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Domaine Duseigneur, France – Frederic and Bernard Duseigneur

August 8, 2012

For us, Biodynamics is the best tool box we have found to express the sense of soil we call “terroir” or “minerality” into our wines. In truth, we practice Biodynamics more because we’re wine lovers than because we’re close to Anthroposophism. We are more focused on actual results and facts than about ideas. And Biodynamics works spectacularly!

In addition to the classic Biodynamic preparations (P500 and the P501), we have experimented with a lot of homemade teas based on plants that we harvest in the bushes nearby; because these plants have been selected by Mother Nature as the best locally adapted organisms. We use these preparations to help the vine to develop its own defense system in harmony with the environment.

Speaking of the environment, global warming is probably our toughest challenge as it is resulting in violent changes over a short period of time. In this situation, Biodynamic farming is even more important as a lot of effort is made toward the vine’s adaptation and self-defense.

Biodynamics at Domaine Duseigneur

What is Biodynamic about?

Biodynamic agriculture is an advanced organic farming system developed by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920’s. Like organic farming, biodynamic farming needs no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. It emphasizes building up the soil with biodynamic compost and preparations to enhance crop quality and sustainable soil health. Biodynamic farming is based on a deep comprehension of the laws of “alive” acquired by a global vision of nature.

The idea of farm individuality is central to biodynamic practices. Every farm locality has a different story, including its history, soils, climate, plants, animals, and humans. Each parcel of land has unique needs for its optimal health. Biodynamic growers strive to create a self-sufficient farm, growing its own food and animal feed, saving seeds, and producing enough manure and compost to spread back on the fields, and creating a closed loop of fertility. This helps form a self-contained organism, or individuality.

In conventional agriculture, plant growth is promoted by using artificial sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Organic growers use natural sources of the same elements. Biodynamic growers not only use all natural substances, but also use special preparations that work with the active forces behind plant growth.

The forces of gravity and magnetism cannot be seen, but their effects can be observed. Likewise, the forces that biodynamic preparations carry may not be seen, but the effects of these forces are quite evident in the health of plants, high nutritional content of produce and, most importantly, taste.

What is Biodynamic viticulture about?

Biodynamic viticulture is all about cultivating healthy vines by promoting their natural defenses against disease and converting vineyards into self supporting micro-ecosystems. As the vineyard becomes self contained, an expression of terroir should become more apparent in the wine.

The intrinsic heart and logic of biodynamic viticulture is to produce terroir-driven wines, redolent in minerals and distinctive soil characteristics. Biodynamic viticulture is about administering homeopathic doses of natural products according to the phases of the moon and sun and working the soil by old-fashioned methods such as ploughing and tilling to restore health, life and natural rhythms to the soil. This can be quite a change after decades of using agrochemicals and heavy tractors that compact the soil.

Not using chemicals to treat disease once it’s established means constantly administering preventative doses of teas and slurries (chamomile, willow tree bark, nettle, valerian , etc.), anticipating problems by intimate knowledge of each vine. It is the use (most importantly the timing of the use) of these preparations that particularly distinguishes biodynamic viticulture from organic.

More about the Biodynamic preparations

Biodynamics recognizes that soil itself can be alive and this vitality supports and affects the quality and health of the plants that grow in it. Therefore, one of biodynamics fundamental efforts is to build up stable humus in our soil through composting.

Biodynamic growers use medicinal herbal, compost, and mineral preparations to enliven the soil and stimulate plant growth. The biodynamic preparations are all used in small, almost homeopathic quantities. A handful of carefully made biodynamic preparation; dynamised (diluted in water which is stirred to create a vortex) for one hour into three gallons of water can treat a whole acre. The main preparations are the P500 and the P501.

To stimulate soil life and root growth: P500 Horn Manure. Made from specially prepared cow manure it increases health, fertility and life of soils by stimulating humus formation. This increases microbial life, earthworm activity and promotes root growth. P500 is dynamised into water and applied by spraying over ground cover or recently worked soil. This is usually done during the late afternoon or early evening.

The soil micro flora plays a vital role in plant nutrition. Especially fungi, as they actively stimulate synthesis of amino acids, proteins and other plant nutritive factors in addition to their symbiotic benefits and nutrients (particularly phosphorus).

