Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

Would You Like Some Woo-Woo With Your Wine?

7/28/2011 3:08:47 PM

Tags: biodynamics, wine, sustainable agriculture, organic farming, food, spirituality, environment, Voodoo Vintners, Keith Goetzman

Biodynamic grapes

It’s easy to make fun of biodynamic wine growers: After all, they bury manure in cow horns to absorb “life forces” from the earth, plant and harvest their grapes according to astrological charts, and concoct potion-like preparations according to highly prescribed rules that seem almost like religious ritual.

Wine writer Katherine Cole chooses not to mock but to try to understand these starry-eyed farmers in her new book Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers, recently published by Oregon State University Press. Cole is an able and level-headed guide to the biodynamic world, bringing a healthy skepticism to practices that carry more than a hint of woo-woo, yet keeping an open enough mind that she can approach her subjects with respect and inquisitiveness—even when she visits a vintner who uses a “radionic field broadcaster” made of PVC pipe and copper wire to spread “energetic essences” across his vineyard like some sort of magic New Age cannon.

As to the issue of quality, Cole pulls no critical punches: “Biodynamically farmed grapes make for fascinating wines,” she writes. “They also make banal wines.”

She even tackles “head-on” the difficult subject of Rudolf Steiner, the guru-like founder of biodynamics who also developed Waldorf schools, the eurhythmy dance method, and the supernaturally charged school of philosophy known as anthroposophy. Cole acknowledges some of Steiner’s more out-there ideas—that gnomes and Atlantis are real, for instance—but out in the vineyards, she finds “you won’t hear much talk about the spirituality of biodynamics among most practicing vignerons.”

In many of its basic practices, Cole notes, biodynamic is a lot like organic: It allows weeds and wildlife to flourish, it doesn’t use artificial pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers, and it takes a holistic approach to land management. This can’t be all bad, right? I’d certainly rather live downstream or downwind from a biodynamic vineyard than a conventional one.

Writes Cole: “For my part, I like to compare biodynamics to yoga. It’s a way to strengthen and fortify the whole body, to ward off illness and to maintain health.”

Still, she’s not totally drinking the Steiner Kool-Aid—or should I say pinot noir?:

There is value to a traditional foundation of knowledge. … But biodynamic farmers don’t merely rely on a foundation of traditional knowledge; they swear off most modern advances altogether. Or, as one Oregon winegrower so succinctly put it to me, “You really have to know what you’re doing. It’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight.”

Whatever you think of about practitioners of biodynamic agriculture, you’ve got to admit that they’ve got guts. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t even show up at a gunfight with a gun. Biodynamic farming is like a health regimen of yoga, herbs, and nutrition. Nothing else. … It may be laudable, but it also may be foolhardy.

Source: Voodoo Vintners 

Image by _foam, licensed under Creative Commons. 



Related Content

Don't Feed the Hungry

Utne Reader Visionary Raj Patel talks to a Wisconsin farmer about agriculture, globalization, and wh...

A Sacramental Harvest

After years of toiling as a deliveryman, Susumu Hashimoto of Japan was finally able to fulfill a lif...

Video: What Urban Farming Looks Like

Novella Carpenter feeds her farm animals with food salvaged from the dumpsters of organic groceries....

The Food Movement Rising

Big Ag has the budget to tell the world industrial agriculture is the answer to hunger. But a moveme...

Content Tools
RSS




Post a comment below.

 

steve eatenson
8/5/2011 10:19:12 AM
I'll be impressed when they biodynamically produce wine that when drunk to excess wont destroy one's liver, cause cancer, ulccers, bursting veins in the esophogus, brain cell degeneration, pancretitis, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, increased traffic fatalities, accidents and injuries, relationship problems, child abuse, criminal behavior., job loss, financial problems. Then, I'll really believe in the magic! In fact, I'll vote for them to biodynamically start producing beer also!



Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!