The practice of biodynamics in viticulture has become popular in recent years in several growing regions, including France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Canada, United States and here in New Zealand.
There are currently more than 529 biodynamic wine producers worldwide. Currently for a wine to be labelled 'biodynamic' it has to meet the stringent standards laid down by the Demeter Association, which is an internationally recognized certifying body.
Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic viticulture stems from the ideas and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), who gave his now famous 'Agriculture Course' in 1924. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual/practical philosophy, called anthroposophy, which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.
There are nine major preparations used in biodynamic wine, with the first two being some of the most important. Preparation 500, for example, consists of cow manure buried in a cow horn in the soil and preparation 501, is made of powdered quartz silica, which is again buried in a cow horn for six months, then dug up and sprayed on the crops to stimulate growth.
Biodynamics embodies the ideal of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency just as with modern agro-ecology, but includes ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the vineyard as a cohesive, interconnected living system.
Some biodynamic grape growers claim to have achieved improvements in the health of their vineyards, specifically in the areas of biodiversity, soil fertility, crop nutrition, and pest, weed, and disease management. They also claim stronger, clearer, and more vibrant wine on the nose and palate, plus a better balance in growth, where the sugar production in the grapes coincides with physiological ripeness, resulting in a wine with the correct balance of flavour and alcohol content, even with changing climate conditions.