To accompany our October 7 discussion of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen, our friends at DCanter have curated a wine list especially for our conversation. Inspired by Katharina Kepler’s homeopathic remedies, this list features wines created through biodynamic methods which utilize the rhythms and resources of the natural world. Read on to learn more about this holistic approach to winemaking and then choose a bottle to sip while catching up with our October book selection.
If you were asked to chop up the bark of an oak tree, stuff it in an animal skull, and store it in a wet place for the winter, you might fairly assume that you were starting a witch’s brew. In reality, you would be making Preparation 505, a mixture frequently used in biodynamic farming. The innocent concoction is mixed with a compost pile to raise its pH and prevent plant diseases.
Biodynamic farming is a holistic philosophy that all things are interconnected. It’s the idea that everything needed to run a biodynamic farm should be found and produced on that same farm. The plants feed the animals, the animals fertilize the plants, and a great deal of land is set aside for general biodiversity, thus encouraging a healthy ecosystem that supports more than just food crops.
The approach was developed by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, in the early 1920s. In addition to avoiding manufactured pesticides and fertilizers, biodynamic winegrowers follow a celestial calendar that dictates the best days to perform certain tasks, like pruning, watering, and harvesting, as well as utilizing seemingly unusual homeopathic fertilizers called Preparations. The oddity and singular nature of the preparations lead the National Socialists to associate biodynamic farmers with the occult. In response, farmers began numbering their preparations to make them appear more scientific.
Biodynamic practices are mostly carried out in the vineyard, but a biodynamic wine must use biodynamically farmed grapes, minimize the use of sulfur, and avoid genetically modified materials. The term biodynamic is certified by a private organization, Demeter International, rather than government bodies. There are many wine producers that practice this ideology but may not get certified.
For more information about biodynamic wines, visit DCanter, or check out our Folger Theater Book Club Biodynamic Wine collection:
- From: Alsace, France
- Description: Expressive nose with fresh, floral aromas. The classic flavors show off an abundance of green apple, ripe pear, with a touch of fresh toast. A wine of great balance and finesse with an elegant, refreshing finish, this is a great choice for Champagne lovers.
- Pairs with: Mild firm cheeses, seafood, or light poultry; Or enjoy as an aperitif all on its own!
- From: Tuscany, Italy
- Description: Aromas of orange peel, white grape juice, and quince. This pet-nat has greater fruit on the palate than most, with flavors that match the aromas. A perfect wine to open with friends!
- Pairs with: Fun appetizers like jalapeno poppers or fried cheese.
- From: Catalonia, Spain
- Description: Bright citrus flavors and aromas dominate with floral hints. This wine has racy acidity and a long finish. A nice alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and Albariño.
- Pairs with: Lighter seafood dishes, especially those seasoned with herbs and citrus.
- From: Alsace, Germany
- Description: Surprisingly complex and honey-toned aromas mix with pear and quince fruit. This slightly off-dry wine provides a good amount of textural weight while displaying flavors of tropical fruit, sweet spice, subtle florality, and a lengthy finish.
- Pairs with: Slightly spicy Indian fare or other complex dishes with distinct salt, acid, spice, and sweet elements.
- From: Beaujolais, France
- Description: This natural rosé is bright and refreshing with ripe red fruit aromas and flavors. This one makes for a lovely patio sipper.
- Pairs with: Grilled cauliflower, white fish dishes, or simple picnic fare.
- From: Macedonia, Greece
- Description: Aromas of ripe, red fruits and savory herbs. Red cherry and blackberry on the palate with complex, vegetal flavors, refreshing acidity and a long finish. This is a great alternative to Barolo!
- Pairs with: Rich pastas, roasted leg of lamb, or robust cheeses.
- From: Villány, Hungary
- Description: Beautiful herbal aromas mix with lively red berry fruit, green peppercorn and bay leaf. This deliciously savory wine is aged in French oak and has some earthiness.
- Pairs with: Herbed poultry, beef stroganoff, or with a burrito stuffed with grilled peppers.
DCanter: A Wine Boutique is a wine retailer located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, specializing in sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines from small producers around the world as well as fun, yet informative, wine education. Their selections are available in-store, online, or through a personalized wine shopping service known as Concierge by DCanter. Visit them at www.dcanterwines.com to learn more.
Registration is open for our October 7 discussion of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen. We hope you make a plan to join us!