Nature is the Spirit: A lesson in Biodynamic Viticulture from Ted Lemon of Littorai.

May 26, 2011 at 11:55 pm (Current Events)

(Hi everyone. I’m Cara Patricia, a full time student of wine & beverage. I originally published this article on my personal blog, DECANTchicago.com, which revolves around the strange world of Biodynamic viticulture.  Biodynamic is a step up from typical Organic and is quite confusing to most at first. I hope that the following article gives you a little more insight into what Biodynamic means and why we tend to be drawn to sustainable, earth-friendly, terroir driven wines in our search for deliciousness in winemaking at our LUSH stores. Some of wines I will talk about are available at LUSH. Cheers!)

What a great seminar we had at the Avenues in Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel!  Hosted by Maverick Wine Company, Ted Lemon, founder of Littorai in Sonoma,  held a very informative and excellent discussion about Biodynamic viticulture and winemaking. During which we also were able to sample eight of his wines using organic, sustainable, and full-on biodynamic procedures.


(Ted Lemon at Littorai in Sonoma, via SFGate)

Now, many of us on the retail side of things pretty much get the gist of what Biodynamics is, but not many of us fully understand or are completely on board with the spiritual, new age-y aspects that go along with Bio-D.   If one checks out the Demeter USA site, there is much information about sustainability and zero waste, but not too much about crystals and bull horns.


(the initial preparation, image via 1winedude.com)

But after hearing Ted Lemon speak about his own experiences and explain the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, I think I became enlightened.  A believer maybe.

We learned about the different preparations that are sprayed on the field, such as 500 & 501, why one may be sprayed to promote growth during a waxing moon and the other for maturity during a waning moon, the rhythm of nature and the peculiar vineyard flora and fauna phenomena which keeps everything moving, growing, and healthy. The basics. Lemon even broke down the history of Western agriculture for us and the rise of Alternative Agriculture as a response to the giant Industrial Farm Revolution.

Now, I try my hardest (in the warm months) to eat as local, organic (farmers market organic, not supermarket “organic”), and close to the farm as possible. This can be expensive and sometimes grueling, but rewarding because I understand that my body is not processing chemicals and getting better nutrients from these ‘enlivened’ foods.  The same concept is used in Biodynamic farming as well, only with an even deeper connection to the cycles of the cosmos and world.   There is a difference in flavor and feeling (yes, Steiner spoke of ‘feelings’ being a real, significant part of farming) in a fresh tomato cut from vines bought from a small, organic farmer in central Illinois during the summer than a hard, yellowish, hot-house tomato ripening on a truck from an industrial farm in Ecuador.  Why is there a difference? Because that organic tomato is getting real nutrients from the ground where magnesium and nitrogen and potassium and oxygen are generating naturally in the earth from other decomposing flora, earthworms pooping their body weight in vegetation, gophers mixing top soil down to the lower layers of sandstone, etc.  That tomato is full of life.  The other tomato trucked in from a chemical-sprayed field or greenhouse in January.. that tomato is dead.


(organic heirloom tomatoes vs mass production engineered dead earth tomatoes)

Rudolf Steiner and Lemon believe that if the food you eat is dead, then in turn, you will be dead. Chemicals in your body result in a lifeless body. “You are what you eat” is the old adage. But with Bio-D farming, where everything is living off itself, compost, nutrient-rich organic-material tea sprays, and little insects in harmony with the cycles of the earth, you get “enlivened food that will awaken you”.

Many Biodynamic farmers call this being in tune to the ‘Spirit’, or awakening their “organs of spiritual perception”.  It calls back to a time where native peoples were so in tune to the rhythm of the seasons that they worshiped it, went with the ebb and flow, and took no more from the land that was needed (and in turn, replaced what was taken).

Many of us, especially the city dwellers, look at this with skeptic eyes.  We’d be pretty stoked about this practice if it didn’t sound almost.. religious, or cultish, or hippy-dippy.


(however we are all stoked for this guy.)

But I realized something as Ted Lemon was talking about a phenomenon he noticed with clover. He mentioned that on some parcels he’d have thick coverings of clover, which are essential to pushing nitrogen back into the soil. After a few seasons, the clover disappeared completely from that area. Poof, completely gone.  It had moved down the vineyard to a few different rows, and began replenishing the land there.  The clover had done its job at the first site, and with the soil finally at acceptable levels, the clover was unneeded and moved on to where it could be useful.  To watch how nature can perform this kind of vineyard triage is mindblowing. This was crop rotation without any human intervention.

At this point I realized the skepticism I had was my own control issue, or rather, a human control issue.   Understanding the spiritual world of Bio-D is difficult- to end the skepticism we must give up the arrogant belief that we have control over the land; once we submit and let the earth take over, the “spirit” is obvious. Nature knows what it is doing, and Biodynamic agriculture is just sitting back and listening to Nature’s cues.  Yes, Bio-D nudges nature along encouragingly by manually bring compost and tea-sprays into the vineyard, but at the lowest minimal external input.


(its all about BALANCE, image via Wall Street Journal)
So cheers to Biodynamic Wine and all the love, care, and dedication these winemakers and vine growers have for putting the Earth’s very finest ‘enlivened’ product into your glass!
(Tasting notes to follow.)

Links:

Demeter (biodynamic certification organization)
Littorai Winery
Maverick Wine Company

What do you think?

Ms. Jane & SnackMasterKelly also came to this seminar, and I’m sure they have plenty to say on the subject as well. For tasting notes on the wines we sampled, including some that are available at LUSH, find them at DECANTchicago. Also, please follow @LUSHwine on twitter to keep up to date on news and new releases!

If you are interested in any of the Littorai wines, please call Ms Rachel at 312-666-6900 to check on availability!

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