Ricardo Pérez Palacios, of the winery Descendientes de J.Palacios and Paloma Escribano Sáez, of the winery Bodegas Valsardo, have offered two very different points of view on agriculture and biodynamic wines, which has given rise to a fascinating debate at FENAVIN 2011
The conference 'Biodynamic Wines: Reality or Fiction?' has afforded us some of the most controversial moments of FENAVIN's first day. The lecturers, Ricardo Pérez Palacios, co-founder with his uncle, Álvaro Palacios, of the winery Descendientes de J. Palacios in el Bierzo and Paloma Escribano Sáez, founder of the winery Bodegas Valsardo in Ribera del Duero, are worlds apart, not only in kilometers from one winery to another, but in years of experience and in the completely different conception they have on biodynamic agriculture.
Pérez Palacios, the younger of the two, is a staunch defender of biodynamic methods and preparations, which he uses in his vineyard in El Bierzo, also championing that currently "there is great confusion in the use of terms such as organic, biodynamic, natural or genuine. A wine without sulfur, just because of that, cannot be called a natural wine," he explained.
The most spiritual moments of the conference were actually in his hands, because for him "a biodynamic farm makes sense in a whole that is much greater than just the vineyard. The farmer is responsible for putting in order all the forces that come together in the vineyard. The agricultural part and the craft would be in charge of the physical part, while the biodynamic part represents the vital essence, the soul," he affirmed.
On her part, Paloma Escribano Sáez, the first woman dedicated to wine production in the Ribera del Duero, insisted that at her winery they "do not use herbicides, artificial fertilizers or synthesized chemical compounds. Plants are alive, just like people, and if we are given too many antibiotics for example, then we are unable to generate antibodies in a natural way."
In as far as the current regulations are concerned, the owner of the winery Bodegas Valsardo defended that "we find that the controls made over the soil and plants do not suffice, as we want analysis of the wine to be made, hence the reason why we are not affiliated to any certification system, and when things turn around, then we will associate ourselves."
In short, Escribano wagers on equilibrium of the grape in the vineyard and on fieldwork, although "I consider that biotechnology is of essence, as is the case with innovation, which is necessary, because it constitutes an antidote against routine."
In that referring to the laws of biodynamics, "nobody can deny the influence of the moon on different farm tasks, however, I am not a follower of the astrological principles involved, or of the use of its compounds."
Undoubtedly two very different points of view, even though both champion the power and value of the terroir and use of natural techniques in the fields and in the laboratory. Biodynamic?, etymologically, wines with strength and life and, in short, real wines.
Origin of Biodynamics
The principles of biodynamic agriculture stem from the conferences given by the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner during the second half of the 20th century. Rudolph Steiner was the founder of anthroposophy and of a holistic conception of life that encompasses other disciplines such as medicine, food and spirituality, among others. The central concept of these conferences focused on the farm as an organism that is self-sufficient. The philosophy also includes temporary activities such as planting based on the patterns of the moon's and the planets' movements and on applying a series of 'preparations' to the soil -natural materials processed in a specific way-.
Currently one of the leading personalities of the international biodynamic movement is Nicolas Joly, French vine grower in the region of the Loire. In his opinion the world's wines can be divided into two types: true wine, which reflects the "peculiarity of the terroir in the wine glass" and industrial wine, in which chemical products are used in its production.