Wednesday, January 26, 2005

'Businessman' perspective?

Tuco, thanks for your kind words.

Bonny Doon has been quietly moving into the biodynamic (BioD) realm for several years. Apparently they’re now ready to go “whole hog” into that dark realm…

(Bonny Doon's statement)

I’ve enjoyed their wines in the past, and imagine I will continue to like them – provided they don’t radically spiral downward in quality, or start releasing Brett contaminated wines.
Bonny Doon has made it’s mark by being different, both in the wine blends they offer and in their fun loving philosophy. Not because it’s BioD.
I predict that we as consumers won’t experience any positive changes from their use of “horn manure” or “horn quartz”, because it’s based on superstition, flawed logic and bad science.

Caveman…I think you’ve missed a few posts!
Look at these:
Santeria, BioD email, Jphelps BioD-like

…this is a big kettle of fish. Aside from the spiritual flakiness that I agree is a part of the whole biodynamic philosophy, the practical manifestations of this type of agricultural practice is at it's base organic.

Exactly the point I’ve made in my previous posts.

And if large producers use less pesticides, fungicides, chemical soil additives, and sulfites then that is a good thing for everybody.We can argue wether or not it makes better wine, but it does make interesting wine.
Again, all points I’ve made previously. And I won’t argue that the wines aren’t interesting, and my previous posts on BioD make my favor of environmentally responsible sustainable organic farming quite obvious.

You are obviously first and foremost taking a 'businessman' perspective on the wine industry, an underlying current of this movement is about community and respect. Normal people buying and thus supporting local growers, restaurants using local ingredients and creating regional cooking traditions, but above all, a respect for the environment as a whole.
One doesn’t need some voodoo system to have respect for the community, or to adopt responsible agricultural practices. And I have never found it useful or logical for anyone to separate their business perspective from their community or environmental perspectives (myself included).

However, I will point out how stupid it would be to allocate funds in one’s business plan for some system so riddled with holes, that it couldn’t possibly influence your final product. The whole idea of burying powdered quartz in a cow’s horn for 6 months – then spraying it onto the leaves of your vines to “capture more solar energy”…
Do you know why? Joly reveals it in his book!
Because quartz “sparkles” and therefore – get this! – must contain sunlight within the crystal!
They ignore the fact that crystals reflect light for that ‘sparkle’ effect, and by spreading it on top of their foliage they’re potentially reducing the amount of solar radiation the vine’s are actually exposed to. Pretty crappy thinking from my point of view.

In fact, I’d argue that it’s just as bad as some of the science the Bush administration tries to use to justify it’s environmental policies with.
Really, you don’t have to embrace BioD to eschew the use of pesticides and have a more encompassing view of your winemaking techniques & it’s interplay with the community and environment.

This is a concept which the american government has effectively pissed upon (as being one of the few governments to outrightly refuse Kyoto, and rolling back important safeguards). Their view seems to be..'well it is not great for me so fuck the rest of you.'A fantastic role model for all. While Joly can be a bit of a flake and there are obvious holes in the biodynamic philosophy, if it's followers become a little more respectful and a little nicer, hell, why not, they've harmed a lot less people than those waiving the banner of Jesus. Caveman
I agree with your thoughts about George W.’s lack of leadership on environmental issues.
I have no need to bring religion into this. There are some who would argue that it’s essentially “new age secularism”, but I don’t need any such arguments to defeat BioD.

And “if it’s followers become a little more respectful and a little nicer” ? I must assume this is in regard to their relationship with the environment – because I’ve had some quite heated arguments with it’s adherents…and they were neither respectful nor nice from my perspective…

In summary, I believe that agri-business (viticulture & winemaking included) should be conducted with respect to the environment by adopting the following:

  • Organic farming techniques
  • Embracing environmentally responsible, sustainable agricultural practices
  • Integrated pest management, utilize natural pest predators
  • Minimize the use of pesticides & herbicides with the long-term goal of their elimination
  • Respect for the environment and community (including neighbors) of the operations in question

The Emperor has no clothes on. I hope this helps clear up my views.



Blogger caveman said...

Now that's a response. Thanks for clairifying your position. I have not read all your posts, but if I ever do misrepresent any of your thougts, feel free to tell me.

