What is Biodynamics ?
Biodynamics is a holistic farming method that uses two main tools; working in harmony with the calendar of the earth’s movements in relation to the moon and other cosmic bodies; and homeopathic style preparations to aid the plant to grow and protect itself.
Sounds like dancing with the fairies? I was a skeptic until I saw what a difference it made to our vineyard and to our wines.
A few words on each of the tools :
- The Biodynamic Calendar: This plots the movements of the earth, moon and other planets indicating the best times to do things in the garden. I encourage you to experiment; try it in your garden or taste your favourite (ideally biodynamic) wine on a fruit day then on a root day to see the difference. You can get your own calendar Maria Thun biodynamique Calendrier sur Amazon.co.uk.
- The Preparations: These include the core 500 and 501 preparations and many other plant based teas and extracts for helping plants to help themselves. We love nettle, willow and horsetail. For more detail on this read the wine anorak section.
To be truly biodynamic a vineyard should be part of a whole farm system and be able nourish itself with enough mixed farming to meet its fertility needs (we need a herd of cows).
Biodynamics & you : our biodynamic diary
Ever had that moment where you taste a wine you know and find it’s lost its shimmer? It’s probably a leaf day. But all is not lost on leaf days – I love the fennel element that is reinforced in some of our reds on leaf days. Christmas a few years ago was a leaf day and our La Source’s fennel came to the fore so much that a friend who knew nothing about my fennel prediction and Biodynamics said “Wow – there’s loads of fennel that I never noticed before on this wine”.
Take four bottles of your favourite Feely wine (the same vintage and wine type) and taste it on :
- a fruit day
- a flower day
- a root day
- a leaf day
Fruit days bring forward good fruit flavours, flower days bring out floral aromas things like orange blossom on whites and violets on reds… We are not the only ones that have gone lunar even Marks and Spencer think its important enough to only organise their tastings on fruit or flower days. Make your notes on each of the days. Some of the elements you will find :
- flower notes are more obvious on flower days: for example, elderflower on our sauvignon blanc
- herbaceous notes are reinforced on leaf days. For example garrigue herbs on our sem sauv; the grassy, asparagus elements of our sauv blanc; the fennel on some of our reds
- tannins and earthy notes are more obvious on root days
Send us your experiences: we’d love to hear from you. If you are interested in learning more about biodynamics come and visit us to do a class or tour on how it works. Our classes and tours can be found at French Wine Adventures.
For wine anoraks :
We are certified organic with Ecocert since 2008 and biodynamic with Demeter since 2010.
We do the work in the vineyard and winery ourselves so we know our vines and wines intimately. We find tying down the canes in early Spring works well during periods of a rising moon: no broken canes. We follow the lunar calendar very closely in timing soil cultivation as we believe this, along with the biodynamic preparations and teas have had a tangible impact on our soil life – more earthworms, better humus formation, no erosion and great earthy odours. Sean sprays the dynamised 500 and 501 preparations. We make compost from cow manure and pressed grapes.
We seek to keep our vines in equilibrium during the growing season and ameliorate negative conditions with herbal teas and infusions. We use stinging nettle, willow and horsetail infusions each time we spray against mildew and odium. If this sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, consider the proof: we use an average of 1.5kg of copper per hectare compared with the organic maximum of 6kg. We are experimenting with sage infusions now in a quest to one day eliminate copper (a holy grail for bio vignerons).
Since 2014 we harvest everything by hand. In the winery, we aim to do much of the key vinification work on fruit days and sometimes the wine cooperates by finishing its fermentation on the requisite day. For lees stirring in vats and barrels, we prefer fruit days and sometimes flower days for the white wines. Sean finds racking barrels works well at times of the descending moon. We try to bottle on fruit days. We use low sulphur dioxide doses as it masks all the effort you’ve put into unlocking the individuality of the vines’ flavours.
We observe our vines, soils, and constellations so that we understand how and why to apply biodynamic practices rather than just follow a recipe or a certification checklist.
Nature at Chateau Feely
For the first time rare orchids made an appearance in our vines in 2008. After three years of working with organic practices the biodiversity began to return. We pick wild fennel, garlic & salads from between the rows. If you are going to drink the wines from these vines we think it should be safe for us to eat under them.
But it’s not just for us. Biodiversity means a better environment for all the plants and creatures that share our farm. For us its not just for cute communication, high biodiversity = less disease and far less chance of an insect infestation. A balanced environment means that we have a large and healthy population of the good insects that eat the insects that can cause problems in the vineyard.
Organic vineyard walking route and cheese platter at Chateau Feely
Cheese Platter Nature Trail: Come to Chateau Feely to experience a magic walk followed by cheese platter, wine & activities. A vineyard activity that is fun for families or friends. €30 per adult/ €15 per child. To use this marked walking route on our private vineyard please reserve at least 24 hours ahead and sign in at the tasting room.
The Nature Trail offers a magic self- guided discovery walk of an organic vineyard. Take a relaxed stroll, settle down in the shade, discover what being organic and biodynamic means, read poetry, sketch, play…
The easy circular route is 1,5km.
‘We spent over an hour on a 1.5Km walk which tells you we really enjoyed the experience,’ Glyn Taylor and friends
Our generous and creative visitors also contribute to Chateau Feely poetry (please send us yours too):
“Chateau, Sentinel over her terroir
Chains of dripping gems falling away
Gnarled anchors seeking dry earth for life
Sun-kissed crowns guarding their bounty
Reaching high and tumbling around; a boisterous toddler
More friends seeding around and enriching the organic row
Ripening treasures for our pleasure
The Organic Vineyard Route
Just over one hour’s drive from Bordeaux city and forty minutes from St Emilion lies the pocket-sized wine appellation of Saussignac, a commune within the greater Bergerac wine region. Saussignac is an appellation famous for its vinous bounty since medieval times when Rabelais, a renowned French writer penned his perspective on it. Approximately half of the wine growing members of the Saussignac Producers Union are either organic or in conversion to organic. This sets a stark contrast to the national average for France of around 9% of wine growers. For locals and tourists seeking a nature friendly vineyard and wine route it presents the ideal place. The producers in the commune of Saussignac also make fine white, rosé and red wines under the greater Bergerac appellation. Along with great wines, a range of excellent accommodation can be found in the area.