OUR FIRST STEPS …
The Domaines Schlumberger are pleased to announce that, following the passage of 60% of the Domaine to organic culture since 2000, we embarked on the biodynamic culture of 30 hectares for the 2006 campaign.
We wished to invite you to share this new adventure. Hence here is a brief explanation on the fundamental principles of this type of culture, which is often a little vague for most of us.
First of all, we need to answer a frequently asked question : what is the difference between biological and biodynamic culture ?
The primary concern of the organic method of culture is the respect of the environment : the soil, the vine, the work methods. It endeavours to use so-called “bio” natural products.
Bio wine actually does not exist yet because the wine making process is not regulated at present. One speaks about “wine that results from grapes produced in biological agriculture”.
The biodynamic culture is first and foremost a philosophy, of which the foundations appeared in Germany in 1924 with Rudolf Steiner.
It aims to give back the plant its role as actor of its own life, able to react by itself within its environment (terroir). The plant regulates itself naturally and is thus healthier.
The term “biodynamics” finds its origin in two Greek words “bios” (life) and “dynamis” (energy). The interaction between the substances from the soil and energy factors must constitute a balanced system.
TOOLS OF THE BIODYNAMIC CULTVITAION
- Horses : the soil must be vivified, regenerated and developed. It is essential to adopt cultivation methods that respect the soil, to avoid the passage of tractors that pack the soils. Hence the reason why we keep horses at the Domaines Schlumberger.
- Compost : the aim is to ban the use of chemical fertilisers and provide the soil with a “local” compost. At the Domaines Schlumberger the compost is obtained by fermenting a mixture of horse droppings, straw and grape marc.
In biodynamic culture, various “ingredients” are added to the compost according to needs :
- Milfoil : it allows to reduce sulphur spraying of the vine
- Chamomile : it regulates the nitrogen processes
- Stinging nettle : very effective against mildew
- Oak bark : it attenuates plant diseases
- Dandelion : it promotes the resistance against mushroom penetration
The best period for spreading the compost is from the end of August (with the descending moon) until the end of November, in any case as soon as possible after the harvest.
It is generally recommended to use compost that is 7/8th decomposed. The consistency should be lumpy and colloidal*.
OTHE INGREDIENTS SPECIFIC TO BIODYNAMUC CULTURE
- Horn dung (known as preparation 500) : it is obtained through fermentation in the soil during the winter period of good quality cow dung which has been placed into the cow horns (see photo).This preparation is intended for the soil and the roots of the vine. It is a powerful builder for the structure of the soil. It should be used at least twice a year.The horn dung is sprayed shortly before or just after budburst** and in Autumn as soon as possible after the harvest. 100gr of horn dung mixed in 35 litres of water are used per hectare. Spraying must be done between 4pm and 9pm (see: influence of the planets).
- Horn silica (known as preparation 501) : it is obtained through ground passage of crushed rock crystal (quartz) during the summer season in a cow horn. It acts in polarity with the horn dung and is intended for the aerial part of the plants during their growth period. It is a kind of “light spraying” that promotes the vegetative vigour and attenuates diseases. Thanks to the horn silica, the nutritional quality of the food elements (grapes) is reinforced, the aromas are enhanced. This preparation is generally sprayed in Spring and Autumn. 4gr of horn silica mixed in 35 litres of water are used per hectare. This preparation is sprayed between 5am and 9am (see: influence of the planets).
- The Valerian (known as preparation 507) : it is often added into the horn dung and the horn silica. It is a powerful anti-stress for the vine (especially after hail) and a remarkable blooming stimulant. It forms a kind of protective blanket of heat around the compost. The use of the horn dung preparation is essential at the time of planting the vine.
INFLUENCE OF THE PLANETS
Horn dung is effective for the roots of the vine, it is sprayed towards the end of the day when the sun sets. The principle is that as light drops, it tends to pull the roots downwards (deeper into the ground).
Depending on the planetary calendar, it is sprayed during the descending moon*** : energy is concentrated in the “underground” part of the vine.
Horn silica is useful for the vegetative growth of the vine, which is why it is sprayed in the morning with the rising sun. As light increases, it tends to draw the vegetation upwards.
Similarly, it is sprayed with the ascending moon****, energy being concentrated in the “aerial” part of the vine.
For the seedlings, soil cultivation, composting and use of the preparations, nodes***** between the different planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, etc…) must be avoided at all cost. Biodynamic culture should allow to obtain an improved acidity as well as an optimum balance in the wines.
By self-regulating the growth of the vine, botrytis attacks and vegetation excesses are prevented. Thus a good level of nitrogen is obtained, which is essential for better fermentations.
Biodynamic culture allows life and yeasts to develop on the skin of the grape. The more varieties of indigenous yeasts there are, the more distinctive the wine will be. Thus it is not necessary to introduce foreign yeasts that orientate the flavours and end up standardising the wines.
For us, these first steps towards biodynamic culture have no commercial goal.
Our wish is to obtain a consistent and ever improving quality for wines that come from unique terroirs, in order to maintain your confidence and increase your delight.
* Colloidal : state of dispersion of the matter within a fluid, characterised by granules of average size
** Budburst : Blooming of the vine buds.
*** Descending moon : when the moon decreases its trajectory in the sky
**** Ascending moon : when the arc that the moon describes increases, the moon always travels higher and higher.
*****Node : point of intersection of the orbit of a celestial body with the orbit plane of another celestial body. In general one refers to the nodes of a planet’s orbit with the ecliptic plane (plane of the Earth’s orbit). The node will be ascending when the planet passes from the Austral hemisphere to the Boreal hemisphere, and descending for the reverse case.