The moon had reached the descending phase of it’s orbit around the earth and at Krinklwood biodynamic vineyard out at Broke, in the Hunter Valley, a diverse group of people began to arrive as the first rays of the new morning’s light pierced up and over the Brokenback range and scattered onto the earth below.
The smell of fresh wood-fired bread hung in the air, whilst cows, pigs, chickens and ducks all had a turn at breaking the soft silence that existed in between the greeting’s and handshakes of the community gardeners, property owners, winemakers, and open minded sceptics alike. We were here to attend the 7th annual Krinklewood Biodynamic Workshop, hosted by owner Rod Windrim, and conducted by Hamish Mackay and John Priestly.
Hamish Mackay, with 40 years biodynamic experience, is an adept educator in BD, and the executive director of Biodynamics 2024. John Priestly is a third generation citrus farmer who employs the methods of biodynamics in his orchid at Paterson, NSW. Together, they were able to provide a formidable source of practical knowledge and experience in order to explain the principals of BD to the attending mix.
This was a hands on workshop that would have us seeing, smelling, and touching the various preparations associated with biodynamics, before taking in turns to build our very own compost pile which incorporated the use of the cow manure Prep 500, the quartz silica 501, and the all important cowhorns.
The morning session gave us all a chance to posit some questions we had concerning biodynamics.
There was one question I really wanted answered – ‘why is there no peer-reviewed, scientific evidence to support the practices and principals of biodynamics, and why do you (Hamish) think that the wine industry has become the de facto leader in this type of agriculture?’
In answer to my question, Hamish began highlighting the differences between Newton vs Goethe applied-thinking strategies, and how Rudolf Steiner was able to combine, and apply them, to his biodynamic lectures.
Pointing to his body, Hamish explained, “the Newtonian way of thinking, which we all learn in school, posits that this (the body), which we all have one of, says that ‘you can’t trust it’, that you’ve got to be objective. So, therefore you weigh, and measure, and pull things apart to try and understand it, which takes on the idea that the body, and by extension the mind is not objective, and therefore not a valid tool of science”.
On the other hand, “Goethe’s way of thinking”, Hamish went on to say “says that, this (the body) is the principal instrument of science… so you need to be able to properly calibrate it – through education – in order to use it objectively, just like you would a set of scales”.
“The question about the wine industry is interesting, because it’s all done on taste, and taste is still subjective. They haven’t yet been able to mechanise the process of wine judging”…
The taste and texture of a wine comes (predominately) from the soil, via the vine. So, the healthier and more balanced the soil is – alive with bacteria, hyphae, and microbes – the more nutrients there are that can flow throughout the root systems, and the more expressive and exuberant the flavours will be within the wine. Site is important also in order to express unique and particular characteristics of place within an individual wine, but site is enhanced through soil vitality, and the best way to vitalise the soil is through the use of biodynamics.
Krinklwood biodynamic vineyard is one of only two in the Hunter Valley that grow their wines in this way.
“Initially”, says Rod Windrim “we wanted to be organic, but it was biodynamics that really pushed my buttons, hearing the stories of Nicolas Joly, and seeing some of the German biodynamic farms”.
Rod distinguishes between farming one type of produce, known as monoculture, to taking a more holistic approach to the land, where you are “farming biology”.
“By using the animals, the cattle, and the pigs, and the chickens, and integrating their different energies within the vineyard, and on the property, that sequence helps to keep disease under control, improves nutrition, and soil fertility… and if you get that right, (by farming the biology), then (the process) begins to take care of itself.”
At lunch I was invited up to the winery by Krinklewood’s vineyard manager, Julian Richards, who is a supporter of biodynamics as a way to grow great wines that are unique to place, “you can’t have a sense of ‘terroir’ if you are using synthetic chemicals on the vineyard that end up distorting the picture you’re trying to capture within the wine”.
The 2013 ‘Spider’s Run’, semillon/chardonnay (55/45) blend is named after late night runs through web infested ramparts, created from dares between the vineyard staff. The fruit is hand picked, de-stemmed, and co-fermented using wild yeasts in barrels of new French oak and older puncheons. The wine still has a way to go, but presents a confident peach creaminess, lifted green acids and smooth distant length.
Julian is an avid chardonnay fan, and is always looking to see how far he can push the natural flavours of the fruit without the use of too much oak influence, “I like to use it as a kind of blotting paper, in order to see what it could be like in it’s most natural state”, he said.
Returning to the afternoon session, Hamish and John were busy showing the workshops participants how to go about making our very own compost pile.
The group was encouraged to quite literally dig in, by shoveling the ingredients from off the back of trailers and trucks, and onto an empty composting cage, before Hamish added the final touch by inserting in the various BD preps. Rod lent a hand by spraying the ever increasing pile of sawdust, manure and straw with water in order to soften the compost and promote moisture within the newly built pile.
We were then shown the specific stirring techniques used in biodynamic farming to make the various preparations – from the hand in the bucket (for smaller batches), to the paddle in a barrel, right up to the mechanised flowform, which Rod and Julian use most often when preparing enough spray for the entire property.
I tracked down local Hunter Valley winemaker Liz Kooij who told me she, “had a pretty negative perception of biodynamics this morning, but having seen how knowledgeable and passionate they (Hamish and John) are, it’s definitely changed my thinking, and I’d like to find out a bit more”.
As the sun began to set behind the Great Dividing Range, we headed inside for one last session with John Priestly who illuminated us with stories and anecdotes of the various biodynamic triumphs that he’s experienced on his property in Paterson. He spoke about bringing a balance onto the property by moving away from monoculture, and introducing a more inclusive and holistic approach to farming. Farming that promotes companionship between the different entities, and encourages the health and fertility of the soil without the use of chemicals and other off farm products.
When asked if there was one word he could remove from the dictionary what would it be, John answered “waste, because there is no such thing, only potential”.
D// – The Wine Idealist
**Many thanks to Rod and Julian, Hamish and John for their time, passion, enthusiasm and energy. If nothing else, biodynamics, and it’s practitioners are highly infectious!
+ Click here for the Full Gallery of Photo’s from the day out at Krinklewood +
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