Wines started out as just wines, but in recent years words like sustainable, organic, biodynamic, natural and even cosmo-culture started popping out.
A wholesome and healthier image of wine drinking is being presented to the public, but is this really a consumer trend toward better living or simply a marketing campaign to make some wines distinctive? Are winemakers and winery owners trying to creating a niche product?
I first encountered biodynamics during my time with the Raffles Hotel in Singapore when I was introduced to Antoine Kreydenweiss from Domaine Kreydenweiss.
The philosophy of biodynamic wine was introduced in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner to improve the relationship among vine, soil and everything in the environment.
It involved cows’ horns and manure, preparation of herbs and flowers, and even the lunar calendar to determine the position of the moon and the tides. Biodynamics also avoided the common use of sulphur dioxide, an anti-oxidant and anti-microbial.
The idea was to treat soil and vines as naturally as possible, without destroying the land for our children.
I always asked myself whether these practices were all hoodoo and marketing ploys. What do they mean to consumers and do they make a difference in our lives?
Of course, “if the buying stops, the production will too.”
What does biodynamics mean for the wine in the bottle?
I once had the opportunity of blind tasting a selection of wines with close to 500 wine professionals at Pinot Conference 2010 in Wellington, New Zealand. This involved “normal” wines, wines made from sustainable viticulture, organic wines and biodynamic wines.
I was perplexed and unable to identify the difference.
Of course, this was not surprising for an amateur taster that I am. What was surprising was that when the results were announced, most among the 500 tasters were also unable to distinguish among them. In this tasting exercise, I concluded that the wines that stood out were the wines that I liked.
“What is the best wine?” I am commonly asked when I tell people that I work as a sommelier. This, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult questions. I do not have an answer because the best wines are always different. What is the best wine very much depends on the taste of the drinker. Wine to one, poison to another!
I very much enjoy discovering and tasting new wines. I love learning new wine philosophies as well. In our modern era, consumers’ decisions are very much influenced by media trends.
Please don’t get me wrong, as I am not an antagonist of these trends, such as biodynamic and organic wines.
But I am, in fact, an enemy of wine drinkers who lose their personal taste of what they like and what they don’t.
China, which is a young, emerging and impressionable wine market, has asked “professionals” to advice on what and how to drink. This is exactly what I do not agree with!
I want to be an advocate of drinking what one likes and not what the trend dictates. Because the best wine in the world would be the wine that you enjoy in the glass!