Zen and the art of winemaking

Zen and Winemaking

I know that this may sound bonkers, but please bear with me. Let us begin firstly by pouring ourselves a glass of wine, adopting the Lotus position and together we can seek spiritual enlightenment through rosé tinted glasses.

There must be a period of time each year in every winemaker’s quest to produce a beautifully crafted wine where both they and the fermenting grape juice acquire a state of togetherness with one another.

The Zen winemaker will have spent the entire year lovingly tending the vines, pruning them and perhaps even talking encouragingly to them; hoping they will produce a bounteous crop that is both healthy and ripe. Once the precious grapes have fully ripened, this Master of the vine will tap into their inner conscious and judge, with both acquired wisdom and experience, that everything is aligned in the universe and it is time to pick. Once this synchronicity has been achieved the harvest can begin. The grapes are gently gathered and transported to the winery, where they are subjected to a slow and gentle pressing rather than a very un-Zen-like fast crush which may result in the cracking of the grape seeds, upsetting their individual Chakras and releasing any unwanted bitter oils into the resultant grape juice.

Whilst awaiting the maturation of this new wine, the Zen winemaker enters a state of almost meditative and reflective harmony with the young wine. Mother Nature now assumes control and the prospect of intervention must be resisted. Simultaneously, the wine itself, undergoes a process where the potency of a greater natural force results in a romantic marriage between the yeast and grape juice, thus achieving a higher meaningful purpose, graduating from mere grape juice to that nectar of the Gods, wine.

This Zen-like approach to the production of wine, or let’s just call it bio-dynamism, is all down to the vision of one extraordinary man, Rudolf Steiner. Born in 1861, he initially developed in 1924; un-beknownst to him; the very first organic movement. He was the first person to realise that with the cooperation of nature, care of livestock and a healthy respect for the land, a natural cohesive balance could be achieved. He acknowledged that all these fundamental concepts were ecologically related. His beliefs encapsulated both spiritual and mystical perspectives, realising that the treatment of soil, crops and animals were a single harmonious circle and should be protected. This resulted in the production of the bio-dynamic calendar which incorporates the four natural elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Upon specified days certain tasks should be carried out: there are fruit days which are best for harvesting grapes, root days where essential pruning should be done; flower days where the vineyard is left to be at one with itself and leaf days whereupon the irrigation of vines should be carried out.

The biodynamic movement believes in the use of composts, natural yeasts, the harmony of the seasons, the equilibrium of the planets, the use of herbal preparations, phases of the moon and the planting of cow horns into the soil to help improve fertility, vigour and growth. Bio-dynamism excludes the use of any artificial chemicals on both soil and plants that may result in a disturbance of the fragile balance of the eco-system.

There is a growing movement not only amongst winemakers but the public, for wines that have an interconnectivity with their surroundings: wines that have a sense of place, are in harmony with their surroundings and reflect the true nature of the grape right down to its very fibrous nature and the essence of the soil in which the vines have been cultivated. In fact, the French already have a word for this and that word is Terroir.

Winemakers in the past would cite the prohibitive costs of converting their vineyards to comply with the principles of this viticultural approach and be able to label their wines ”bio-dynamic”. Compounded by the amount of certification paperwork and regulations required even before any wine was made, many vineyards simply refused to comply. However, vineyards are now being created and designed to be biodynamic from the very inception, long before a young vine has even been planted in the ground.

So, if you wish to take your karma and new-found enthusiasm for bio-dynamism to another level, you can always enjoy a glass of wine on either a flower or fruit day and achieve total tranquillity and inner peace. Altogether now….Om!

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