From the root to the glass… by Myriam Fargeot “Wine Besty” Sommelier& wine consultant

1924… Eight months before his death, Austrian philosopher and scholar Rudolph Steiner (photo Wikipedia) gave a week-long lecture to a hundred farmers near Boslau, in present-day Poland. He spoke of a lively earth that interacts with cosmic and holistic forces. This thus defined a form of agriculture that ensures the health of plants, soil and can provide healthy food for animals and humans. Biodynamics was born …

According to Nicolas Joly, emblematic biodynamic winemaker in the Loire Valley and writer, biodynamics was applied very late to viticulture. It even seems that Rudolph Steiner did not drink wine and direct reading of his texts does not offer a thesis on biodynamic viticulture specifically. This form of viticulture adopts the principles of organic culture and incorporates philosophy and cosmology, making labour coincide with the cycle of the planets. Remedies drawing almost from homeopathy – the famous “biodynamic preparations” are integrated into an esoteric and holistic approach to the living.


I decided to interview two certified biodynamic winegrowers to understand a little more precisely the issues of the transition to this current, the challenges and motivations, in order to draw conclusions about the consequences. This article provides an interview analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of conversion to biodynamics facing the various threats and opportunities that are opening up.

(Gio Sergi – photo Clos Saint Vincent )

Hello Gio Sergi (Clos Saint Vincent) – certified winemaker by Biodyvin from Bellet. But first, what is Biodyvin?

G. S: This is the international union of biodynamic winegrowers, created in 1995 by a handful of winegrowers working in biodynamics.

What is its role?

G. S: They visit the estate and make sure of the right balance between land, plant, and environment, of good living conditions for the vine.

All right… but you, Mr. Sergi, what was your motivation to switch to biodynamics?

G. S: Well, by a friend… Daniel Boule of Domaine des Aphillanthes, in the Vaucluse.

For a whole afternoon, he explained biodynamics to me, he made me dream and there, I fell in love with this technique. I decided to start the process and dream became true in 2007. But first, I purchased a dynamiser!

A dynamiser? What for?

G. S: A dynamiser is used to create the vortex for biodynamic preparations. Diluted in water at 37 ° C, they are then energized for 20 minutes, swirling one minute on each side. This allows the water to keep the product in memory, and then use it with respect for nature.

How are the preparations spread?

G. S: The spraying is done using a tractor, because we have a considerable surface when it comes to biodynamics which is moreover spread over several sectors. Doing it manually would take too long to labour- intensive.

What are the major difficulties you have gone through?

G. S: By going through biodynamics, I must make all the preparations myself: chamomile infusions, nettle manure, even have your own cows for manure. This requires a large workforce, as well as a lot of time, which we do not always have, especially when working alone.

PASCAL LENZI Oenologist, from Bordeaux, Pascal LENZI spent 15 years working in the vineyards and cellars all around the world to learn and increase his knowledge, making wine with all types of grapes in all latitudes. All Rights Reserved. © Crédits photos : Julia Hubrich • Design by LWAS

(PASCAL LENZI All Rights Reserved. © Crédits photos : Julia Hubrich • Design by LWAS)

We are joined by Pacal Lenzi from Domaine Richaume.
What was your approach to biodynamics?

P. L: My approach was more scientific. I was already organic before this conversion. I had travelled for years in Spain, Turkey, tasting a lot. 12 years ago, contacting Tesco to send them some samples, the person in charge told me: “the moon being descending I will not accept your samples, please call me back in a week”. The moment I hang up, I took out a lunar calendar to understand why my samples had to wait for the rising moon. I understood that the descending moon promoted oxidation. Being very sensitive to it, I began a series of research and tastings, to finally decide to switch to certified biodynamics in 2018.

What has biodynamics brought you?

G. S: Well, my wines seem to have become lively and vibrant, and vines’ canopies more ventilated, with sun- kissed grapes that will give less “bitter” wines, more fruit- forward and easy to drink. They are more harmonious and above all, healthier for the customer.

P.L: It is interesting to be able to work with the descending or rising moon, to know which wine we want to obtain. For example, our low sulphites Grenache will be more concentrated by working during the descending moon, while a concentrated Syrah will need the rising moon to highlight its fruit and vibrancy. As for the “primeur” wines, I was also able to see their fruit stands out increasingly with a lovely freshness.

What is the strength of biodynamics?

P.L: The lunar calendar makes it possible to know the influences of the planets, especially in March when the moon has a major importance, because it favours the descent of the sap and cosmic forces in the lower parts of the plant. We understand our soils better: red clay will favour velvet, limestone – salinity. This will give sharp, lively wines with a beautiful mellowness, and osmotic velvet feeling. We can also obtain juicier, richer grapes with better composition.

How do your customers perceive your wine since the change?

G. S: We have two styles of clients, those who do not care about this change and who have no opinion, if any, in the lunar cycle. Then, there are those who try to understand, to know, to be interested in my wines, to see the difference, curious to always learn a little more.

P. L: I have been explaining biodynamics for years to customers through a scientific approach. For example, the influence of atmospheric pressure, the drift of lunar days, when to rack or do any other cellar operation… This allows them to become pro- active, it makes them understand what they are tasting. I have no one who is opposed, so far!

Have your customers undergone a price change as a result of this change?

G. S: No, because the goal is to continue to build customer loyalty. We are fortunate to have more requests than offers, and do not want to put them through any changes.

P.L: No, because there are not too many differences with any other techniques, from a financial point of view.

Does biodynamics correspond to the demand of current customers?

G. S: Yes, because people are now looking for wines they can drink almost since exiting the cellar door, wines that are fruit- forward and express freshness, together with terroir. The respect for nature is fully coming back.

P. L: Yes, indeed customers want fruit driven wines to drink, and it is important that each wine can bring happiness to the customer.

Mr Lenzi, as a consultant, what advice would you give to a winemaker who wants to switch to biodynamics?

P. L: First talk to your team, because it’s important to have team cohesion. Take the time to understand, analyse and explain your vineyard, your land but also assess the possibilities, labour force, preparation time because it will not necessarily be the owner who will do these tasks. It’s the team’s job, through trained and dedicated people. If you take a dog to accompany you, at least take one that likes to get up early (laugh!).

What are the threats to you?

P.L: Thanks to biodynamics, the vineyard is more resilient, more autoimmune because it is treated preventively. The curative is however very difficult for biodynamics.

What can we conclude? Although there is no scientific consensus on the use of biodynamic preparations, preventive approach seems to stimulate the immunity of the plant and the virtues of organic fertilization are no longer to be demonstrated. The biological indicators of the soil are improved, even compared to organic viticulture, as mentioned, resulting into more “lively” soils. The exclusion of synthetic chemical substances and tillage have a positive effect on plants, but also on the vivid element in general, including humans, because the customer is asking for more “healthier wines”.