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Finally A Balanced View of Biodynamics

By Stephen Eliot

Despite the fact that much of the wine-blogging world turns on the squeaky, poorly oiled axis of banality and boredom, there are a handful of topics that are guaranteed to wake wine-interested travelers on the internet highway from their stupors and start hurling invectives in every direction. Anything to do with Robert Parker, what constitutes “authenticity” and “balance”, “natural” wines, points, rankings and critics of reputation and long-standing seem to get the journalistic juices flowing, and, whether amateur or professional, everyone has an opinion and simply cannot wait to share it. Far too often, that opinion rings with the righteousness of patriotic propaganda urging you choose sides and march off to war.

Now, there is no question that curiosity and debate healthy, and, every now and then, an article comes along that reminds that sound ideas will only be strengthened by intelligent challenge that is tempered by a good dose of intellectual vigor and verve.

Our weekly pick of the Best of the Blogs is just such a piece, and Anne Krebiehl’s posting in Harper’s entitled “Why Biodynamic Wines Need to Change Their Communication”1 takes a balanced and questioning view of Biodynamic winemaking practice rather than a dismissively judgmental one. Ms. Krebiehl is a skeptic and, like a good many of us, is disinclined to accept every claim put forward by true-believing biodynamic winemakers. She begins by saying that “biodynamics has probably been more hindered than helped by its advocates. If it wasn’t starry-eyed talk of cosmic forces and stags’ bladders that provoked either ridicule, anger or accusations of hocus-pocus, the claim that its methods are scientifically unfounded has been the most enduring and damaging.” She does not, however, summarily and condescendingly damn the worth of biodynamics in toto and accedes that whether “proven” or not, there may be value in some of what its adherents believe. It is a view that we share. Despite the “hocus-pocus” and sheer silliness that apostles of Rudolf Steiner sometimes espouse, it is hard to argue with any philosophy or practice that pursues attentive farming with an eye to vineyard health.

The absolutism, the need to declare right and wrong and the unyielding posturing that seem so prevalent in the conversation about wine these days is refreshingly absent. Reasonable people can disagree in reasonable ways, and I only wish that more of the hot topics of the day were discussed and debated with that thought in mind.



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