of organic farming, influenced by astrological and spiritual principles as well as lunar and cosmic cycles. Farming is planned around an astronomical calendar, and each day represents an element—fire, water, earth or air. There are also fruit days, which are ideal for harvesting; leaf days, which are best for watering; root days for pruning; and on flower days, the vineyard must be left alone.