In recent years organic farming has become increasingly popular with both producers and consumers. Furthermore, a rising number of wineries, Romanée-Conti, Latour and Louis Roederer to name a few high-profile examples, are embracing organics more radical cousin biodynamics.
What’s prompting this conversion?
For many producers, biodynamics represents a return to traditional winegrowing where the focus lies with the health and vitality of the vineyard. However, other biodynamic practitioners view it as a philosophy extending beyond farming and wine production. This was the case for Birgit Braunstein, for whom the conversion to organic and eventually biodynamic practices represented as much a personal evolution as an agricultural one.
Birgit’s family has been producing wine in the Burgenland since 1632. She farms 22 hectares in the Leithaberg DAC, where she grows a mix of Austrian and international varietals. When she encountered biodynamic viticulture for the first time in 1995 in Bordeaux while visiting Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Birgit knew immediately that this is what she wanted for her own vineyards. After taking over operation of her family vineyard and winery in 1996 she became convinced of the benefits of these practices, and in 2006 began the conversion to organic farming. This was followed by two years of intensive training and learning; to Birgit it was as though “the ideas of Rudolf Steiner…were buzzing around in my head”. During this period, she helped to establish the first Burgenland Waldorf School, which applies the same core principles of biodynamic agriculture to education: everything is related. By 2011 the conversion to biodynamics was complete, and the tenets of biodynamics had extended to her everyday life, informing her personal convictions and attitudes.
“As a winemaker, I see myself as a landscape conservationist. Aware that I have only borrowed the land from the next generation, I am committed to respecting the land entrusted to me. As a farmer, I can make a major contribution to preserving nature and protecting the climate. As a consumer, I can decide what kind of agriculture I support. It is therefore my concern to produce healthy, vivid wines that are digestible and give joyful and enjoyable hours.”
The Wildwux biodiversity project
Birgit’s aspirations for biodynamic winemaking and living resulted in Wildwux, a biodiversity project launched in collaboration with Weingut Geyerhof-Oberfucha. It responds to the unfortunate loss of biodiversity due to the destruction of important landscape elements, often the result agricultural intensification and the profit-driven farming.
The project’s name is a homophone for the German phrase ‘wild wuchs’, which means wild grown. Though this might conjure the image of an overgrown vineyard, it is not about minimal pruning nor does it concern wild-grown vines. Instead, fruit is sourced from 2-hectare vineyard that embraces biodynamic practices alongside mixed agriculture in an effort to restore and preserve valuable habits and endangered plants and animal species through targeted measures. This means a transition from the monoculture typified by most agricultural practice, allowing flora and fauna to co-exist and thrive with equal importance. At a time of growing environmental fragility, when the sustainability of the wine industry is increasingly called into question, Wildwux demonstrates that “BIO [organics-biodynamics] can be much more than a mere omission of chemicals.”
So as a strong believer if wine’s ability to promote positivity and prosperity, Birgit signs the back of each label and sends it into the world with the message ‘Lebe Freude’ – ‘Live Joy’ – a small but important reminder that wine is a celebration of nature and life.