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Is Biodynamic Organic Wine Healthier? – Part 1

Note: This is a transcription of the video: ‘Is Biodynamic Organic Wine Healthier?’ – Part 1.

Brad:
Hello Everyone, Its Brad from Primal Health. I am up in the beautiful wine valley country of New South Wales knows as the Hunter Valley. I am here today at Macquariedale Organic Wines talking with the owner Ross McDonald; he is also a chemical engineer and has also grown grapes commercially (chemically) for seven years, prior to actually starting up the Biodynamic farm here, where he has been growing grapes for about ten to eleven years. Now as you know, Bex and I don’t promote alcohol as health food, but the fact remains, around the world we all drink alcohol of some sort and in various quantities! So essentially, we want you guys to understand that there is a big difference on your health in drinking varieties of alcohol that have been grown commercially compared to organically and biodynamically. So we are here to find out from Ross, what the big difference is between the two? So Ross  tell us a bit more about then the actual grapes you grown here and the stalls of lanes of wines you make.

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Ross:
Well, at Macquariedale Organic Wines in the Hunter, we grow or specialise in three white varieties and three red varieties. The white varieties are Semillon, Chardonnay and Verdelho and in the reds Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Those varieties are really the best wine varieties in the Hunter Valley.

Brad:
Okay, so you advertise your wines as being ‘Biodynamic’. So if someone has no idea what organic or biodynamic means as far as a wine is concerned, tell us what it actually means and why you think it’s a superior choice?

Ross:
The key differences to be ‘Certified Biodynamic’ means that we don’t use any herbicides in the vineyard. We don’t use any pesticides, we don’t use synthetic fertilizers and we don’t use systemic chemicals. Now, that’s really the basis for being Organic and then Biodynamic is a step further in terms of certification. It’s more of an holistic approach to the farm where we minimize, we look at the farm as a controlled unit and we minimize the amount of inputs coming into the farm and we do that by doing lots of mulching and composting on site. We have our own herd of cows, and we use lots of cow manure. We then follow the whole Biodynamic philosophy which I will go into in more detail.

Brad:
Okay, to at least summarise, talk about Rudolf Steiner and how his farming methods are not only used here for wine, but other foods as well.

Ross:
Rudolf Steiner was a philosopher back in around 1920. He came up with a holistic approach to fertility on the farm. A lot of people have picked that up around the world now. It is a method of using the whole of the cosmos to bring the maximum life forces to bear on the plants and they respond very well to that. So it’s, as I mentioned prior, its putting out preparations, its inoculating the compost with lots of herbs and we do that and put it out and it allows the plant to access what it needs in the soil without relying on fertilizers as such.

Brad:
Wow, it sounds pretty amazing. I look forward to getting out into the vineyards and seeing some of the key points of it. Can you tell us how many chemicals are used in commercially grown wine in comparison to Biodynamic / Organic Wine?

Ross:
One of the key areas is, as I mentioned before, is herbicides. Herbicides are used to kill weeds in the soil and those chemicals translocate into the plants through the root system. There is also pre-emergent chemicals used in the soil conventionally which really deadens the soil for future use. So, in biodynamic farming we don’t use any herbicides. Then we go to the pests. We don’t use pesticides, we use all natural treatment. We use a lot of seaweed, we use a bit of fish emulsion; all these natural tonics to build the strength of the plant rather than pumping the plant up with synthetics.

Brad:
Yeah right so improving the health of the actual plant so that they are more resistant to bugs and problems actually getting into it.

Ross:
That’s right. People say, the bugs, how do we look after those? Well, luckily we don’t get a lot of bugs because the plants are so healthy. But we also manage that through the way we design our canopies. It’s a whole farming technique.

Brad:
Well, on that note, farming technique…How about we go out to the vineyard and you show us couple of the key processes that are involved in biodynamics.

Australian Biodynamic Certification Logo – Macquaridale Organic Wine

Ross:
Yeah. Just before we do. Moving on, just let me cover a little bit about the winery. The other key aspect of biodynamic wine is that we are trying to minimize the amount of chemicals that are used actually in the winery with the wine. And to do that we add just a little bit of sulphur. We minimize the amount of sulphur and that’s very key to your health. A lot of wine is over-sulphured unnecessarily and the health can get affected by that.

Brad:
So when there is label on the bottle saying sulphurdioxide 220 for example, what does the 220 mean and what’s normal in a conventional wine?

Ross:
Well that’s a good question. Look, the 220 is just the number for sulphur dioxide. It’s a number that’s given to it, so if you see 220, it refers to sulphur, or sulphites, as it’s sometimes refered to. The typical level in a conventional wine could be as high as 250 parts per million of sulphur. The organic standard maximum is 120 and we have some of our wine down as low as 10 parts per million. Virtually sulphur free.

Brad:
Oh wow. Which are the ones that tend to require more sulphur then?

Ross:
The ones that require more sulphur are generally white wines. So if you’re sensitive to sulphur, you should be varying toward drinking red wine, which typically has less. The tanins and the whole structure of red wine tends to make it less suceptible to oxidation. Therefore, you need less preservative.

Brad:
Gotcha. Well I guess before we go out there as well, are these your two most popular wines or what would you put as your most popular wine?

Ross:
Look, all of them are very popular. But I am showing these two because these are two of the classic hunter varieties. The Shiraz, we call it Thomas Shiraz in red, and the Semillon. And these two varieties in the Hunter are probably the most readily recognized. But, our Merlot is always popular in the reds, and our Chardonnay and Verdelho are also very very popular.

Brad:
Awesome. Yeah, they’re great wines guys, if you ever get your hands on one, you’re in for a treat. You can get them off their website. I am sure even overseas as well?

Ross:

Yeah, we do export a little bit, to Japan and Canada.

Brad:
Gotcha. And its macquariedale.com.au. Okay guys, also before we get out there one another thing to note is the surrounding farms…three of them is it?

Ross:
Yeah three of our neighbouring farms have joined in our certification so we farm those vineyards for our neighbours. We manage them, we look after them, and we secure the fruit from that for our wine making processes. So we’ve probably got close to 300 acres of certified land and approximately 50 acres of vineyard land.

Brad:
That’s awesome! That’s a feather in your cap for changing them from commercial. That’s great. Well, should we get out there?

Ross:
Yeah, let’s go.

Continue with Brad & Ross in the vineyard in ‘Is Biodynamic Organic Wine Healthier? – Part 2‘.

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