Want to brush up on your biodynamics? Get the dirt on your dirt? Here’s a short reading list for Earth Month, with a focus on wines cultivated with care. Some are old, some new, but all are timeless in their themes of environmental stewardship
Southern France biodynamic champion and winemaker Gérard Bertrand launches a new book this month, Nature at Heart: For a Better World. Named “Green Personality of the Year” in 2020 by the UK trade magazine, “Drinks Business,” the Languedoc-based winemaker has been an evangelist for biodynamic agricultural practices since 2002. In his previous book, Wine, Moon and Stars: A South of France Experience (2015), a memoir of growing up in southern France, he introduced his idea that working in balance with nature to grow and produce wine is a meditation and a spiritual journey. Frequently called on for both his expertise and passion, Bertrand’s U.S. book tour will include wine masterclasses.
Another recent entrant from French authorship, is Biodynamic Wine Growing: Understanding the Vine and its Rhythms (Floris Books, 2021). Translated from French and edited by Jean-Michel Florin, a leader in France’s biodynamic movement (Mouvement d’Agriculture Bio-Dynamique), the book is a guide for biodynamic wine growers and potential converts. Florin is an instructor in Goethean science, a natural philosophy derived from German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that takes a 360-degree approach to science and nature, emphasizes the intimate and intuitive experience between observer and the observed. It’s a philosophy that plays well with biodynamics and, Florin maintains, sets an essential course for the future.
Just before the pandemic basically flattened the earth, the RAW wine fairs were coming into their own. Created by Frances’ first female Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron and held in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Montréal and New York, the events attracted a young hip crowd of natural wine enthusiasts and a growing migration from the old school. The year of the shutdown, Legeron published the third edition of her popular Natural Wine: An introduction to Organic and Biodynamic Wines Made Naturally (Cico Books, 2020). Though the timing was off for drinking in person, the book was released at a time when people were rethinking much of their lives, including their consumption habits. Legeron’s book is a straight-forward primer on natural wines, with explanations, introductions and recommendations for exploring the growing category.
Now that natural wine is less of an outlier, Alice Feiring’s Natural Wine for the People: What It Is, Where to Find It, How to Love It (Ten Speed Press, 2019) comes as a logical follow up to her pioneering 2011 book, Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally. Called the “original high priestess of natural wine,” Feiring is known not only for her James Beard Award-winning writing, but also for her work in demystifying esoteric wines and practices (read her love letter to Georgian wines, For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey through the World’s Most Ancient Wine Culture). In this book, she offers up authoritative definitions, a roadmap for finding natural wines and their producers, and best places to drink with fellow fanatics. The quirky illustrations would not be out of place in “The New Yorker,” and keep this book light and approachable.
As the former wine columnist for The Oregonian, Katherine Cole, was well situated to write Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers (Oregon State University Press, 2011). Oregon is the ground zero for Burgundian style wines in the U.S., and so Cole’s chronicle of biodynamic history and practices naturally leans toward Burgundy. She explains biodynamics’ markers and mysteries, the theories and the skepticism and ultimately allows the reader to make up their own minds about the efficacy of the movement. But in building the bridge from Burgundy to Oregon, and connecting the movement to key Oregonian winemakers, she creates a full-circle story about terroir, spiritualism and practical business. Cole has largely moved from print to podcast as the executive producer and host of The Four Top, a James Beard Award–winning food-and-beverage podcast on NPR One.