To enhance the plant capacity to receive the light: P501 Horn Silica. Made from crushed quartz, P501 works like an atmospheric fertilizer. It stimulates all plant life above ground by increasing photosynthesis and plant metabolism. Horn silica harnesses the sun’s energy to allow plants to better assimilate and use sunlight. Results of spraying horn silica include better taste, color, aroma, nutritional/natural qualities in fruits.

The biodynamic compost and spray preparations created out of natural and organic substances are used in small doses to enhance and regulate plant growth, soil life and the metabolism of the farm’s whole biological cycle.

The method of compost production involves taking certain plant materials (e.g. chamomile flowers, grated oak bark or dandelion flowers), placing them in selected animal organ parts (like cow’s horn) and fermenting them in the soil for certain period of time, usually half a year. When fermentation is complete the material is taken out, separated from any remaining organ material and stored carefully until required for use. Small amounts are then used to inoculate farmyard manure and compost piles, or are sprayed out on the land.

Application rates for the field sprays are 300g/ha (Horn manure) and 5g/ha (Horn silica) and 1-2 cc each of the compost preparations per 10 m³ of compost or deep litter manure/slurry.

More about moon and stars influence

Biodynamic growers strive to work in harmony with the rhythms and influences of the moon and stars. The movement of the sun, moon, planets, and stars all affect plant growth. When we work in harmony with these celestial rhythms, our agricultural activities can greatly benefit.

The light of the sun, moon, planets and stars reaches the plants in regular rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth and form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm, we can time our ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting to the advantage of the crops we are raising.

The Maria Thun’s calendar shows favorable times to work with specific parts of plants. Also, unfavorable times to work on plants are shown, such as when the moon is leaving one constellation and entering another, or when there is an eclipse. These movements also help to choose specific plants in leaf treatments, like nettles versus horsetail for example.

In working with the stars biodynamically, we use the astronomical signs zodiac, where the stars actually are today, as opposed to the astrological zodiac.

The height of the moon and distance to the earth (whether we are in an `ascending’ or `descending’ phase) has also a great significance in the cellar. But the moon is not the only influence that matters.

Fruit days from Maria Thun’s calendar are the most valuable for the biodynamic vigneron. These days are determined by the constellation facing the sun and moon at a specific moment of the year. They are best for planting, harvesting and bottling.

What we do specifically

There are multiple reasons to go Biodynamic for a vinegrower :

The research of a certain life philosophy, the concern about the future of our ecosystem, the desire of producing healthier wine for men’s benefit, the interest in experimenting different methods etc..

All of the above are respectable reasons, but as far as we are concerned our final motivation is the research of quality in our wines through a living organism…..soil. The soil has the capability to give to the grapes and eventually to the wine all the characteristics that define a true terroir.

The very notion of terroir makes no sense if the soil is simply reduced to a set of mineral and chemical components. Biodynamics is a continual search for balance between the soil, the plant and its environment.

Careful observations of natures influence in shade and full sun, wet and dry areas, on different soils will yield a more fluid grasp of the elements. So eventually one learns to read the language of nature. Then one can be creative, bringing new emphasis and balance through specific actions.

For the preparation of our teas, we are specially using wild plants from our plots because they have been naturally selected over ages as the most adapted to our terroir. In fact, plants don’t grow by chance in a specific place, they are there to correct an unbalanced situation or to bring a missing element to the soil (heat or light for instance), or again to restructure a compacted soil with its root system.

We experiment continually with new teas from wild plants in order to reinforce the different natural defenses of the vine for each specific vintage.

Biodyvin’s certification

Demeter is the international organization certifying biodynamic agriculture in general, while Biodyvin is an organization specifically for wine producers.

The reason why we are a member of the Biodyvin’s organisation is more because we feel like part of a group of vignerons who are sharing the same respect for nature and the same passion for true wines than because we need a biodynamic certification.

Biodynamic viticulture is built on everyone’s daily experiments. Sharing these experiments with our fellow biodynamists is essential to improve the knowledge and the techniques for everyone’s benefit.

We are happy to share this exciting adventure with such prestigious Domaines as : Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Domaine Leroy, Domaine Leflaive, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Domaine Huet, and many others.

Bernard Duseigneur / Domaine Duseigneur

Vines and Bees

website: www.domaineduseigneur.com

 

 

 

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