• What’s So Special About Biodynamic Wine? A Q&A with Antoine Lepetit

    by  • 28 October 2013 • Biodynamic Food & Drink • 0 Comments

    What's So Special About Biodynamic Wine? coverAs the long winter nights draw in, one of life’s greatest little pleasures must surely be settling down to a comforting, hearty meal accompanied by the perfect glass of biodynamic wine.

    But perhaps like some of the team at Floris, you’ve been wondering just what the fuss is about biodynamic wine? So we asked expert biodynamic wine producer Antoine Lepetit that same question, and the result was his new book, What’s So Special About Biodynamic Wine?

    Read on for a taster of Antoine’s book, and discover just what’s so special about biodynamic wine …

    How does one know if a wine is biodynamic?

    Today, a very interesting phenomenon can be observed: whereas fifteen years ago, biodynamic growers were seen as eccentrics, today biodynamics has become a marketing tool for some. The ensuing risk, however, is talk which sometimes surpasses what is really practised in the vineyard. How can a wine lover really know what form of viticulture the grower actually practises?

    The goal of biodynamic certification is: ‘Say what you do, and have verified that what you do is what you said you would do’. Biodynamic producers associations have established standards (Demeter or Biodyvin), and growers who wish to obtain biodynamic certification become members of the association and agree to comply with the standards. Then, each year, the association commissions an independent inspection body (Ecocert, for example) to go and verify that the grower is indeed in compliance with the standards. Thereafter, the association annually issues a certificate of biodynamic viticulture that the grower can show to clients. The producer can also display the association’s name on their product label.

    What is the difference between organic and biodynamic?

    Without going into regulatory detail, organic could be summarised as follows: do not use the most toxic products. It is important to note that organic farming (and biodynamic, incidentally) still allows for the use of certain products deemed less toxic such as sulphur and cop­per to treat vine disease.

    Biodynamic is more complex. I like to offer a simple definition in three key points.

    • First, biodynamics is organic and therefore begins by discontinuing the use of the chemical products listed above.
    • Second, a biodynamic grower has a different view on disease than one practising conventional farming. Biodynamics focuses on soil health (preparation 500 for soil structure and vitality, for example, and preparations 502–508 for the compost that maintains healthy soil). A vine can only be healthy and well-nourished if the soil is in a perfectly natural functioning state. For me, the second point is essential in understanding the difference between organic and biodynamic.
    • The third point focuses on observing and respecting rhythms, including the moon’s rhythms. The sowing and planting calendar is the tool used by biodynamic growers to work in accordance with these rhythms. (Published annually in English by Floris Books)
    How should a biodynamic wine be tasted?

    In my book, I attempt to show you to what extent a biodynamic grower seeks to produce the most living wine possible. For me, living expresses the opposite of standardised. Using this hypothesis, each tasting is a unique experience, where a special connection is created between the wine taster and the wine.

    How can you in practice foster this relationship between a wine and a wine taster? It can be done quite simply by putting both of them in the best possible setting. For the wine, it is essential to create serving conditions that will allow the wine to express itself. Time plays an important role. You must take the time to taste. For the wine taster, it is important to be relaxed and free, without external stress.

    Are biodynamic wines better than other wines?

    Ah, the big question that every wine enthusiast inevitably asks in their pursuit of perfection!

    Given that biodynamic practices are more in harmony with the laws of nature, I would, of course, be tempted to say that the resulting grape (the raw material from which wine is made) has greater potential. And then? A winegrower’s skill also applies to the work in the cellar, the place where the potential is revealed … or not. And what can be said about the concept of ‘better wine’? In today’s world we are inundated with wine rankings and scores.

    For now, I will simply make an observation: that more and more top producers recognised for their pursuit of excellence in Burgundy, Alsace and other regions of France and the world, are opting for biodynamic viticulture.


    What’s So Special About Biodynamic Wine? Thirty-five Questions and Answers for Wine Lovers is available now from Floris Books. And if this tasting has whetted your appetite, why not take a journey through the vineyards of Europe with Monty Waldin’s Best Biodynamic Wines or make the most of your bottle with When Wine Tastes Best 2014?


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