Allegrini 2024

For wine producers who have chosen passion, agronomic skills, biodynamics

Thoughts and visions on the method inspired by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, which for many people is the best sustainable response to climate change

Biodynamics has always been a controversial issue, since, exactly one century ago, Rudolf Steiner inspired its methods and principles. And now, more and more farmers and wine producers are choosing it. A great number of people believe it is an agricultural and production method that looks to the future, in addition to being the best possible response to climate change and the growing demand for sustainability. During the meeting with certified biodynamic wine producers by the control association affiliated to the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International (BFDI), at Slow Wine Fair 2024, the event organized by Bolognafiere and Slow Food, Giovanni Buccheri, director of Demeter Italia, told WineNews “biodynamic, certified and Demeter agriculture is the answer to anyone who has doubts about the effects induced by human activities, including climate change. And, the stories of the producers who carry out viticulture have demonstrated as much”.
The main ingredient of the biodynamic agriculture method, is, undoubtedly, paying attention to the fertility of the land, the well-being of plants and everything that revolves around them, including animals and humans, to build an “agricultural organism”, through a holistic approach. It is a vision oriented towards sustainability, which is definitely opposed to the hastily, not having the necessary distinctions method, defined as “industrial viticulture”. In the current context, however, in which climate change determines increasingly different and emergency situations, it is no longer possible to act according to pre-established protocols in viticulture, and in agriculture, in general. Attention has become an indispensable virtue, like the technical competence that derives from scientific knowledge. In Italy there are 1.000 Demeter certified biodynamic companies in all product categories, and 140 of them are wine producers from Alto Adige to Sicily. “They are led”, Buccheri continued, “by winemakers who approach biodynamics through tradition and stories, rather than through innovation introduced by the new generations, regardless of size. We have small, medium and large-sized companies distributed irregularly throughout the Peninsula, signifying that it is not necessarily cultivation conditions that determine the choice to embrace biodynamics, often not a top choice, but rather the will of the entrepreneur. They all have the same observation and participation in the life of the vineyard in common, and therefore in the good, healthy and quality wine that is poured in the glass on the table”. At the meeting moderated by president Giovanni Buccheri, four winemakers from areas that have different soil and climate conditions, explained the reasons behind adopting biodynamics, and shared their experiences. The most important factor, in the stories of the producers who attended, was the contribution biodynamic management of the vineyard gives in terms of mitigating the effects of climate change, and sustainability, based on the plants’ greater resilience to water stress and diseases. This contribution is made possible by achieving a balanced agrobiological system. Plus, because of this characteristic, it does not require drastic and disturbing interventions from the point of view of protecting the vineyard from plant pathologies and parasitic attacks. The objective is also clear to numerous companies that pursue it in other ways.
Danila Morgagni is in another sector and together with her husband, she runs the Al di Là del Fiume company, on the hills of Marzabotto (Bologna). Vineyards are planted on 5 hectares of land, previously permanent pastures, the Reno river and a forest all around, orchard and grains of ancient varieties, bees and medicinal plants. It is an ideal context, and following the meeting with the agronomist, Adriano Zago, specialized in biodynamics, the couple decided to “take care of the land and the people, aiming to maintain a constant research approach and innovative perspectives”, by taking up the native varieties that were once in the area, and opening an agri-wellbeing tavern with guest quarters and cooking courses. Giancarlo Ceci, of the Ceci company located in Andria, Apulia decided to go biodynamic to focus attention on healthy soil, which allows plants to successfully deal with drought and therefore water stress that afflict Apulia. Giancarlo Ceci is one of the first agronomists in Southern Italy to go, starting in 1988. He cultivates not only vines, but also olive trees, and vegetables on the 200-hectare Estate, and raises Podolian cow. “I have seen great results over the years in the vineyard, in winemaking, and in the glass”, Ceci emphasized. “In the future, I believe we must focus on communicating the biodynamic approach, which is difficult to communicate, but I think that greater attention and conveying knowledge to consumers will help to understand it better”. Alfredo Figus, agronomist and technical director of Olianas, a Sardinian company from Gergei (Cagliari), connected to the Tuscan Group of wineries of the Casadei family, has taken the same approach based on agronomic knowledge, and where in addition to the vineyard, olive trees and wheat are grown. “Working biodynamically means being respectful to nature”, Figus said. It was easy for Olianas because the area has been lightly subjected to anthropic interventions. We obtain not only high quality of the grapes, but also an average quantity in a drought area like ours, which guarantees us a fair, economic balance”.
An example of generational change, in contrast with the previous generation, is Kristian Keber, owner of the Edi Keber company, which bears the name of his father, located 300 meters from Slovenia. He is self-taught, and is following a path based on the publications of Nicolas Joly, and on the meeting with Adriano Zago, a leading agronomist in the biodynamic world, and on experiments (sometimes with unfortunate results), first on the small farm inherited from his grandfather beyond the border, and then transferred to the Italian headquarters. “In this area of Friuli, located between the Adriatic and the Julian Alps”, Keber explained, “rainfall is very important, even though now due to climate change, we also have dry periods, and therefore conditions are favorable to downy mildew. I have lost a lot of grapes, but I am continuing, step by step, mistake after mistake, to reach the best moment for treatments. I have increased the fertility of the land, and I am trying to create greater biodiversity by using many native varieties”. Different approaches emerged from the stories of the four producers. In some cases, governed mainly by passion, and in others, more by the understanding of the positive effects of the techniques applied. Everyone, however, agreed that biodynamics is an agricultural method that has ancient roots, but it also has an eye towards the future.

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