Watching Biodynamics in Action at Cullen Wines: My weekend in the Margaret River
When I arrived at Cullen Wines, production manager/winemaker Trevor Kent suggested that we first take a look at the vineyards. His excitement in showing off the rich moist soil of the vineyard beds was palpable.
Passionate about the benefits of biodynamics, Trevor was very generous about sharing his knowledge of the subject and explaining how Vanya Cullen and he have implemented biodynamic practices both the vineyards and the winery. Cullen was certified “A” grade biodyamic in 2004, but innovation and refinement of techniques are ongoing.
Biodynamics is based on Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual science. Trevor explained that in 1924 a group of German farmers approached Steiner for help in revitalising their nutrient depleted, unproductive soils. Steiner recommended a wholistic approach that incorporated organic farming principles but also recognised that the movements of the moon and the planets have a profound influence on the soil and plant and animal life.
At Cullen, farm activities like planting and harvesting are timed to coincide with the optimal position of the moon in relation to the planets. And the biodynamic prepartions, which include naturally occurring matter like farm manure, are all prepared in a way that optimises energy forces.
The photo on the left shows Trevor standing next to a Flow Form machine, which is used to mix the biodynamic preparations with water. For the horn manure preparation (500), for example, small amounts of manure are stirred into large volumes of water before being applied to the vineyards. Steiner believed that the combination of vertical and horizontal vortices created by the special stirring process increased the vitality of the preparations and improved their effectiveness on the soils and plants. Trevor likened the preparation process to collecting fast flowing, oxygenated water from a fresh water stream. The Flow Form machine mimics the natural process of energising the water.
After touring the winery we tasted the Cullen range on the restaurant verandah overlooking the biodynamic vegetable patch. Trevor explained that since the introduction of biodynamics the fruit quality has improved to the point that only minimal intervention is needed in the winery to produce top quality wines that are now much more expressive of their terroir. He noted that the wines in recent years are better balanced with improved levels of acidity, greater phenolic complexity and lower alcohol levels.
The Cullen Diana Madeline, a Bordeaux style red blend, and the Kevin John Chardonnay are two of Australia’s top expressions of their respective styles. I couldn’t help lamenting the fact that because of the prospect of a long drive back to my hotel, I couldn’t just sit back an enjoy a long commune with these two magnificent wines. Next time I’ll splurge on a driver!