Biodynamic Serendipity

Posted by: samy September 28, 2011 No Comments

by Erin

Have you ever had those moments, when you think about a song you haven’t heard in years and then it comes on the radio? Or a long lost friend you are about to call is on the other end when you pick up the phone to dial their number?

I’ve recently had one of those serendipitous experiences, but fittingly, mine was more in the wine realm (before drinking it, FYI).

I took in a trade seminar this week from Wines of Chile; titled The Natural Choice, it appropriately focused on the organic and biodynamic grape growing practices of the South American country.

A panel of seven winery reps talked of their employment of natural farming (some a little, some full-blown certified). And even though they promoted Chiles’ vineyards’ proximity to the Pacific Ocean & Andes Mountains as a prime spot for natural grape growing, becoming certified is a lengthy, all-consuming and enormously expensive pursuit that can take years to achieve, for what critics dismiss as a new fad of hocus-pocus witchcraft winemaking for hippies.

I can understand opponents’ doubt. While I’d put myself in the biodynamic believer camp (no one seems to question the gravitational pull of the tides), a lot of the practices being preached are a little weird – like burying cow dung in a bovine’s horn under the vineyard and the planting, cultivating and harvesting of vines according to the cycles of the moon, stars and sun.

But while that may seem a laughable, nouveau-bohemian way of getting back to the earth, to all the nay-sayers, may I humbly submit a conversation Courtney and I had last week with a friend of ours.

Hailing from Portugal, this man started telling Courtney and I about how he likes to make his own wine, but he can only uncork it during certain phases of the moon, otherwise it spoils too quickly if he doesn’t consume the whole bottle.
Courtney and I exchanged glances and sat up a little straighter.

“Are you saying that you make biodynamic homemade wine?”

“Nah,” he replied, “I just know I can’t open up bottles, or even begin to make wine during certain phases of the moon – otherwise the whole thing goes bad too fast and it’s a waste of money.”

His mandate to live biodynamically is less about communing with nature, and more a reflection of his old-school European sensibilities. Growing up in poor, rural Portugal, his family used the extra eggs their chickens laid to trade with neighbours for other essential goods. He didn’t have electricity or running water, and they went to the docks take the battered sardine scraps that fishermen gave away for free.

Needless to say, this is a man who has a firm grasp on fiscal responsibility. His ability to stretch a dollar — even now that he earns a good living in modern-day Toronto — is marvellous; and just like he only opens his 5-gallon wine jugs during certain cycles of the moon, he won’t begin fermenting grapes, nor plant tomatoes — or even get a haircut — when the moon isn’t in the right phase.

And while I can see how certain biodynamic rituals may seem far fetched, or even flat out ridiculous, judging by the wines I tasted at the Wines of Chile seminar, I’m buying it: moon, sun and stars.

These wines are currently available in Vintages.

Arboleda Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Aconcagua Valley, Chile
This wine is not certified organic, but the winery rep tells me the vineyard practices organic farming. Still, this wine is a fabulous expression of sauv blanc, fresh cut grass and herbacious flavours are kept well in check while tropical fruits, lychee and clementine take centre stage. 2% of this wine is aged in old barrels for a softer mouthfeel.

Emiliana “Coyam” 2008
Colchagua Valley, Chile
$29.95 (Vintages Online Exclusives)
This is a red blend dominated by shiraz, but with hefty portions of carmenere & merlot. Deep purple, this is text book Chile: steak spice, ripe blackberry, mincemeat and uplifting rosemary give way to mushroom and toffee notes. Big, meaty and savoury, this wine needs a big ribeye to stand up to it.

Montes “Alpha” 2009
Colchagua Valley, Chile
Tthe really great thing about Chile, is it’s a country that you can always go for real value. And eco-friendly Montes, is no different. For less than $20, Alpha offers black pepper spice, tamarind/chutney and ripe blackfruit. Almost like a “Purple Angel” light (the winery’s flagship wine that sells for $50), this cabernet sauvignon dominated red blend is juicy and fresh — sophisticated enough for filet mignon and easy going enough for burgers.

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