June 21, 2010

Biodynamics is Sexy/Bullshit

I'm far from agnostic on the subject of biodynamics. Regular readers know I drank deeply of the Buried Cow Horns kool-aid (you have to search "biodynamic" if you want to see the full catalog). Our second Lab Report even featured this photo of Rudy Steiner.

Regular visitors also know I have no truck with facile New Age charlatanism (unless I stand to make serious profits from claiming otherwise). We're even on record calling the patron saint of biodynamics an "all around weirdo".

For me, the simple facts are these. I like to buy wine from farmers. And I like to drink wine that says something about when and where it came from (terroir). Biodynamics is a good clue for me about what's in the bottle and how it got there. I'm also aware that biodynamics in practice is fairly fluid and very flexible. Unless practiced incorrectly, it's not a strict orthodoxy. In fact, some adherents don't even include biodynamic on the label (Chidaine, Huet, Pyramid Valley Vineyards, et al). And maybe it's many adherents. After all, how would you know?

There are other facts to consider. I've had some crap biodynamic wine. I've been told that biodynamic treatments include too much copper. I don't know jack about actual agriculture, but throwing a heavy metal around your fields doesn't sound like a super-great idea. And culty "wine" maker Frank Cornelissen told one of the Lab staff recently (Hi Annie!) that biodynamics is still lost in the wrong paradigm because, "It tries to be a cure."

So where do I come out on biodynamics? I find the whole mystical, occultish approach to making alcohol to be very sexy and totally inane.

But what do I know? Maybe giant vortexes from the dark side of the moon do have an impact on phenolic ripening. Maybe magnetic fields do wreck the complexity of intermingling polyphenols. Maybe it's not a coincidence that Druids and Jedi Knights wear the same sorts of cloaks.

But if the wine tastes great, who cares? That's where I am on this. Except I do care about the Jedi/Druid thing.

It is true my brand of studied indifference to all things religious is perhaps unique (you see what I did just there?). It certainly is at Stu Smith's house.

A little context: Stuart Smith is one of two brothers who run Smith-Madrone in St Helena. I think their Riesling is among the best in California; it might even be the best one. They farm steep, hillside vineyards with what seems to be a sustainable approach to viticulture. They make their wines in "artisanal" fashion. In the past, I've even swapped a few emails with Stu and he seems like a charming and interesting guy. I love everything about this producer.

Except this. Stu Smith has started a new blog: Biodynamics is a Hoax. The vitriol is dense. He is seething mad about Rudy Steiner's posthumous success. I mean, he's seriously pissed off about this stuff.

Why does he care?

I have no idea why.

Are we seriously expected to debate this stuff? And what would that look like?

My vortex is bigger than yours. Your magnetic fields suck. I can't fight you because it's a root day.

Come on. Does anyone really care? I don't care. Please join me in not caring.

But whether I care is beside the point. Biodynamics is emerging as a major trend in viticulture. And the wine press, its new media arm in particular, is taking up the cause -- both for and against -- with verve.

So I thought the Lab should do its part and provide a small measure of community education on the topic.

Tomorrow we'll publish a short, reasonable/rational, and yet still passionate defense of biodynamics and all it's wonderful hippy mysticism and occult fantasia. It was written in counterpoint to Stuart Smith's new blog. And I think it's is worth reading.

May the Force be with you.

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