Biodynamics is a hoax blog.

christopher colombus

the world is filled with people who believed what we could not see.

You want crazy talk, have someone try and explain string theory (physics) to you…

I don’t argue with professional arguers. This guy is right out of the Monty Python sketch with John Cleese when Terry Jones wants to buy an argument. I refuse to argue with people who have a negative tone. Arguments need to be rational. This guy is clearly not.

And biodynamics is like any religion, the fundamentalist aspect is always too severe (Joly), but some people in the middle (Leflaive, Leroy, Wittman) make great wines. Who the fuck knows why? But I am sure creating a living, breathing ecosystem in the soil cannot hurt.

This is a poor comparison, though. And especially ironic that two of the figures you note had a very good sense of gravitation as it related to heavenly bodies. The problem here is that BioD makes assertions with zero experimental evidence that are in complete disagreement with theories that have been scientifically vetted.

Take the theory of evolution. Steiner proposes instead the moon shines up some animals’ butts and the sun shines in the face of others. Or something along those lines as I can’t be bothered to decipher the precise form of this nonsense.

The three figures you mention were not contradicting well-founded science. In fact, they were largely contradicting religion. BioD is an attempt to move backwards to faith-based pseudo-science. It is the opposite of Columbus, Galileo and Copernicus.

FYI. Dumb-ass name for a blog. Complete misuse of the word hoax. Another reason I can’t engage over there.

hoax - something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage

String theory is an interesting comparison as the hypotheses have a basis in mathematical formalism. But I think most if not all of the hypotheses, if you wanted to do an experiment, would require energy/mass scales far beyond what we can create in a lab.

BioD, meanwhile, has hypotheses based on conjecture, but many of them could be tested systematically. Assertion seems to be enough to convince many people, though.

The last line is something that appeals from a rationalist/scientific perspective, though. It’s not the mythology that affects the wine, but the creation of a balanced system of viticulture. The question then is what are the BioD practitioners doing that is beneficial. I want to see the science separated from the mythology because there probably is something there.

Along these lines, Tablas Creek had a post on sensitive crystallization where ‘stuff’ is extrapolated from crystal structure. I don’t disagree that a reproducible structure has meaning, but anyone who has looked at a phase diagram has a sense that the structure has everything to do with chemical concentrations and growing conditions.

My reply:

The part of this post on sensitive crystallization is a bit harder to get a grip on. On one hand, the reproducibility of the patterns does suggest they are specific to a given wine. But how does one assign meaning to that? I often find tartrate crystals in wines that are like fine dust, stick-like, like salt crystals, etc. This should be related to the concentrations of various compounds in solution, pH, temperature, etc. But here we are supposed to accept that different structure correspond to abstract qualities. Has anyone seriously attempted to correlate the wine chemistry to the crystalline forms? I think this would be more informative than assertions about fruit and minerality.

Belief and proof are two different things. Many children may believe that Santa leaves presents under the Christmas tree on December 25th, but I suspect they would have a hard time proving it.

People have wanted to believe in magic for centuries - that does not make them any of the great scientists or explorers you list.

They still do. It’s called religion.

Steiner and Joly are rational? It seems like you’re demanding reasonableness from one side of the argument, but don’t object to the high-flying romantic conjecture of the other.

I like the three “middle” wineries quite well. Have had some execrable wines from Joly. The fundamentalist aspect of any religion often creeps me out - wine religion or otherwise.

Sure. Certain aspects of biodynamics remind me of some of the rituals you read about in ‘The Golden Bough,’ which describes how people believed that certain kinds of sacrifices to the Gods would (for example) bring the men home safely from the hunt. It gives people the idea that they have more control over the natural world than they do. I find it amazing that we can fly men to the moon, yet we know so little about why or how wine ages. The natural world is mysterious, despite science, but Steiner’s explanations sound romantic and make little sense.

This is where “blind” testing would come in handy.

In the book “Winemaker’s Dance,” Mark Herold said that when he was at Phelps, blind tasting tests showed no difference in either cold soaking or extended maceration with regards to wine quality. Despite this, Phelps continued to do both.

Also, Mondavi planted a section of ToKalon at various densities (4x4, meter-meter, 8x8, Lyre, etc) many years ago and then treated the vines the same, picked the grapes at the same time, fermented apart the same way, etc. Later, they did a blind tasting with winemakers and winegrowers and statistically, as a group there was NO gain in quality from one planting density to the other. Yet each person left that tasting with their own belief systems about what density worked best, and acted on that preference.

Anecdotal evidence/experience is the life blood of winemaking.


I think you’ve summed it all up pretty well actually Lyle. On the one hand you talk about a need for rationality. On the other you want to link religion and the understanding of ecosystems. This is precisely where people find fault with BioD and call it religion or even a hoax. Being rational seems to not be part of the equation.

