NZ study debunks biodynamic calendar for wine tasting
The biodynamic calendar has no influence on the way wines taste, according to new scientific research from New Zealand.
The biodynamic wine tasting calendar recommends avoiding tasting wine on ‘root’ or ‘leaf’ days, but favouring ‘fruit’ and ‘flower’ days. Like other biodynamic practices, these days are determined by phases of the moon.
The paper was published by a group of sensory scientists in the open-access online journal, PLOS ONE. The title is: “Expectation or sensorial reality? An empirical investigation of the biodynamic calendar for wine drinkers.”
The study was undertaken in the Marlborough region and involved a group of twenty wine professionals repeatedly tasting twelve young New Zealand pinot noirs. Naturally, the tastings were done blind, and the tasters were not given any clue as to the subject under investigation. When questioned after the event, half of them were not even aware of the existence of the biodynamic tasting calendar. This secrecy ruled out any effect that might come from ‘expectation’.
In the UK, major liquor retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer have made it known that they now conduct their own tastings according to the biodynamic calendar. There are even smartphone apps which tell us whether it’s a good or bad day to taste.
But, while there were differences between how different bottles of the same wine were experienced on different tasting days, the researchers found there was no statistical correlation with the biodynamic calendar.
The article makes for interesting reading. One important point it makes is that the placebo effect may play a significant role in the popularity of the biodynamic tasting calendar: if tasters expect wines to taste better on fruit days, they will find they do.
Tasters were asked to rate wines on various attributes: eg. bitterness, astringency and greenness were considered negatives; sweetness, softness, ripeness and balance were considered positives. Texture, structure and overall quality were taken into account as well as intensity of aroma and flavour.
The article does not pretend to address the thorny subject of whether or not biodynamics itself is valid: it is purely concerned with the tasting calendar.
All bottles were screw-capped and sourced direct from the wineries, to minimise inconsistency.
The paper was published on January 3. Its authors are Wendy V. Parr, Dominique Valentin, Phil Reedman, Claire Grose and James A. Green.