Demeter dumbs down?
Just in. A change to the standards for biodynamic grapes was passed overwhelmingly in time for the 2011 vintage.
I checked in with the head of Demeter, Jim Fullmer who confirmed and wrote to me, "The Standard for Biodynamic Wine remains primarily as it has been for
years-focus is on no manipulations- what was changed is the Standard for
Made With BD Grape wines. It was moved to be in line with the NOP organic
regulation ( you would call "conventional" I assume) but with the
requirement that wines labeled as being made from BD grapes be 100% BD
The result? A wine labeled made with biodynamic grapes must have 100% biodynamic fruit, and yes, you can throw the book at it in the winery. (The only difference is wine with organic grapes only need 70% of organic fruit, with BD, it is 100%).
Prior to this vintage, one could not use aromatic yeasts nor inoculate for ML for this category of wine. Additions were sort of limited. Fullmer was very proud of it. He's been struck down. Being a gent, he won't dish out on his members.
Ridgely Evers, who farms olives and grapes under the name of Davero in Sonoma is, on the other hand, very happy about it. He explained his feelings this way. (disclosure, Ridge played a supporting role in my new book.)
This is, in my view, a _huge_ win for farmers, because there were only 12 wineries last year that released either "Made with BD Grapes" or "BD Wine" wines. In other words, there was no market for BD fruit, so no one grew BD grapes besides wineries. Without that, there's no hope for critical mass to build a foundation of interest in and knowledge of the value of Biodynamic, period.
It's also a big win for consumers, because it allows more winemakers to begin to embrace the power of BD; heretofore they could not because it was too risky to try to produce a BD wine, and the "Made from BD Grapes" standard was too close to the full BD standard to be worth the economic risk.
If we're going to heal the planet, the farmers have to be deeply involved. And sustainable farming starts, inviolably, with sustaining the economic unit that is the farmer.
So, why do I care? Now that one doesn't have to use less intervention in the winery under this category, I can envision large scale BD growing will be encouraged. Higher prices per tonnage, I suppose. When it comes down to it, I have a hard time with the separation of grapes and domaine, that reigns in the New World. There's just not enough real and true vigneron to balance out the large scale agriculture.
I'm not worried about the run on nettle, but industrial companies growing BD and using the treatments, will ( I imagine) be spendthrift with their use of copper, for example. There might be a run on cow horns (note: this is a joke).
But additionally, what has attracted me to the use of BD is the emotional connection to the earth and environment. In large scale farming, BD becomes a job like any other. I really don't see the industrial BD farmer will take the care of, let's say, Ducroux, to do the best he can. To look for an ox instead of a horse. To go almost a decade without any copper use. No, when you're just reading the rule book, the rules are followed and the spirit is lost. Thirdly, the consumer will expect a natural wine and be duped into thinking their conventional wine is natural.
People who know how to taste the difference, won't be tricked. But many people in this country who rely on certification to tell them what their taste buds cannot.
I suppose if I was a real biodynamist and looked to save the planet, I would agree with Ridgely. But I'm I do find myself on the side with Tony Coturri, who put it this way.
"It's like making Wonder Bread out of organic/biodynamic wheat."