torsdag den 21. oktober 2010

Fruit Day or Fake Day

Since I am supposed to know something about drinking wine, and as I have moreover taken the liberty to have an opinion, to write and to lecture on wine and biodynamics, I have quite often been asked: Is there something in it when they say that wine tastes better on a fruit day? The answer must be a clear and unequivocal: Well – maybe... But let me start by summing up.

Based on a series of lectures on agriculture given by Rudolf Steiner in the twenties, Maria Thun has carried out further experiments and developed what she calls a 'Sowing Calendar', often, however, referred to as 'Maria Thun's Calendar', the 'Biodynamic Calendar' or the 'Moon Calendar'. Steiner had no specific agricultural background, but he tried to gather and to systematize a great deal of non-scientifically treated know-how; he simply took tradition as his starting point, the ways and methods used by the peasants, even though, in many cases, there were no well-documented reasons for doing so, and then looked for explanations and improvements using his anthroposophical philosophy as a prism. Maria Thun is a disciple of Steiner and carries out a colossal piece of work to document the effects of Steiner's ideas in practice; this is the basis for biodynamic farming.

Aurélien Laherte spraying 501.

According to the Sowing Calendar some days are particularly suitable for sowing various crops. The Calendar mentions fruit days, flower days, leaf days, and root days, which come and go at a varying pace and in varying turns, following the impact of the moon and the planets on life on earth. Thus a fruit day is a particularly lucky day for sowing fruit-bearing plants, while flowers are sown on flower days, salad on leaf days etc. Various parts of the work with plants and fields are organized according to this calendar. It should be noticed that Steiner believed the cosmic forces to be effective on earth in the form of rhythmic movements. Thus it was the idea that the pruning of fruit-bearing plants for instance should be carried out in accordance with the position of the planets, but this would have no serious impact until four years later when the life rhythms by then would have been brought in harmony with the cosmic forces. If we seriously want to adjust our wine drinking to the Sowing Calendar, we would have to do it in a rhythmic balance (some experience with wine, rhythm, and rhythmic wine drinking has been gained, but that is another story!).

I have often heard biodynamic enthusiasts maintain that wine tastes different (and better) on fruit days, for instance; I have even met wine growers who maintain that you only get a hangover if you drink on the wrong days. Other wine growers have mentioned that certain wines taste best on certain days, while other wines taste best on other days. Thus, as an example, dark wines with soil notes would be preferable on root days. Flower days would result in a more aromatic and – not surprisingly – flowery wine, and leaf days in greener and sometimes more stalky wines. In this way it should be possible to bring out specific parts of the wine's character. To many it is only of question of when wine tastes best – which according to most people, typically is on fruit days. And recently a publication came out which, on the basis of Maria Thun's Sowing Calendar, proclaims when wine tastes best. But... Does it work?

In 2006 we (M & M) began to make notes on all the wine we drank, including how we had experienced the wine, and compared this with the Sowing Calendar. After three months we stopped again (suppose the Child Welfare Authorities would get hold of the notes!). And the conclusion? Well, yes...

What really matters when you want to decide how, and how good, wine tastes are the following factors (in random order): the time of the day, the weather, the relative humidity of the atmosphere, high/depression, the temperature of the wine, the temperature of the room, the smell in the room, one's food consumption before tasting (and the day before), the size of the room and the furniture in the room, the persons you taste with, the general mood, the colours of the room, the surrounding sounds and the light, possible choice of music, glasses etc.

Wooden dynamisateur for preparing biodynamic treatments.

And the Sowing Calendar? Well... Possibly. Probably. But there are so many other factors which are important that it becomes extremely difficult to decide. The question 'When does a wine taste best?' is too complex, it cannot just be reduced to a question of fruit or root days. The same wine does not taste the same twice in succession – the difference can be incredible. There is a vast number of reasons for this, amongst which could be the position of the moon and the planets. For years we tried to arrange important tastings on fruit or flower days; at any rate it does not do any harm, but now we attach less importance to it. There are other, less lofty, reasons for selecting days for wine tasting, which take precedence over the moon and the planets. And finally it should be remembered that the wine does not taste bad on a root day; a root day will only accentuate the part of the wine's character which has connection with the roots – minerality, for instance.

The long and the short of it is that it may be worth considering if other factors could have influenced the experience of a given wine, before drawing any conclusions from Maria Thun's Calendar. (Likewise, apples taste good not only on fruit days, don't they?). Alternatively, you can try and open another five bottles to see if that will change your mind. (One more bottle is not enough, since there may be variations from one bottle to another, as is well-known). Yes, the lesson must be always to open six bottles at a time!

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