INTRODUCTION: WHY ME?
It’s all Deborah Kingsbury’s fault. I was in South Australia’s Barossa Valley in July 2006, co-hosting some workshops on biodynamics with winemaker Vanya Cullen. The workshops were packed: heaps of grape growers, grape-treaders, marketing types and journos all crowded into Charlie Melton’s tiny cellar door to come and find out what all the fuss is about biodynamics - or ‘BD’ to its friends.
Questions were flying round the room - as they always do when people get together to drink and talk about BD wines - but one particular question lodged in my mind. And no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t tug it out.
‘Where can I go to find out more about biodynamic wines in Australia?’ asked Deborah, an Adelaide wine distributor. ‘Is there a web site, for example, that can give me information about what we’re talking about here, in language I can understand?’
The answer then, of course, was no. The answer now is yes. You’re reading it.
I have been writing about wine in Australia for 15 years. I have been buying and cooking and eating organic food for longer than that because farming without chemicals not only seems like common sense, but also because organic fruit and veg often taste better.
Like many other consumers of organic produce, I used to be quite sceptical about many aspects of biodynamics - stirring fermented cow poo in water and spraying it on your vineyard under a descending moon, or picking grapes on ‘fruit days’ when the moon was in a ‘fire’ constellation all sounded like wacky nonsense.
But then I noticed that, more often than not, well-made biodynamic wines were sending a chill down my spine with their intensity and complexity of flavour. They not only tasted better than most ‘conventional’ - even organic - wines. They tasted different.
These were wines with an extra vitality and liveliness on the tongue, wines that were incredibly satisfying to drink, wines that made the flavour descriptions tumble out of my brain when I came to writing tasting notes.
Because of what was happening in my nose and on my tongue when I tasted these great BD wines, I went back to the biodynamic winemakers with an open mind and asked them to explain their thinking and their methods. I even went back to the source and read (and re-read) the series of lectures that Rudolf Steiner gave to a group of farmers in Germany in 1924 on how to improve their soils - the manifesto that started the whole biodynamic movement. And the more I heard and the more I read and the more I tasted, the less wacky it all sounded.
Which is why I ended up attending the first International Biodynamic Wine Forum in beechworth in 2004; why I found myself co-hosting a BD workshop in the Barossa; why I’ve started stirring and spraying the cow poo on my own garden; and why I set up this web site.
Drinking great BD wines is like listening to live music: the best conventional wines are like a standout performance on CD, played on the smartest audio equipment. Listening to the CD can be deeply enjoyable, even moving - but not as profound, memorable or rewarding as being in the audience at a concert, experiencing the moment with all your senses.
In other words, I think the environmental aspects and the spiritual side of the biodynamic movement are fascinating and important - but it’s also the sheer unadulterated pleasure of drinking good BD wines that I want to share with as many people as I can through this web site.