Enthusiasm is one of those emotions usually reserved for children and young people, as they set out on their adventurous life journey. Poised with limitless possibilities and potential, bound up with excitement and energy that promises to take them as far as they dare to dream. As the years roll on, however, time has a way of wearing down our enthusiasm, like the long road that scuffs the bottom of a pair of well-worn shoes. Moments mark time’s steady tread and often turn to memories, both good and bad, without so much as a wink of notice, as they’re created. The good moments make us smile and get collected into a memorable highlight reel, which we are free to play to ourselves at any time we like. The bad one’s should serve as lessons for us to take meaning from, and help us to improve ourselves, as we continue down the long road in search of peace, love and happiness. Often times, however, these bad moments and memories can dampen our enthusiasm for the things we wish to achieve and, if we’re not careful, they can quite easily soak up our spirit until all our energy and vitality is diffused.
Farming, by its very nature, is a hard road to travel, and one that not many young people wish to take. Many older farmers continue to walk off their land, and succession plans fall by the wayside. It’s an occupation that can swing from being one of the most joyous and life affirming activities, to being one of the most depressing, where one’s enthusiasm isn’t just sodden, but soaked, and then dried, cracked, and shattered. Despite a young person’s inherent enthusiasms, facing this dramatic swing can be daunting and overwhelming, and lead them to decide not to farm at all. But, there are a few Young Turks within the world of winegrowing, who are taking on the challenges faced in farming and viticulture, and they’re doing this by utilising the positive power of biodynamics.
Biodyanmics is a positive farming practice that not only supports its practitioners, by putting the human elements of agriculture back at the front and centre of all farming activity, but also actively encourages engagement with the farm by amplifying the health and vitality of the soil, the plants, the animals and the humans that work within it’s agricultural web of sustainability.
“One of the most affective things about biodynamics is that you’re not just letting nature take its course,” says Peter Windrim from Krinklewood in the Hunter Valley, “you are giving it more vitality and force, so that the whole farm is more resilient, vigorous, and in harmony. And, on another level, we’re happier as farmers.”
Peter Windrim, from Krinklewood, Matt Eastwell from Freehand Wines in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, and Sarah Morris from Si Vintners in Margaret River, WA, are three young winegrowers who are noticing the positive effects that BD is having on their properties and therefore, on their wines.
“I started using biodynamic agriculture as a reaction to the ethical dilemma I was having with conventional viticultural practices,” explains Matt Eastwell of Freehand Wines. “There are some nasty sprays out there that are approved for use in Australia, and I was heartened at the prospect of there being a different path, which eliminates chemicals,” he adds.
“We’ve always had an interest in organics,” explains Sarah Morris from Si Vintners, “which led us to biodynamics, and from there, it was just a matter of talking to people who know about it, and reading whatever we could get our hands on.”
Matt and Sarah are relative newcomers to biodynamic viticulture. Both are first generation winegrowers on their respective farms in Western Australia, whereas Peter Windrim’s family has been growing grapes and making wine since Peter’s father, Rod Windrim, first planted vines in the Hunter Valley in the 1970’s.
“I learnt about biodynamics from my Dad,” says Peter, “he’s a viticulturist, so I grew up on a vineyard. He actually encouraged me to go off and do my own thing, which I did for a while, but none of it made me feel as content as life on the farm does.”
This feeling of contentment for the farming life of growing grapes is a theme that is echoed by Matt Eastwell in WA.
“I use biodynamics in my vineyard because I’ve seen the positive results,” explains Matt. “The gradual return of life and vitality to the soil and an increase in health to the vines is a joy to behold.”
“The influences of biodynamics has seen the farm buzzing with life,” Matt continues, “with many beneficial predatory insects helping to keep the vines healthy and in balance. (Using biodynamics) has meant that the vines thrive… and the vitality of the fruit and the resultant wine over the past decade has been amazing to witness,” says Matt.
One of the significant benefits of biodynamics is in its ability to enhance the flavour components of many of the foods that are grown by using it. For something like wine, where quality of taste is one of the single most important elements, biodynamics seems to enliven and intensify many of the qualities that one looks for in wine, such as colour, aroma, taste, texture and length. For many biodynamic winegrowers, this enrichment of quality is one of the main reasons they choose to grow their grapes in this way.
“Since practicing biodynamics, we have noticed that the overall health of the vineyard and its resistance to disease has increased significantly,” explains Sarah Morris from Si Vintners, “and, from a winemaking perspective, we are definitely seeing much healthier ferments and a vibrancy and concentration in fruit, both aromatically and on the palate.”
“In my opinion, biodynamics allows us to keep our wines fresh and vital,” says Matt Eastwell. “The grapes always look brighter, have better colour, and seem healthier than non biodynamic fruit… which, I believe enhances the flavour and longevity of our wine.”
Biodynamics increases soil fertility, individualises a property and unlocks many of the nutrient rich mineral elements that exist deep within the soil. For wine, where provenance is converted and the expression of terroir is considered to be the ultimate, biodynamics helps a wine to reveal its true sense of place.
“Biodynamics allows us the ability to make wines of true individuality, which are honest expressions of our vineyard in Broke,” explains Peter Windrim. “You are tasting the ‘cosmoir’ (cosmic/terroir) that is unique to us, which includes all our bacteria and fungi, our manure, our compost, our soil, our position under the sky, our love and all our intentions.”
Listening to these few Young Turks of Australian winegrowing you hear how they are expressing the positive benefits and outcomes that biodynamics provides them as a way of farming their properties. With love and positive intent, biodynamics enables them to produce great tasting, individual wines of spirit and a sense of place. It also provides them with the greatest fertiliser of all to keep them motivated about what they’re doing on their farms… ‘enthusiasm’.
D// – The Wine Idealist
++ This article was originally written for BAA’s Plenty Magazine, which unfortunately folded after one issue, subsequently preventing the publication of this story.