Our chosen way to grow grapes
Biodynamic agriculture was suggested by the German philosopher, Rudolph Steiner, in the 1920's: it forms the next step beyond conventional organics (which are a pre-requisite to Biodynamics) and starts, in essence, with a simple idea:
If we view a farm as a single, symbiotic living organism, then the more vigorous and complex that organism is, the richer the growing medium it provides for everything within the farm. Anything reared upon the farm, living on it, or working upon it, similarly becomes an inseparable part of this Biodynamic system. The object of Biodynamics is to maximise the living energy within this system in order to make it self-sustaining and of the highest quality. In order to maximise the living energy within our soils, Biodynamic composts are made which form the foundation of this growing regime.
The composts are treated with a series of preparations, each one of which sounds rather like a Harry Potter potion (for example preparation 502 is made from Yarrow flowers fermented in a stag's bladder), but they are simply a series of ferments which creates a very rich and diverse bacterial soup targeted to work with particular elements of the compost. Together they form a potent microbial brew which stimulates the breakdown of organic matter and creates very complex and potent compost. Through this we build a huge biodiversity at the most basic level of our soils.
In addition, work in the vines is carried out in accordance with the Biodynamic calendar that advises, on the right days, dependant on lunar and astrological movement, to perform each task. Again, while the idea that the planets or stars might affect the vines may seem odd (though today it is generally accepted that the lunar cycle does have significant effects in all aspects of nature), there has been extensive research growing the same seeds in phase with the calendar against control groups with random schedules, and in almost every trial the calendar seeds grow with greater health and vigour. Lastly, Biodynamics requires a strong ethical link to guardianship of the land by every member of the team who work the land and manage it. We try to use our land not simply to be sustainable, but also to maximise the biodiversity it supports.
We plant cover crops and wild flowers within the vineyard itself. Our hillsides behind the vines are home to a herd of goats, which keep the briar at bay while supplying meat for the table. Within the vineyard, we keep a clutch of chickens that forage amongst the vines, repaying them with natural manure, and supplying us with delicious, organic eggs.