Biodynamic Agriculture: The Future of Wine? Geoffrey FINCH “Man, despite his many cultural and technological accomplishments, nevertheless owes his entire existence to a six inch layer of top soil and the fact that it rains.” Anonymous When we hold a glass of wine up to the light, we are peering into the soul of a living organism symbolic of our relationship to nature. Through the wisdom of some of the world’s most prominent wine makers, this course explores how chemical farming methods are impacting nature’s inherent equilibrium and how a powerful movement to more natural farming methods has implications for the survival of the entire planet. ______________________________________________ The modern urban consumer’s relationship with nature is distant to say the least. Most people have no idea where the food they eat or the wine they drink comes from, nor how it is produced. They are generally unaware that the choices they make can contribute to global warming, environmental pollution and affect their own health. Many are aware that alternatives exist and that there are choices to be made. What are the right choices for the future and how does wine have a role in this? A chemical arsenal of pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers has been used in agriculture as guarantees for crop safety and greater productivity for more than seventy years. Do these chemicals do what they were intended to do? What has their impact been on the environment, on wildlife and on human health? What is the real cost of their use compared with organic and biodynamic practices? During this course we will be attempting to answer these questions while seeking to understand the workings of biodynamic viticulture and its implication for the future of the planet. These practices are being used around the world in some of the world’s best vineyards. But what is biodynamic agriculture and where did it come from? What distinguishes it from organic practices and which came first? What is a closed farm system? Where do biodynamic “preparations” come from and how are they made? What is the role of the cosmos in biodynamics? Is there a link between biodynamically grown grapes and quality? Why are a growing number of winemakers around the world adopting this method? Is there any scientific proof to back up the claims of greater soil biodiversity, deeper rooting, enhanced plant immune systems and balanced ecosystems? Do biodynamic wines show a marked return to the unique characteristics of “terroir” and the true expression of the land the grapes come from? What are the implications of biodynamic agriculture on a global scale? Is it possible to feed the world biodynamically? Mass production has spawned standardisation in every field of consumerism from automobiles and Ikea furniture to electronics and food. Wine was traditionally the quintessential expression of individualism and the eloquent voice of “terroir”. But modern agricultural methods along with scientific intervention in the wine making process have created the phenomenon of standardisation even here, in what has traditionally been a sanctuary of unique and original expression. What are the real economics behind agro-business and what is at stake for the future of the planet? By focussing on wine, which is perhaps still the most individualistic of products, we will explore the pitfalls of the modern agricultural system and consider the alternatives. This course, offered at a Level 5 language level, will make use of articles taken from published works and the Internet, video supports, class discussions and debates. Guest speakers from the wine professions will also host theme discussions and presentations. Written assignments will be research oriented to encourage vocabulary building and in-class presentations / exposés will provide opportunity for oral development.