Before you read our point counterpoint, check out this video about biodynamics. Here’s the link:
For a clash of views points on biodynamics, we have Stuart Smith, vintner of St. Helena’s Smith-Madrone Winery and Mike Benziger, winemaker of Imagery wines, a brand produced by Glen Ellen’s Benziger Family Winery, on opposite ends of the continuum.
Biodynamics, for the uninitiated, shares some of the same farming practices as organics. Both shun the use of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. But biodynamics focuses on the inter-relationship of soils, plants and animals in a closed, self-nourishing system and it has some mystical elements. Growers follow the lunar calendar and they also bury cows’ horns on the property, claiming it improves the quality of the soil.
Is biodynamic farming witchcraft or a scientifically-based farming practice?
Stuart Smith: “Biodynamics is not based on science. It is based on Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian 1920s clairvoyant occult philosopher who believed he could communicate with the dead and knew from intuition how the cosmic forces of the heavens were interacting with the spiritual forces on Earth -This is not science. This is hippie, dippy, wacky commune back to the Earth zeitgeist. It reminds me of stoned university students wanting to go back to the 13th century and dance around the maypole during the full moon and then sacrifice an animal at midnight to please the gods.”
Mike Benziger: “There are several studies using what’s commonly called “the scientific method” that point to the positive effects of farming using biodynamic techniques. The most widely cited is the Reganold Study. (This study, published in Science Magazine, says in a nutshell “biodynamic practices show promise in mitigating some of the detrimental effects of chemical-dependent, conventional agriculture on the environment.”)
Frankly it’s a misconception that biodynamics disregards the use of science and scientific methods. We use scientific methods and scientific tools both quantitative and qualitative across the board in our grape-growing and winemaking – We don’t know that biodynamics makes ‘better’ wine. We do know that it makes for more ‘authentic wine,’ a wine which reflects its sense of place and its season. And this is what we’re after.”
Do you have a stand?