Tag Archives: biodynamic wine

Traveling in Marseille

I apologize for not keeping up with my weekly posts. It’s been a gloomy winter here in Nancy to say the least. The first semester began with little excitement and I found little motivation to go to school, but of course I did anyway. I feel like the French college students, who often express the same sentiment. The only class I enjoy this semester is a course on Ancient Egypt, which is absolutely fascinating. Right now, we’re learning about how historians decoded the complex ancient egyptian language. Consisting of hieroglyphs , each represents an idea, but can also represent individual sounds (phonemes), which makes reading them more complicated than one might think. Absolutely riveting!

I have also been using the time to continue studying biodyamic wine (see previous post last November) as well as working on my thesis, studying Catholic culture in France and the changing notion of ‘family’ with the soon-to-be-passed law allowing for gay marriage, adoption, and MAP. Concerning the wine, my professor sent me a book called Voodoo Vintners by Katherine Cole, an excellent ethnography published in 2011 on Oregon’s biodynamic (BD) wine. The book goes into details of the BD practice, the spirituality associated with biodynamics, and describes the movement’s historical manifestation in the region where I am currently living (the border territory between Alsace/Lorraine, Germany, and Switzerland, all of which share a border along the Rhine River). There is a distinct culture of the wine here that cannot be found elsewhere.

Biodynamic viticulture, a type of organic agriculture that integrates wholesome farming practices and the esoteric philosophy of anthroposophical figures such as founding father Rudolf Steiner, has given this region a particular air about it and the wine it produces, giving it a unique ‘taste of place’. This is what I am studying with my professor. Steiner’s influence has only grown since he founded the anthroposophical movement in the late 1920’s when he designed and built the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, which is the world center for the anthroposophical movement and was named after German writer and politician, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was Rudolf Steiner himself who designed the building with concert spaces, galleries, and libraries to facilitate the manifestation of anthroposophical art and intellect. This is all of what I will be studying in Oregon come this summer if my professors’ research proposal is approved. I’ll be working in a team of four, two students and two professors, and hopefully have the opportunity to visit the vineyards in the Willamette Valley on which I’ve been reading all this time.

Aside from that, I have been traveling! I did a small voyage into the region of Alsace next-door with my program. It’s been quite cold and gloomy, so for the February break, a friend and I decided to go down to the south of France to visit Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Cassis to see some sun. It was a great experience and we stayed with three different hosts that we found through a reputable site called AirBnB. We took an overnight train there to save on costs and got absolutely NO sleep. It was gross, noisy, long and the train stopped in the middle of the night for a couple hours, so there was no sense of progress. Regardless, it was the cheapest option, and that was our goal. That way, we had more money for the delicious regional tapenades (39€/kilo)  and afternoon coffees at cafés in the sun. Marseille Narrow Southern Streets Street Art Drying the laundry Street Art Tea Shop Trees Restauration Tea Break The apartment The apartment The apartment Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Marseille Cassis Cassis Cassis Cassis Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Les Calanques Spring in the South View from Apt Aix-en-Provence Mont Saint Victoire

The first home stay was in the apartment of an ex-restaurant owner/chef and prepared a wonderful meal for us with local vegetables. The second was a great little apartment shared with a working, 27-year-old woman who let us use the kitchen to save on costs. She is a graphic designer and her apartment was proof– such a unique design (although not incredibly homey). Last, we stayed with a family with one child, which ended up being somewhat awkward since the family had us sleeping in their living room. Regardless, we had a great time, got to see some sun, and took advantage of the warmer weather to go hiking along the coast on the famous Calanques of Marseille.

I’ve included some photos.

E n j o y !

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Last Weekend’s Biodynamic Wine Conference in Colmar, France

Last weekend, I attended a long anticipated biodynamic wine conference in France/Switzerland, just a couple hours away from where I am in here, in Nancy. I  received a research grant from Lewis & Clark College after much toil so that I could join my professor, Deborah Heath (an anthropologist whose work concerns the study of agricultural practices in the domain of French, Canadian, and American gastronomy, including foie gras and wine products). What an experience it was! I have to admit, I was a bit “over my head” when it came to the vocabulary, especially since the entire conference was bilingual in either German or French. Regardless, I took a lot away from the conference after observing and listening to the wine producers speak and collaborate over their practices with their sacred grape vines.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner took an integral part in founding the notion of anthroposophy, which some considered to be almost a cult at the time. Now, it stands as the basis for many of the processes in biodynamic agriculture. This movement was a response to humanity’s trend that led agricultural practices, as well as human intellect, away from an ecological balance. For grape vines for instance, plant cloning had become a prominent method in reproduction. This was ruining the potential to promote biodiversity among the plants in the vineyard, which led to widespread vine diseases such as ESCA. Thankfully, with the help of many intellectuals at the time who founded the principals of anthroposophy (which includes far more than just agriculture: medicine, ethical banking, music, art, and organizational development), biodynamic principals began to be used in the field. Now, producers (if they so choose) can become biodynamic certified, however many choose not to even if they are technically biodynamic. In general, one can think about biodynamics as being MORE than organic, since organic agriculture only dictates what the farmer cannot do in relation to pesticides and preparatory processes. Biodynamics goes a step further in prescribing exactly what should be done to the crops on certain days of the year.

Biodynamic viticulture includes a series of changes that must take place when transforming one’s vineyard from a conventional one. Most of these changes include promoting biodiversity in the vineyard to create resistance to disease, pests, etc. Read more about it on this fascinating method on this website, which is the site for one producer who was at the conference and gave a great presentation on his farm’s work that reaches beyond just wine to create a wholesome polyculture. Although these practices are actually quite old, the renewal and structure of such intellectual ideas in conjunction with anthroposophy is absolutely mind-boggling! I highly recommend reading the links I provided above to better acquaint yourself with these notions. Perhaps you would even be interested in doing some of this in your own garden at home!

Also, take a look at these links:

http://heliotropewines.com/about/the-biodynamic-calendar

http://www.chow.com/food-news/77519/fruit-leaf-flower-or-root-tasting-wine-according-to-the-biodynamic-calendar/

When we weren’t working in workshops with the other vintners and wine affiliates to discuss the processes of cultivation from the time of a seed, we learned about the preparations of the vine. In biodynamic viticulture, these preparations take the place of what one might call “pesticides,” however, many would argue that these preparations do much more than simply ward off vine “predators” with chemicals. These preparations are almost like potions. Each one is brewed and often heated. One must begin stirring at a certain moment in the day (often times just after the first light of the morning sun is seen on the horizon). These preparations can include interesting ingredients like cow manure as well as the bladder of a deer (fun fact: one bladder will be enough to produce preparation for 1000 hectares!). I have included links below to show you some biodynamic vine preparations (each one is listed as a number from 500-507):

http://winemakingnomad.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/biodynamic-wine-viticulture-defined-demystified/

http://www.wineanorak.com/biodynamic2.htm

On the second day of the conference, we went to the famous Goetheanumin Dornach, Switzerland, which is the home of the antroposophical society. Here, we learned about the history of Rudolf Steiner and other historical figures who influenced the movement at the beginning of the 1920’s and beyond. I have included pictures of this beautiful hillside arrangement of unique buildings, all of which reflect the ideals of anthroposophy. I have also included a picture of me at one of the many delicious wine tastings with my professor!

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