PEOPLE SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS

Two recent and interesting winery profile articles are worthy of note because of the vintners’ comments regarding Biodynamic farming.

 The first article, Cultivating a Cult Cabernet, in the  September 11, 2010 Wall Street Journal by Jay McInerney, profiles Bart and Daphne Araujo.   The elevator version is that Bart, a Harvard Business school guy with success in the construction industry, buys the highly regarded Eisele vineyard in 1991 and starts the Araujo Winery.   Keep in mind that McInerney singled out the first Araujo vintage, the 1991 for special mention.

 It’s always the case that what gets printed is only a fraction of the conversation that goes on between the winery subjects and the writer due to all sorts of issues such as what interests the writer, what gets deleted by the editor and how well the winery stays on their topic – or not.  So it’s impossible to tell if what McInerney reports was what the Araujos thought was most important.

 Here’s the point: in the article Bart says that because many of his favorite wineries in France were Biodynamically farmed he thought that he should too and so he became Demeter-certified in 2002.  Keeping up with the Leroys, Leflaives and the Chapoutiers is apparently a good idea.  Unlike many new vintners in the 1990s the “Araujo story is unique … in part because of their hands-on, fanatical devotion to it, and to every detail of grape growing and winemaking,” so I find it contradictory that “Mr. Araujo cheerfully admits that he doesn’t understand all of the intricacies of biodynamics.”  “But hey,” he says, “I’m a Catholic.  I’m used to making leaps of faith.”  So after dumping a bucket load of money and “fanatical devotion” onto the vineyards, the winery and marketing we’re all supposed to accept that the Araujos joined the Biodynamic community just to keep up with the Joneses.  Here’s another case of “Biodynamic speak:” the vintner admits to no real knowledge of Biodynamics but then makes the claim that “the vineyard is far healthier than it was 10 years ago, before the switch, and ripens earlier.”    

 From tasting all 20 vintages of Araujo wine, McInerney singled out the 1991 vintage as “especially complex,” a wine made eleven years before the vineyard became Biodynamic certified and “far healthier.”

 The second interesting article, Scaling New Heights, by Mitch Frank, October 15, 2010 Wine Spectator, is a profile about Alois Lageder from the Alto Adige area of northern Italy.  Mr. Lageder is the fourth generation to run his eponymous winery and began converting to Biodynamic farming in 2004 because “He thinks biodynamics offers the best hope for keeping vineyards healthy as the (global warming) temperatures climb.”   Lageder says “we must adapt now.”   I’ve read all of Steiner’s AGRICULTURE and as much of Joly as I can stand and I’ve never once seen any mention that Biodynamics was the cure for global warming.   Unfortunately, Frank didn’t do a follow-up question as to why Lageder thought this to be true.   Here is more “Biodynamic speak,” a ridiculous claim with no supporting evidence.  However, I must applaud Frank for being the first writer for a major publication (that I’m aware of) to present a more balanced view of Biodynamics with “The approach is not without critics, however, who point out that no scientific studies have shown it is any more  effective than organic agriculture at creating healthy soils and better fruit or wines.  They worry it promotes superstition over science.”   Well said, Mr. Frank!

 Another interesting quote: “Lageder needed workers who believed in biodynamics as strongly as he did.  ‘It won’t work if you don’t believe in it,’ Lageder says.”    

 Stuart Smith

5 Responses to PEOPLE SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS

  1. Robert Lawson says:

    And who are you to question such a reasonable dogma with the cold water of critical analysis? Hope your not looking for respect in the organic community.

    Science v philosophy? Science rarely wins. Keep tilting at windmills you’ll open a few eyes.

    Rob

  2. Ed Masciana says:

    Gee, Stu, you’re still the ole rebel you was in high school. I still get into friendly arguments with guys who really think Biodynamics is a religion. Always thought it was bunk and still do. I love this site. Just came across it via Lew Purdue.

  3. D.R. Mil. says:

    I was reading the “Biodynamics: Natural Wonder or Just a Horn of Manure?” article off of wine business and so many things jump out as fallacy. The part about Eisele ripening before anyones vineyard in this cold vintage. Anyone with knowledge of the valley knows that in the nook by the Palisades where Araujo is located is a much warmer micro-climate than its surroundings. I personally prefer the Eiseles from Phelps and Conn Creek much more balanced and affordable. Stu thanks for fighting the logical fight.

  4. Keep speaking up Stuart, it’s a great tonic for the rest of us who believe in sustainable winegrowing based on sound science rather than gobbledegook. We’re all going to need to stick at it as I’m mindful that there are still people who think the earth is flat and the original moon landing took place in a movie set! Cheers, Roger

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