On Lunar Cycles

Those of you who have followed us from the beginning will know that I place great faith in the Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar. I never make any major decisions with regard to our wine on root days, indeed I try not to even taste wine on those days, my palate simply lies to me on such days. Many of my colleagues think this trait of mine ‘quaint’ and have often told me so. So it is with great interest that I recently read a report of its use by the big end of town, from the London-based NNA news agency, part of which I reproduce here.

Spraying vines with biodynamic preparation 501.

Spraying vines with biodynamic preparation 501.

Lunar cycles and the taste of wine

LONDON (NNA) Maria Thun’s “Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar” is probably one of the better kept secrets of the wine trade. Yet, as the London Guardian newspaper recently revealed, for major supermarket chains such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer it has long been used as a tool to determine the best days to invite critics to wine tastings.

Grapes are harvested on a fruit day.

Grapes are harvested on a fruit day.

“The biodynamic calendar is a very familiar concept to people who work in the wine trade, and has been for decades,” Mary Rochester Gearing, Tesco BWS PR Manager, told NNA. “Tesco have been referring to the calendar when choosing a date for their tastings for the press over the past years, something that Marks & Spencer also do and have done for a long time,” she added.

Maria Thun’s calendar is used by biodynamic farmers to determine the optimum days for sowing, pruning, and harvesting various plant crops, based on the rhythms of the moon, planets and constellations. Days are categorised as fruit, flower, leaf or root days, depending on these astronomical relationships.

“Although biodynamic practices are to do with the work in the field and the tending of the vines – winemakers in Burgundy in particular operate according to these methods – the theory also goes to the extent that wine will show more flavour on certain days,” Mary Rochester Gearing explains, “but from a very basic perspective it makes sense to try and show wines at their optimum which is why we try to hold our tasting on fruit or flower days.”

Marks & Spencer, too, believes that using the biodynamic calendar helps to present the wines to best advantage, even going so far as to advise customers to avoid disappointment from the best bottles by making sure not to open them on root days, the Guardian reports. “Before the tasting I was really unconvinced,” the paper quotes Jo Ahearne, winemaker for Marks & Spencer, as saying after having sampled more than 140 wines over two days, “but the difference between the days was so obvious I was completely blown away.”

And even the Guardian itself found the calendar worked: “The Guardian tested the theory this week and tasted the same wines on Tuesday evening, a leaf day, then again on Thursday evening, a fruit day. Five out of seven bottles showed a marked improvement,” the paper writes.

Bottling is done in accordance with the biodynamic calendar.

Bottling is done in accordance with the biodynamic calendar.

Although Maria Thun’s yearly ‘Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar’ is available in Australia and is a marvelously, interesting book to read, it is designed for use in the northern hemisphere, so the dates and times are not correct for use in Australia. Fortunately there is an Australian version.

Brian Keats has been publishing a Southern hemisphere version for 22 years ‘Antipodean Astro Calendar’. It is available direct from him at www.astro-calendar.com or from Biodynamic Agriculture Australia at www.biodynamics.net.au which is the premier Biodynamic teaching organisation in Australia.