Listen, bio-dynamic agriculture goes far beyond Joly. Steinart, Maria Thun and the rest of it’s grand practioners have invested many years in it’s study and development and I have personally seen some interesting results from it’s usage. Believe it or not there do exist a number of scientific studies that show practical benefits of quartz. Perhaps when fermented it can attain more beneficial properties. But who cares, either you believe it or you don't. But as my wife remarked, who while grounded in science taught a course in bio-dynamics at an agricultural college, it is about intentions. I guess this is where spirituality comes into the mix, and that too is not a bad thing. It is always good to believe in things. (This is where my religion allusion comes into the fray).
A bio-dynamic approach forces you to be more observant, forces to you to concentrate, and perhaps this is one of it’s greatest benefits. The calendar allows for a structure by which to approach the maintenance of your land, and maybe plants like kids appreciate a more structured environment.
I for one do not follow most bio-dynamic principles, but I can say the part of my garden that I have used 100% bio-dynamic, cow-horned, witch ordained compost has continually been the most productive part of my land. Weird, but true.
And I despite what you may think, I believe the majority of people who go to the trouble of following many of these principles are doing it for reasons other than marketing.
In honor of your post we drank a bio-dynamic Vouvray, Le Mont, from SA Huet with our mussels… exceptional.


January 26, 2005 4:28 PM  
Blogger mmw said...

Huge, just because it sounds crazy doesn't mean it doesn't work. If farmers say they can tell the difference, who cares if they plant the horn? Sure it gets annoying once the mystical language of BioD merges with the mystical language of the wine tasting, but if it tastes better, again, who cares? (I can't afford that shit anyway, so I leave it to my betters).

I've been enjoying your stuff, even if I don't agree with it.

January 26, 2005 5:26 PM  
Blogger Huge said...

Thanks William, nice response as well.
I'm much clearer on where you're posting from now.
My objections to BioD still stem from my belief that it isn't grounded in anything resembling science, and is instead contrary to everything I've read & experienced.
I have no doubt that many are full adherents to the system & really do believe that it is having a positive effect. Some of the people I've encountered are near fanatical in their devotion to it (I'm not trying to insult anyone with that comment - just stating a fact).

I still can't see it (the system as a whole) offering anything more than can already be achieved with organic farming and minimized/eliminating pesticides & herbicides. I'm in the middle of Joly's book right now, and my hackles are raised slightly by the style he writes with and the fact that none of the premises are ever cemented down before they're used to launch another one. I've outined the positive attributes of BioD as I see them in a previous post. I think the wheat needs to separated from the chaff on this subject.
Thanks again for your input. If anything, this subject could use some more debate & study.

MMW - thanks also for the comments & compliment.
I guess I have a problem with the thought that people are going in the wrong direction by attributing positive results to applications which don't really influence the agricultural system as a whole...
My point being that more & more money and effort will be spent promoting something that doesn't affect growth. I just don't see any merit in doing that.
As for the wines...I agree that they're different. But I don't know that I'd say they were better, and I certainly don't think I'd attribute any such difference to biodynamics (after reading all that I have about/by those who follow it). The differences may be due to serendipity alone...
Implausibility is not my objection, contravention of the laws of science & results of research is.

I'll buy the wine (virtually) for the person who can show some research which concludes that BioD is responsible for the positive effects in viticulture & viniculture (winemaking) by a respected established agricultural college (UC Davis, CSU Fresno, etc...).

If you don't like my take on BioD so far, then you may want to skip my report on Joly's book. I'll wait until I'm finished with it & digest it, but it's not going to be positive from what I've read so far.

Thanks to you both for the comments.


January 27, 2005 7:28 AM  
Blogger caveman said...

I have not read Joly's book and look forward to your review. If there is a branch of winemaking to perhaps examine a little closer, and this is to an extent is related to bio-d, it is les Vin de Nature. Indigenous yeasts, minimal if no sulfites, etc... Often the proponents of this type of viniculture are, or at least are sympathetic, to the bio-d gang. These wines are both distinct and different, and as I alluded to in a previous comment, part of a new way of approaching winemaking.
Hope all is well, see you in the coven.

January 27, 2005 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Huge,

Sorry I’m a bit late with this, but I thought you were quite charitable with Caveman’s rather Stone Age views. I would have been much harsher, as I believe this kind of ideological cave dwelling is much more dangerous. Please note how quickly the discussion deteriorates from wine to politics to reckless and angry ideological banter (the evil “businessman,” hmm what’s next Kristallnacht.) This is, of course, the point of my last post. Underlying biodynamics is a fairly radical political agenda that, like all good propaganda, is easier to sell to the masses if you can unhitch it from the pillar of reason, and clearly Caveman is unhitched. My suggestion for Caveman’s “kettle of fish” is to put it over the fire. In this case we might consider the application of these guidelines from 18th century philosopher David Hume, who argued that it is “unreasonable to believe testimonies of alleged miraculous events.”

"If we take in our hands any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, 'Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity and number?' No. 'Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact existence?' No. Commit it to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

Best regards,

January 28, 2005 3:30 PM  
Blogger Huge said...

Well measured words Tuco...

