I have uncovered potentially serious evidence that could possibly refute the recent scientific evidence suggesting that drinking wine makes you smarter.
Specifically, I offer my recent experience reading Nicholas Joly’s essay-like treatise on the hot-potato topic of Biodynamic viticulture, Biodynamic Wine, Demystified
. If this is the demystified version, I’d hate to see it mystified.
I received Biodynamic Wine, Demystified as a gift, of sorts, from the lovely (I know it doesn’t sound particularly manly, but he is a lovely guy) Mike Benziger after a recent visit to his family’s gorgeous biodynamically-farmed Sonoma wine estate.
Frequent 1WineDude.com readers will recall that some of Mike’s comments in my video interview with him caused a bit of a stir and sparked lively comments-section discussion on the topic of soil profiles and biodynamics generally. Those discussions mirrored, in a way, the current love/hate tête-à-tête – ok, and the occasional heated exchange of invective barbs – between biodynamics’ supporters and detractors.
Supports generally describe Biodynamics as having favorable impacts on the vineyard, its grapes, and the resulting wine. for example, Mike Benziger, from the comments to our interview, speaking about why Benziger employ soil analysis and biodynamic farming:
“Commercially farmed soils around the world have become biologically very similar. The use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides over the last 50+ years, combined with aggressive cultivation has homogenized much of the soil life in the topsoils worldwide. Artificial inputs reduce or terminate soil microbiology and thus eliminate points of differentiation from site to site… Vines that grow only in the topsoil that is healthy or not, usually only express the varietal character and don’t express the sense of place that is associated with soils. When commercial fertilizers are overused, there’s no impetus for roots to stretch down deep, because the snack bar is right on top in the topsoil. To express a more complete sense of place, vines need to have deep roots that feed deep down into the regolith and parent material.”
And the counterpoint, from the comments of that same post, from an anonymous commenter who claims to also be a winemaker:
“No doubt that BD has a tremendous feel-good quality that prompts a certain amount of rationalizing. The problem I have with BD is that it is not benign. It makes claims of superiority without real evidence and presents a defense of “there are some things that science just can’t reveal” as a blanket retort. It’s disingenuous and bad for society in general… There are lots of us that make rational decisions about how to do what we do in the vineyard or cellar. But BD says that it doesn’t matter. That all the science that has served us well in the past, in any aspect of life, is wrong. And that rationality is wrong because there’s a way of looking at the universe to reveal a truer truth. You and I cannot see it, but someone can – he’s a clairvoyant named Rudolf Steiner… The wine industry is enough of a dinosaur already, we certainly don’t need a fairy tale to impede real progress. BD exists only in microcosm. Excess wealth and labor usually do produce good results.”
After reading Biodynamic Wine, Demystified, I’m no closer to understanding which viewpoint is right than I was before I’d even heard of the book. Uh-oh…
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Sorry – couldn’t resist. I mean, just look at those cute, furry-cuddly, viciously-fanged mammals over there!
I mean “other badges” of wine reviews, of course – in my case, I’m the late-comer to the wine badge review par-tay masterminded by Vintank; that is, late-comer in terms of getting my badges ready for prime-time (I was part of the “wine badgers” group from the conceptual phase).
What the hell are wine badges? Essentially, they are intended to be a visual way to help you identify a wine that I think has something “special” going on, beyond the quality ‘grade’ and mini-review that I might give to a wine when reviewing it. Here’s the overview from Vintank brainiac Paul Mabray:
“As with everything the digital arena is transforming everything we used to know about wine. I am fortunate to watch a group of talented bloggers bucking tradition and judge wine on new merits by creating a whole new movement for scoring wine. It seems like a small thing, create a category for a wine that you believe in and assign a badge to it, explain the criteria openly and transparently, and only give those wines that you appreciate fit that category a badge. Simple, elegant, but more importantly a TRUE representation of the quality you admire in the categories you create. A wine fits or it doesn’t. A wine earns an accolade or it doesn’t.”
It might help to think of the badges as a cross between a score and a medal, but with more awesome. The cool thing is that the badges are already in use by Mark deVere, Ward Kadel and Steve Paulo. The badges aren’t yet standardized, which I personally think might come back to bite us in the tushie somehow, but in terms of distribution these puppies are primed for success. HelloVino, Cruvee.com, and Yourwineyourway.com are already signed-on and using the badges, which thanks to their distro. system are automatically being included in content like winery Facebook pages. We often talk about on-line technology having the potential to change things in terms of the wine world – this is an example where the potential is starting to actually be realized.
Some great discussion on the badges available so far has popped up over at Vinotology and at DrinkNectar.com, and I left a comment in the DN thread that sums up my view and vision behind the badges, so I’m reprinting it here:
“If I give a wine an A- or a B+, does that tell you much aside from my view of its quality? Not really. If I categorize a wine as ‘Elegant’ or ‘Sexy’ does that tell you much? It does – it tells you which wine to try if you want to impress someone, or in the latter case if you want to get lucky on a hot date. So, by giving a badge to wines that meet some kind of minimum standard, I’m hopefully telling people a bit more about that wine without them having to read the entire post or review or whatever (unless they are curious and want to do that). I see no conflict between the badges and scores of any kind. I see them primarily as complimentary.”
The main criterion for a wine receiving a 1WD badge is that I give it a “grade” in the B or A range; after that, if I think that they meet the criteria for a particular badge then tat wine will be “awarded” one.
So at this point you’re probably thinking “enough already, what the f—k do these badges look like?!??”
Well, my friend, read on for the badges and their explanations…
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It’s not really a deep freeze, of course – it’s simply been a wet and (very) mild Summer in Northern California. Just about anything with leaves that produces fruit was weeks behind schedule in terms of ripening. If you scan the ‘global interwebs’ on the topic, it might strike you that the sky is about to fall with a thud on the entire wine business in Napa and Sonoma.
But most of the Napa and Sonoma vintners to whom I’ve spoken in the last few weeks don’t seem all that worried. Which is a good thing, since the rest of the wine world was worried enough for all of them put together.
Certainly grape growers, already under pressure from the economic downturn, are feeling the heat (so-to-speak) about the late ripening, even if most of California’s residents aren’t.
Here on the Right Coast, we were baking as if in an oven for the better part of the Summer of 2010, and I enjoyed the cool breezes that came in recently on the heels of some long-overdue rainstorms; and with them, a breath of fresh air about the whole N. CA 2010 vintage doomsday prophesies, courtesy of Ed Thralls over at WineTonite.com.
In a (fairly) recent post, Ed did a little bit of comparative analysis on the 2010 vintage thus far, and came up with an interesting conclusion…
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