A brief breakdown of three key viticultural systems:
By no means is all conventional viticulture damaging, but decades of spraying insecticides, fungicides, pesticides can lead to the death of every living thing in the vineyard. In some of the most intensively farmed vineyards the vines are weak, with poor resistance to disease and shallow roots which return to the surface to find nutrients provided by soluble fertilisers. This came about, partly because the growers were tempted to produce higher yields – (more wine equals more income) and partly to avoid risk of disease, which might affect the output. Although many responsible (typically lower yield) wine-makers keep such intervention to a minimum, the fear remains that trace chemicals may be present in the finished wine.
Here the grower is trying to grow a healthy vine, able to sustain itself naturally and to withstand pests without the use of chemicals. The emphasis is on creating a balanced eco-system in the vineyard, with healthy, living soil and biodiversity around the vines. They encourage grasses, plants and flowers, insects and birds. Often attracting natural predators such as ladybirds to control the less benign insects, such as spiders. Widely referred to as Bio in Europe. Whilst they have much in common, Bio is not the same as Biodynamic.
Organic viticulture taken to the extreme, ruled by the lunar calendar – man, moon and earth in perfect harmony. Based on a series of lectures given by the Austrian Philosopher Rudolf Steiner to a group of German farmers in 1924 in which he proposed a holistic, spiritual approach to farming, emphasising the interconnectedness of the universe with soil, plants and animals. It’s a self-sustaining, self-nourishing system, in which decisions are synchronised with the Lunar Calendar. Maria Thun (the gnarly German guru who died in 2012) and her son Matthias publish the annual calendar in which, depending on the position of the moon and planets, the lunar month is divided into four types of days. Fruit, Flower, Leaf and Root. Biodynamism captures the imagination with its strange-sounding rituals, such as dynamising rainwater or burying a cow horn filled with cow manure through the winter, and its widespread use of Yarrow, Nettle, Dandelion and Camomile.