I was raised with a healthy dose of skepticism, and think it should be applied to everything. And though I've responded harshly to some in the past (probably will again, too...), I do try not to be too much of a troll and go whacking them about their heads.

I agree with your impression likening this "cult" to that of Jim Jones, though I have hopes for a better ending here! But while I don't begrudge people the right to "believe" in whatever system they want to, I find it impossible to sit quietly by while they start rearranging MY world to fit their views. It's very troubling to see rational people turning 'off' their thinking process.

The fact that so much of BioD theory is recycled superstition, sympathetic magic and medieval nonsense...
The way BioD is espoused should make anyone wonder how it could possibly work. Evidence is anecdotal, arguments are unsupported, etc. That people may have had some good wines here or there by producers who adhere to BioD doesn't prove that it isn't just luck or serendipity that brought the wine to that state.
If they'd just read some historical matter (like The Magus by the 18th-19th cent. English philosopher Francis Barrett) I think they'd see how those beliefs of sympathetic magic have all been laid out for centuries for all to see.

No, wait. They probably wouldn't be able to dicern the farce from the paper on which it's written.
Python's Sir Bedevere apparently lives on...


January 28, 2005 4:57 PM  
Blogger caveman said...

And the pot continues to boil. I too was raised with, and still have, a healthy dose of scepticism. However, by calling all those who do not live their lives by applying the scientific method, as witches, fools etc, is a the type of intolerant fool that i have a tough time tolerating. Tuco, you have to do better than waxing 19th century philosophy. Some things remain unexplainable, and while i do not shun scientific testing of anything (like UC Davis di with the 'observations' of Maria Thun..which turned out to be inconclusive), I also don't take the position that if it ain't proved, it don't work. The reality is that millions are spent testing OGM and the effects of pesticides and the rest, but little time and money has been spent on the testing of many of the bio-d asssertions. Tuco, live a little on the unknown side, it might loosen you up a bit.
Huge, if you don't believe, then don't. I don't see how if some people are moving in this direction, this can have such a drag on your being (but i do love Monty Python). Loof at it as the theatre of the absurd and like the bio-d's, observe and laugh, but like always search for the hidden truths.
And in terms of the wines, the last time i checked, Romanee Conti was pretty damn good (bio-d since 93)

January 30, 2005 6:58 AM  
Blogger Huge said...

If you don't like 19th cent philosophy, then you should abandon BioD beliefs altogether. In the final evaluation, that's all it can be (politely) reduced to. Your disagreement with UCD because it didn't produce results you feel it should have shown for Maria Thun is demonstrative of your selective thinking.
And frankly, the BioD theory is so poorly postulated & interconnected that inconclusive results are all that could be observed...

I have more faith in UCD than BioD...but will remain open to some possibilty that it could have some useful grains within it. (BTW, I've already outlined what I feel is reasonable within BioD)
And I'll continue to point out that Romanee Conti (among others) were acclaimed vineyards BEFORE they went BioD, although I will leave the entirely subjective question of wether their quality has improved since then...I think the answer to that discussion would end up being 'inconclusive'.

I'll finish by inviting you to start your own BioD blog, after all - it's free, and you could then have any sort of conversations & posts you wish in favor of BioD. The HJWOW will continue to be a home of the scientific method and (hopefully respectful) skepticism.


January 31, 2005 7:14 AM  
Blogger caveman said...

Hi Huge,
This will be my last posting on the subject but as host I will obviously offer up last crack at the pinatta to you.
First, I love all philosophy, and embrace all types of forward thinking. There is something for everybody wether you be a bio-d follower, hardened logician or even a nazi, sister loving uberman. I just found Tuco's complaints a little myopic.
I applaud UCD for going out and testing these observations, and inconclusive is not, unless I am mistaken, inconclusive is not a synonym for unfounded. I would love to see more research and energy put into both organic and bio-dynamic agriculture... as opposed to the hundreds of millions being poured into the chemical industry. I think we both agree that the time is now that we move towards a more environmentally friendly, and more respectful relationship with our planet.
And this is perhaps my attachment to the bio-d movement. At it’s base is an understood respect for the land that we cultivate, the animals that raise, and the necessity to replenish what we take. And if someone chooses to simply follow the calendar, or take whatever part of the system that they feel will work for them, then I support them. It is a good lesson for all, after all, it does not infringe on my liberty to do as I wish. There are obvious zealots, as with any movement, but the majority of the people that I know who practice this type of agriculture approach me with the same respect that they do their land.
Insofar as starting a bio-d blog, I already have a blog and will do a special on bio-d next month as a gang of the wackos are coming to montreal at the end of february. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

January 31, 2005 10:47 AM  

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