A couple of years ago, I undertook a rather statistically-irrelevant and thoroughly un-scientific study regarding the Biodynamic tasting calendar (based on the lunar-cycle farming techniques espoused by Rudolf Steiner). This study had a single participant (me) who knew next to nothing about this calendar, who downloaded one of those mobile apps that tells you what type of day it is on the BioD calendar. I then tasted through wine samples pretty much every day, as usual, and noted whether or not any given wine seemed to taste really good or really nasty, and what BioD calendar day type it happened to be.
Presumably, I would have enjoyed more of the wines on so-called “fruit” days, and wines would have tasted nastier on “root” days; thus postulated the Biodynamic calendar, anyway. My tasting results? In summary: totally random, with no correlation to the BioD calendar days at all.
The results of a much more scientific and potentially relevant experiment into whether or not the BioD calendar impacts how a finished wine tastes were recently published. The results of this New Zealand based study found that the tasting impact of the BioD calendar was, essentially, nada. From the study’s conclusion:
“…the findings reported in the present study provide no evidence in support of the notion that how a wine tastes is associated with the lunar cycle… Consumers expecting a wine to be more expressive and aromatic on Fruit days might actually perceive them as such through top down cognitive effects.”
In other words, it’s possible that any impact of the lunar cycle on your wine tasting is just all in your head….
Back in 2011, I went to a few of the more vocal and learned sources on both sides of the debate on Biodynamic wine-growing principles, and afterwards offered my own conclusion. For those too lazy to follow the link, here’s where things stood after my pseudo-reporting attempt:
BioD’s founder, Rudolf Steiner, can most politely be described as an eccentric (“total kook” might be more apt) but just because some of his ideas were borderline insane doesn’t mean that they all are wacked-out; but it does mean we need to approach Steiner’s ideas with the requisite amount of skepticism befitting someone who once said that the race of people from the lost city of Atlantis could fly using the power of burned seeds. In other words, he might just have gotten it right with BioD, but what are the odds? Would you take that bet in Vegas?
On the plus side, BioD gets people into the vineyard, thinking about how to treat the land sustainably while also minimizing vinicultural trickery in the making of the final product. It promotes a holistic view of the entire winegrowing and winemaking process, and rare is the case when taking the holistic route doesn’t benefit all involved. And it can result in some stellar wines.
But the scientific evidence to back up all aspects of BioD is lacking, and the claim that it is beyond science is, to me, specious reasoning that puts BioD in the realm of the religious, and one shouldn’t have to get certified to follow a religion. If we take a “let them do what they want, it doesn’t hurt anybody” approach (which was my previous going-in position before conducting these interviews) then we may, in fact, be turning too much of a blind eye to the preparations and processes in BioD that might actually be harmful to the environment (for more on that, listen to my interview with Stu Smith).
From my perspective, the conclusions reached in the most recent attempt by science to validate an aspect of the Biodynamic wine craze bolster the above points; actually, they underscore more powerfully the notions that any aspects of Biodynamics that really work are not due to Rudolf Steiner’s work, but likely are based on previously-established and successful farming principles that Steiner incorporated into his odd conglomeration of quasi-religious growing practices.
At this point, the skeptics might be thoroughly justified in laughing and calling Rudoplf names.
I’d love to see BioD farming broken down step by step, with scientific studies testing the validity of every aspect, and a new, more data-based alternative emerging that has the data to back up every part, while keeping the practice’s admirable harmony-with-natural-cycles and holistic views, and dropping the pseudo-religious portions that have so divided and eroded the debates surrounding BioD in the wine biz.