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James Millton, a biodynamic wine grower, with a special preparation  that has been buried in a cow's horn in his vineyard
Retrieving a biodynamic preparation from a cow's horn that has been buried in the ground at Millton, New Zealand


part 1: an introduction to biodynamics

This is the first part of a major series exploring biodynamic wine growing, which is a supercharged form of organics that is proving increasingly popular. My hope is that this will represent a thoughtful, critical and fair appraisal of this complicated and rather controversial subject.


Back in 1997, the sales team and directors of Corney & Barrow visited Domaine Leflaive in Burgundy. Anne-Claude Leflaive poured them two wines, blind, and asked them which they liked best. 12 out of the 13 preferred the same wine. What was the difference? 


Well, both were technically the same wine: her 1996 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon. But the wines were made from adjacent plots of vines, one organic, the other farmed with biodynamics, an alternative system of agriculture that represents the focus of this new series. This latter wine was the one that the Corney & Barrow team had singled out almost unanimously as their favourite. The following vintage Domaine Leflaive went fully biodynamic.


Anecdotal observations like these don’t constitute hard scientific data, but they are common enough— and come from people making serious enough wines—to merit proper attention. Indeed, the roll call of biodynamic producers forms a star-studded list, and one that is growing steadily.


The goal of this new series is to capture the essence of biodynamic viticulture, and answer some key questions. First, how does biodynamics differ from conventional and organic agriculture? I’ll explore the sorts of practices and philosophies that set biodynamic practitioners apart from their peers.


Then we’ll meet some of the people involved in biodynamics, including Nicolas Joly, James Millton, Michel Chapoutier and Alvaro Espinoza.


A crucial question is whether it actually works, and if so, how? I’ll also address whether biodynamics can be reconciled with a scientific understanding of viticulture.


Other topics in this series 

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