I also don’t think we can hold up some wineries and say that since they make good wines so there is something to this BioD thing. That is a classic non sequitur.

This is better than the Colbert Report:

the Sun is thinner than anything around it, and that is why you see it. It is an illusion to think that the Sun is something in space.

For me however, I’m just happy to know why we have birds. Steiner says:

Let us just look at what the bird, for instance, has become on the earth. During this time (Sun condition) the bird was still a sort of air-sack; it consisted of nothing but air, a mass of air floating along. Then during this time (Moon condition) it became watery, a thickened watery thing, and it hovered as a kind of cloud – not like our clouds, though, but already containing a form. What for us are only formless water structures were at that time forms. There was a skeleton form, but it was fluid. But now came the mineral element, and this was incorporated into what was only water structure. Carbonate of lime, phosphatic lime, and so on formed along the skeleton, creating solid bones. So at first we have the air-bird, then the water-bird, and at last the solid earth-bird.

Due to the different epochs of origin for humans and birds, their response to the appearance of minerals during the embryonic state is dramatically different. The bird embryo, not ready to assimilate the minerals, pushes it away and it becomes a mineral-based shell surrounding the embryo. The human embryo has marrow-filled bones, unlike the air-filled bones which allow birds to fly, and the marrow is able to absorb minerals from the mother which will later in the gestation process be utilized to build up the hard bones of the human baby. Here we can see definitively why humans are not born inside eggs and how this fact points to human evolution pre-dating bird evolution contrary to what the blinder-wearing Darwinians would have everyone believe.

This could not be the same in the case of the human being. Man could not simply incorporate into himself what only arose as mineral during his embryonic period. The bird could do this - and why? You see, the bird acquired its air form here (Sun condition); it then lived through the water condition. It is essential for it not to let the mineral come too close to it during its germinal state. If the mineral came to it too soon, then it would just become a mineral and harden. The bird while it is developing is still somewhat watery and fluid; the mineral, however, tries to approach. What does the bird do? Well, it pushes it off, it makes something around itself, it makes the eggshell around itself! That is the mineral element. The eggshell remains as long as the bird, must protect itself inwardly from the mineral; that is, as long as it must stay fluid. The reason for this is that the bird originated only during the second condition of the earth. If it had been there during the first condition, it would now be much more sensitive to warmth than it actually is. Since it was not there at that time, it can now form the hard eggshell around itself.

So there you have it. Science? Steiner takes it head-on. Good and hard apparently.

Thanks Lyle, and incidentally I think you will agree with me that Andrei Tarkovsky’s premature death robbed us of a potentially groundbreaking film on Rudolf Steiner! And in regards to Biodynamics:

M. Turinek, S. Grobelnik-Mlakar, M. Bavec and F. Bavec (2009). Biodynamic agriculture research progress and priorities. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 24 , pp 146-154

Biodynamic (BD) agriculture became the subject of research efforts during the past decades, whereas a part of the scientific community looks at the BD method with skepticism and marks it as dogmatic. Nevertheless, as explored in this review, a fair share of the available peer-reviewed research results of controlled field experiments as well as case studies show effects of BD preparations on yield, soil quality and biodiversity. Moreover, BD preparations express a positive environmental impact in terms of energy use and efficiency. However, the underlying natural science mechanistic principle of BD preparations is still under investigation. In addition, quality determination methods, based on holistic approaches, are increasingly being investigated and recognized. BD farming strives, as manifested in several publications, to positively impact cultural landscape design as well. Summarized data showed that further research is needed and thus encouraged in the field of food quality comparison/determination, food safety, environmental performance (e.g., footprints), and on the effects of BD farming practices on farm animals.
(Accepted February 20 2009)

Biodynamics is bullshit, but if the wine tastes good who really cares?
It’s not like they are sacrificing virgins or exploiting child labour.

Basically anyone who wants to go through all that palaver must be serious about wanting to make the best wine they possibly can.
And if that involves burying cow horns while naked under a full moon or whatever they are prepared to do it.
They may be nuts, but let’s see what they come up with.

In a literal sense you may be right- but the fact is that “science” doesnt begin to explain the mysteries of nature- and while I dont necessarily think burying a cow horn full of shit at mignight makes a better wine, I do know that you feel a very different energy when walking your vineyard at night. The whole idea of making wine (for me anyways) is trying to unravel the mysteries of nature. Not to decry science, but wine is about the spirit of a place. Science cant explain that energy- its something you simply feel- and for me, the notion of being better connected to the land is somethong BD (direct and indirectly) promotes. Just because you can’t see it, or science can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it isnt there.

Ah, but science was the fundamental basis of the beliefs of each of Columbus, Galileo and Copernicus - their beliefs were based on what they COULD see (and, in the case of the last two, measure), not what they couldn’t.