Book review : Wine, from sky to earth (Joly)
The Heart of the Magic 8-ball Speaks!
I'm sorry anyone's had to suffer through that book as well, and I'm glad people are somewhat skeptical. I don't buy it either, especially after reading that poorly written piece.
I stand by my claim that biodynamics is nothing more than the Santeria of viticulture (actually, agriculture in general). And I agree with Jack in his previous email - I really can’t buy it either.
I'm even more amazed than ever that Joly can produce decent wine. If one were to contrast & compare his ramblings in his book and website with his critical acclaim, the conclusion that might well be drawn is that he's an idiot-savant.
His apologia starts in the first chapters with statements that biodynamics is a theory, and therefore not able to prove things like a regular mainstream science (presumably so he can be excused from having to provide any hard proof of his claims).
Let’s start: "A biodynamic wine is not always good, but it is always authentic." (emphasis in the original)...
What the hell does that mean? "Authentic"...as opposed to "false", "misleading", "fake", "counterfeit"? I think it's "counterfeit" that he’s implying.
(And wait, I thought making ‘good’ wine was what we were after?! Who would give a damn about a wine which was inferior…regardless of how it was produced, much less drink it. Really! What are we trying to do – celebrate failure & mediocrity?) And does it imply that the forces supposedly harnessed through the adoption of biodynamic agriculture are too inconsistent in their nature? I will happily cede the point that respecting the environment should be an overriding concern with all agriculture...but let's adopt a system that accomplishes better agriculture with better wines!
But I digress, back to the idea of ‘counterfeit’ wines; throughout the text he refers to the "label of origin" (AOC), and one gets the feeling that one of his main intentions is a defense of the appellation system - as used in France. Counterfeit in this sense might mean a pretender – a wine which didn’t show the individuality of the location & culture it was produced in. Perhaps it could be a winery or winemaker who was trying to make a wine similar to those of an adjoining AOC, or perhaps a style from another country altogether! My spin on that interpretation would first be that it smacks of protectionism. The AOC was created to freeze the French wine industry as it was in the 1930’s, but it allowed no room for evolution of peoples tastes. Their wine industry now wallows in it’s own product, due partly because consumers now care less about a prestigious sounding foreign label than they do about quality and taste.
If the wine is labeled correctly as to what blends are in the bottle, as well as it’s origins, then it’s not counterfeit. The idea of counterfeiting is that something is being passed off as something else (usually superior). If it’s labeled correctly there is no ‘counterfeiting’ for a clear lack of furtive action…
If someone is making wines of similar style, then tighten your belt & get ready to rumble, ‘cuz that’s what competition’s all about Baby!
I'll ask those protesting my denigration of biodynamics to please remember that Coulee de Serrant was an acclaimed vineyard long before Joly's family purchased it. It was first planted in the 12th century, and for several hundred years many personages of note had visited it, reportedly including kings and influential clergy...long before biodynamics was ever even invented. (I think he's got a fantastic vineyard, but I also think it’s probably always been a fantastic vineyard. It would probably produce above average wines regardless of who was the winemaker there -regardless of applying biodynamics! Any attentive winemaker worth their salt using organic viticulture could probably do quite well there also...).
After starting into his book, I had a crazy notion to debunk it paragraph by paragraph...but I just don't have that kind of time (there are far too many flaws in his theory, and a lack of anything resembling the scientific method), and it would probably consume enough space for it's own blog. I gave that thought up by page 20. There's even too many errors to debunk it by chapter...
The work is loaded with anthropomorphism, poorly constructed arguments - sometimes premises are introduced and left hanging, while conclusions are drawn from them anyway. Non-sequitur statements are brought forth as ‘proof’ of the theory, then the author moves blithely onward without ever tying anything together.
The work presumes that a causal relationship between superior wines and biodynamics exists, yet disclaims that several times, and doesn't provide evidence for this in any way other than the anecdotal.
Specifics (or lack thereof):
Incineration of pests – it is stated that this procedure “should follow a planetary calendar” and “the choice of firewood also may play a part because it also has a planetary influence”, and also that “the date of incineration is the key to effectiveness”. Wouldn’t you know it? He’s so busy typing this manifesto up that he forgot to include such vital information as the date, times, wood type, or even which planets…so it’s impossible to reproduce his efforts ~ unless you then hire him as a consultant! (pgs. 66-7)
Joly can rely on people to useselective thinking when they evaluate the results of biodynamics; even though it may fail the results test time after time, it is such an arcane and intricate construction that he can claim it wasn’t done properly, while any positive results will be attributed to the system without thought. (“Well, you finally must’ve gotten it right!” would be the exclaim of true believers.)
If there IS anything of substance to biodynamic theory, it certainly isn’t to be found in Joly’s book.
And don’t even get me started on the “Cellar”, “Homeopathy” or “Planets” chapters, or why the choice of 'levity' as the opposite force to gravity was rather poor.
[True believers should read “The Magus”, an 1801 manuscript by Francis Barret (available on Barnes & Noble). Most of the work is also of a philosophical nature presented-as-fact (as is Joly’s), and outlines much of what later is incorporated into biodynamics. Then again they should also read the Necronomicon, and, well...anything by H.P. Lovecraft...]
Ultimately, Joly's work is only a poorly written argument from authority, and falls along the line of: "I'm sucessful & acclaimed, therefore everything I do must be right & proper."
Go get yourself a Magic 8-ball. It's even wiser than Joly...
...why look! It's predicted the future of biodynamics at the top of the post!
Something for those who disagree with my viewpoint here (Australian Biodynamics Homepage)