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I'm not sure I'd have framed it as "made by marketer and machine", but there is no doubt in my mind that "recipe wines" dominate the market - i.e., wines made to fulfill a certain profile, with mechanical and/or chemical interventions aimed at reaching certain targets of flavour, color, pH, etc. Uniformity is what the biggest brands aim for, and that's at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from what natural winemakers are doing - or any winemaker seeking to express the specificity of grape, terroir and vintage. Tasting cabernet sauvignon at wine competitions yields a great majority of highly similar wines that taste of enology, more than of region or vineyard specifics. In volume, the majority of wine drunk on the planet is made in the winery, with a great range of interventions. Without going into any kind of value judgment about quality, innocuousness or taste, the fact that modern enology goes well beyond tweaking or correcting, but deeply sculpts the great majority of high-volume wines (and therefore the great majority of wine) is a fact that is very hard to deny.
One caveat: for a producer to do it legally, even within the confines of the loophole, there must be an authorization by the INAO to do both operations in the same year. In Burgundy, I was told by the BIVB that this has not occurred in a very long time.
Toggle Commented Apr 12, 2011 on Regarding Additions in Burgundy at The Feiring Line
Very good post, Tom. This one I feel is very much on target, and paying specific attention to science and biodynamics. With this, you may have hit an important point: composting is very important in creating healthy soils, and highly beneficial to having healthy vines. So what may be giving an edge to biodynamic growers is that they pay particularly great attention to composting. As for the specific effects of biodynamic preparations on compost, I am puzzled by the fact that there seem to be significant differences in the way bio-d compost behaves (higher temp, higher nitrates, different microbial makeup, etc.), but that it doesn't seem to have any measurable effects on the soils or the plants. If you change ingredients, the recipe should vary somewhat, shouldn't it? Also, what comes out of this article is that biodynamics don't produce lesser results than "ordinary" organic. So even if you don't like the mystical aspects of it, you can't argue that it hurts, can you?
Thanks for clarifying that, Tom. I'll read through the whole paper, and will have a more precise idea.
Tom, I can't help but feeling a little disappointed by this post. The only part that addresses biodynamics is one question that basically says it can't be tested. I know looking at organics in general makes sense in the context of this series, but the series is supposed to be about "The Science of Biodynamics", isn't it? Why bother with the series if the answer is going to be "we can't really say anything scientific about it"? Yet that is not the case, since a scientific article quoted in a tiny footnote, about long term differences between "regular" organic and biodynamic says that, and I quote: "Biodynamically treated winegrapes had significantly higher (p < 0.05) Brix and notably higher (p < 0.1) total phenols and total anthocyanins" than grapes in the organic control parcel. Link: That does seem to mean that something is different about biodynamic grape growing, doesn't it? And to me, that is a much more significant thing to look at than just saying we won't study biodynamics because there is no legal production standard for horsetail tea. Also, it's true that the synthetic vs non-synthetic question is interesting in terms of how meaningful organic certification is, but that addresses the (in)adquacy of certification more than the actual science of biodynamics. And David's point on Captan tends to score one for organics: whether synthetic or not, I'd rather go for the more innocuous products. There are many, many ways of getting sidetracked, in this whole debate. I certainly encourage you to remain focused on central issues on your announced topic. Finally, one thing struck me in Alice Wise's answers. She said that: "We ended up using a conventional nitrogen fertilizer this year just because vine size was declining so much." Didn't that just invalidate the whole organic trial? And couldn't the vine size issue mean that the methods used in the trial were inadequate or insufficient (there are many ways to go about managing vines organically), rather than "organic doesn't work"? A little preparation 500, perhaps?
I have to say that I really appreciate the debate taking place on this page - and Tom's series hasn't even really started! Beyond the differences in philosophy, I think Charles Massoud effectively summarized the central concern of all the growers that have commented here: "For simplicity how about being concerned with low toxicity and effectiveness and designing a program to achieve best results in both? " Indeed, that should be the only concern, shouldn't it? With empirical evidence to back it up. BTW, thanks to Richard for updating my knowledge of spraying practices - I'd obviously skipped a couple of centuries between Columella and industrial times. It's a good example on the impossibility of equating ancestral with beneficial. Also, Larry, it is possible to work with volcanic sulfur which, in this case, is not a synthetic product. Several committed growers I know in the Roussillon found it very effective and easy to use.
About the farmers of old, it's true that they didn't spray, but they had knowledge - and some means - of pest and disease management, as the writings of Cato or Columella will easily show you about Roman times. And they also faced periodic catastrophic loss of crops that could have deadly consequences for the local population. Think potato blight or phylloxera. Those realities certainly inform why humanity turned so massively to synthetic chemicals - with some measure of success, but also often dire consequences that lead others, today, to an equal and opposite reaction. Indeed, as I've had the chance of discussing with many people, including Larry Perrine, organic or biodynamic cannot be given a blank check - as the oft-discussed topic of copper use shows. However, the people who brought you DDT and Roundup cannot be given a blank check either. Overall, this whole question should not be about trademarked labels of one sort of another, but rather about careful, rational decisions about improving the soil, the ecosystem, etc., where you are cultivating. And indeed, as Tom pointed out, the series is looking "to examine concrete observable phenomena related to biodynamic practices". Empirical data, whatever the approach, is what it should be all about.
This series should be a lot of fun indeed, Tom. I'm always interested in hearing that people are introduced to biodynamics as a sort of Zodiac Organics(TM). Personally, I started hearing about it in terms of practical applications with concrete effects. For instance, I've used horsetail tea to save a crabapple tree in my backyard that usually lost most of its foliage by mid-August, and now keeps almost all its leaves up, scab-free, until actual fall comes. It worked - and works - extremely well. And I assure you I didn't check if it was a waxing moon in Gemini before spraying. Nor did I spray it while dancing naked, as biodynamics is sometimes caricatured. That goofier side of biodynamics is something I could do without, quite frankly. The fact that you seek to work out what empirically makes sense from some of the wilder assertions we sometimes hear - and not just throw the horn manure out with the horsetail tea - is praiseworthy in itself. Can't wait to see where it takes us.
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Aug 12, 2010