Taking a stance on biodynamics

During our research phase, we quickly stumbled upon biodynamics. There are many California natural wine producers who claim to use some biodynamic techniques, or who are even certified by Demeter, the international certification body for biodynamic agriculture.

Here is a short description of biodynamics taken from a Wall Street Journal article:

Biodynamics is a system of organic agriculture based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, the German theosophist, specifically on a series of lectures he delivered to farmers in 1924. It uses many of the principles of organic farming—no pesticides or chemical fertilizers—but goes further, relying on practices like planting and harvesting according to solar and lunar cycles and combating pests such as moths and rabbits by scattering the ashes of their dead brethren.

In short, biodynamics is not science but rather a mix of experience and belief. Stuart Smith, a veteran winegrower in Napa, has an unequivocal perspective on Steiner:

His books, writings and lectures should be catalogued under “science fiction” because there is not a scintilla of truth in any of his writings.

Indeed, there is no scientific proof of the benefits of biodynamics.

This raised the question as to whether or not we should introduce biodynamic wine producers in our project. Conclusion: we decided to leave it out as much as we could. And here is why.

If most natural wine producers would be certified biodynamic then making a documentary on natural wine would necessitate to introduce biodynamics since it would be an all-rallying characteristic. However, although not an exception, only some are actually certified. The Demeter biodynamics certification is not a characteristic of natural wine.

In addition to that, making a documentary is about telling a story from a particular perspective. We care about science, and we care about organic and sustainable farming, a kind of agriculture which minimizes resource waste and has a concern for nature. We also find that it is a characteristic of natural wine. Indeed, almost all natural wine producers use this kind of farming (whether or not they claim to use biodynamic practices). In consequence, we will be happy to emphasize the importance of organic and sustainable farming, leaving science fiction aside.

This reasoning is reflected in the selection of the wineries we have been to. So far we have not visited a Demeter-certified winery. And when the winemaker or the vineyard manager would bring up the topic of biodynamics, the focus was on organic farming, e.g. the absence of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. That is, the sound portion of biodynamics, not the portion about the cow horns or the moon.

Although we do not support biodynamics, we are not waging a war against it. We just want to portray the natural wine movement from our perspective with no intention to distort reality.

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