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“Some call her sister of the moon, Some say illusions are her game…”

Those of you who are into Fleetwood Mac (I shall give you a hint: A popular rock band which got together in the late 60’s), are probably intrigued by the familiar lyrics yet again, and those of you who are into biodynamics, probably enchanted by it.

It is a science although not regarded as one. It has many truths, although not acknowledged by too many. Some facts though, that I can put on the table, remain in my view, significant:

1. I grew up spending time with Cousin Riaan in Chenin blanc and Shiraz vineyards, almost 20 years ago, dusting vines with sulfur no more than 3 or 4 times during season. All dry land vineyards. 30 tons per hectare. Today we might not survive if we do not put down a few systemic sprays and a couple of contact sprays. What happened? Are we not treating symptoms instead of zooming in on the reason for these symptoms? Our focus is simply on “pumping the soil” full of required elements to sustain next year’s bottom line. We spray the vine with all sorts of funny things when it shows symptoms of illnesses, disease, pests or deficiencies, instead of zooming in on the variables that cause the distress We have forgotten how to treat and respect the well being of a living entity in our quest to “push the yield”…no wonder we have such chaos in our crops.

2. I have stuck my hand into soil managed biodynamically, but almost broke my fingers trying to get into the first few millimeters of the neighbor’s.

3. Many studies confirmed significantly higher concentrations humus in biodynamically farmed soils, hence more diverse populations of soil microbes and higher concentrations of more diverse populations of microbes on the grapes.

4. I could not find mealy bug on the biodynamically farmed vines, nor those of the neighbor’s. The difference though was that the mealy bugs moved back to where it prefers to live – underground on the roots of a diverse population of plants (even though some are regarded as weeds). Luckily of course Chlorpyrifos (or by the household name Dursban) got rid of the mealy bug via ant control. Unfortunately bees are not to keen on Dursban either.

5. Lower costs of farming biodynamically have been researched and verified by many studies, despite a slightly lower yield.

6. The slightly lower yield justifies itself in better quality grapes and wine. Higher phenolic concentrations, smaller berries and slightly lighter clusters.

7. “Better” wines? I have my personal convictions when it comes to this “sensitive”, abstract term.

My personal conviction on Biodynamics is that scientists and critics do not need to ask whether BD can be regarded as a scientific category or even point out that part of the scientific community looks at it with skepticism and marks it as dogmatic. There are over 4200 farms around the world that are certified as BD, the numbers are increasing, so it is clearly worthy of more respect and attention that it currently enjoys.

Biodynamics make sense to me because I simply believe in things I experience with my God-given senses.

I suppose I will be outlawed as a “winemaker with a scientific approach”, just the way I was (still am I suppose), outlawed as a traditional winemaker, because I produced a “non-typical” Coffee Pinotage style. Whatever typical or traditional may mean…

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.

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