A huge article in the New York Times this week concerning biodynamic wine making in Italy which according to the article is becoming more and more prominent among a small cohort of Italian winemakers.
The province of Lucca now has many winegrowers and farmers practising biodynamic farming.
Biodynamic farmers manage their farms including fields, woods, wetlands, plants, animals and people as a self-contained, self-sustaining organism. They don’t use GMOs, synthetic chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides.
A true biodynamic farm must also grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, and there have to be animals, either domestic or wild, to keep this miniature ecosystem in check.
Biodynamics was developed in central Europe in the early 1920s by the Austrian philosopher and social reformer Rudolf Steiner; it is now practiced on more than 350,000 acres of farmland in 47 countries.
Steiner was one of the first public figures to warn that the widespread use of chemical fertilizers would lead to the decline of soil, plant and animal health and the subsequent devitalization of food.
Steiner was one of the pioneers of the organic farming movement and biodynamics is considered by many to be the most advanced and holistic form of farming and gardening on the planet. Steiner’s insights have also led to innovative movements in a number of other fields such as education (Waldorf Schools), medicine, finance and social therapy.
Local winemaker Gabriele de Prato features prominently in the article:
“I can’t drink conventional wine,” Gabriele de Prato told me. “I can taste the chemicals. I can taste the temperature control. A conventional wine tastes dead.”
“The biggest misconception is that this is witchcraft. It is not witchcraft,” Mr. de Prato had said to me, smiling for a moment. “Well, maybe a little.”
Handsome and tan, with a shaved head, leather bracelets and camouflage shorts, Mr. de Prato looks as if he’d be just as comfortable on the pages of a men’s fashion magazine as strolling through his farm. We were touring Podere Còncori, Mr. de Prato’s vineyard not far from Lucca, in an area known as Garfagnana. Podere Còncori produces several labels, including a syrah, a pinot blanc and (my personal favorite) a rich, elegant pinot nero.
“People think our methods are strange because we use the astrological calendar,” Mr. de Prato said. “But remember that European farmers have always used the moon calendar.”
He almost had me convinced. Until he asked if I had learned to bury a cow horn. By the look on my face, he rightly assumed I had not. “We fill a cow horn with flowers, herbs, manure, like compost,” he said. “We bury it for the winter. It goes into the warm part of the soil closer to the sun’s energy. In the spring we dig it up, mix it with water and spray the vines. It is a natural fertilizer.”
A short while later, Mr. de Prato walked me through his cellar. Between giant steel wine barrels, there was a massive table piled high with lush red tomatoes of all sizes (“You have to have a hundred tomato plants in Tuscany or you’re nobody”). He grabbed a handful of the smallest, rinsed them off and plopped them in a terra-cotta bowl with a sprig of fresh rosemary. It was time to eat.
We sat at the heavy wooden table in his tasting room with those tomatoes, plus platters of crostini, bowls of homemade pasta e fagioli and generous pours of Podere Còncori Melograno. “This is not a simple wine, it is more difficult, but it warms you up,” he told me.
Also mentioned in the article under the heading RESTAURANTS TO SAMPLE THE WINES, the Locanda di Mezzo in Barga vecchia
About two hours north of Florence, Locanda di Mezzo (Piazza Santissima Annunziata 7, Barga; 39-0583-171-7525) opened two years ago and offers modern Tuscan fare and an amazing selection of natural wines.
Full article by DANIELLE PERGAMENT can be read here