JWL Issue #099: The problem with biodynamics + Classics from Lidl and Aldi

June 9, 2020

"Our friend's a scientist, so she can sense check you," said someone half-jokingly on one of my remote tastings once. We all laughed. And when the laughter stopped, there was a feeling that science and wine tasting don't often go hand in hand.

I'm close to finishing Cork Dork. I always hated the title and so never read it. How wrong I was. This entire book – written by journalist Bianca Bosker, who single-handedly creates the wine gonzo genre – tries to unpick wine obsession and see what there is to it.

She talks to neuroscientists, master sommeliers, perfumers, and seems to read every major study written on wine. Book review incoming but be prepped, it's great.

Talking of wine and science, Josh Dunning wrote a blog this week called The problem with biodynamics: myths, quacks and pseudoscience. This came to me as a great relief.

Biodynamics (see primer in Taste) are the controversial approach to holistic farming that follows the cosmos.

It does some things very right: like organics, it's attempt to rid the vineyard of pesticides is a noble cause. But it also goes well beyond that.

Created by Rudolph Steiner, vineyards are expected to go under various 'preparations' including things like chamomile leaves submerged in pigs intestines, buried into the ground. Harvest and other vineyard activities follow cosmic influence and rhythm.

Some of my favourite wines are biodynamics. Some of the people I most admire in the wine world, advocate biodynamics in droves. Some of the nicest people I've met care deeply about biodynamics.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), commonly recognised as one of the very best estates in the world, is biodynamic.

But, it is the elephant in the room. For the most part, I've bit my tongue at the mythics and spirituality that goes hand-in-hand with biodynamics. But as Dunning points out, pseudoscience is rarely a victimless crime.

His blog analyses a number of scientific studies and the relative impacts of biodynamics on the environment and wine, compared to other winemaking styles. Broadly and unsurprisingly, it offers no greater ability than organics.

It's an important read – and judging by the response in the comments from some substantial figures in the industry – others seem to agree.

Taste

Lidl & Aldi classics, and a richly wonderful Jumilla

CEO Godello Monterrei displays its name so proudly, I'm reminded of a scene in The Social Network. And yet, this £7.99 Lidl treat is anything but the arrogant protagonist in that story. Peachy, and zingy. They recommend a seafood pairing, we recommend pairing with park drinking.

Merlot-cabernet blends under a tenner can usually be pretty hit and miss. But Aldi once again proves itself a winner. This Stellenbosch blend (£6.99) is a medium-bodied delight: smooth and filled with cassis, blackcurrant, pepper, and vanilla. Endlessly quaffable.

Last week during a tasting, I had a sip of the Casa Castillo – from May's Case Edition – and was freshly blown away. This is from Jumilla in Spain. Robert Parker thinks its Jumilla's best winery in fact. It's high-altitude. And it's absolutely delicious. Let it breathe, and you've got this complex balance of liquorice, dried herbs, black berries, plums, leather, and smoke. Tannins are present but inviting. Acid provides balance. (£15.50 from thewinelist.net)

Learn

Biodynamics

Biodynamics were developed in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner. Simply, it’s a system of agriculture where everything is interconnected: the wrongful interference of humans can cause sickness.

Biodynamics follows celestial bodies. Biodynamic farmers therefore follow the cycles of the moon. Biodynamics features multiple soil treatments include various animal parts – note that is not vegan.

Given the astrological approach of biodynamics, it has its skeptics.

Biodynamics have fewer accredited bodies than organics, but the two most recognised are Demeter and Biodyvin.

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