Biodynamics is a method of farming based in a holistic way of understanding the relationships within Nature. The sphere of life on Earth in its mineral, plant and animal diversity, in seen as a whole and connected to the larger context of the rhythms and forces present in the Cosmos.
As a general principle it is emphasized that each farm should be understood as a self-sustained system, to be created out of its own bio-diversity, in a harmony between soil, plants, animals and human activity.
It is a method of farming that has much in common with other organic approaches, such as emphasizing the use of manures and composts and excluding of the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants.
Most of our practices are in fact the same as in organic, such as the use of cover crops with “companion” plants through which we manage the soils of the vineyards. Some of these plants are sown for specific purposes, such as water retention, soil structuring, aeration or Nitrogen fixation. At the same time they help to keep the soil alive, and allow for colonies of micro organisms to develop around their roots, which will in turn perform mineral exchanges with the vine roots.
Specifics of Biodynamics
Differences lie in special practices that are specific to Biodynamics, such as the use of homeopathy (biodynamic preparations), and the Astronomic calendar – a guide to performing agricultural operations according to planetary rhythms.
The biodynamic preparations are divided into 3 main groups: the compost preparations, consisting of 6 specially composted plants that are homeopathically inoculated into the compost heap; the 500 (composted cow manure), which is applied over all the property to activate the life of the soil; and the 501 (quartz powder), which is applied to the vines in order to activate vegetative processes with influence in growth, maturation, and ultimately the taste.
In our properties, besides applying the biodynamic preparations, we have been experimenting and developing other treatments based on natural plant extracts, to be applied as bio-stimulants or help us control plant diseases. It is the case of plant decoctions and macerations, hydro-alcoholic extracts (made with our own brandy diluted to 60%), and essential oils (tea tree, orange) with anti fungi action to help control mildew.
In the cellar, we follow the same philosophy as in the vines, excluding chemical treatments, relying on natural processes, and making a minimal use of soft mechanic operations. Maceration and fermentation for the reds is always made with foot treading in our ancient granite tanks (lagares). We use indigenous yeasts only, and follow as far as possible the best moments for cellar operations (harvesting, racking, bottling) according to the astronomic calendar.
Filtration and collage operations are avoided. Some wines are unfiltered while others go through a soft filtration just before bottling. Use of SO2 is unavoidable since we ship wines to very long distances. However we have been progressively reducing their use to very low levels. Our present protocol is to use max 25ppm free SO2 at bottling, and between 0 and 50 ppm total SO2 per litre, depending on the characteristics of wine.