NZ study debunks biodynamic calendar for wine tasting

Biodynamic calendar (Photo: Le Domaine de la Vougeraie)

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.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0169257#sec003

 

15 thoughts on “NZ study debunks biodynamic calendar for wine tasting”

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  6. Kevin Gagnon says:

    Mike, you seem unnecessarily militant about this. Are you under the mistaken impression that I subscribe to the hypotheses of biodynamism? I don’t. I enjoy lots of biodynamic wines, but I feel their quality has literally nothing to do with the philosophy. There is categorically inadequate evidence supporting the relationship of its practices to the quality of the wines produced. It’s like a less-harmful version of Homeopathy for me. Okay? Now, I’ve expressed surprise that purported wine professionals might not have even heard about the biodynamic calendar – let me repeat, for clarity, that I don’t think they need to BELIEVE in it – and all you’ve done us criticise the practice of Biodynamics. That’s fine. But it doesn’t change the fact, and it IS a fact, that biodynamics as a movement is significant in the wine industry. Like natural wine, but less than organics regardless of the modality for goodness sake. Will you now adress my observation or will you continue to attack a movement that I have not can attempted to defend?

    1. Mike says:

      Kevin, you’re having difficulty that these reviewers may or may not be aware of X.
      That’s “the argument from personal incredulity” fallacious reasoning.
      It’s entirely your opinion, & I have no need or desire to explore your motivation.
      I’m glad we share the same understanding of the lack of Bioydynamic’s credibility amidst the scientifically literate.
      It is unfortunate that BD producers are not compelled to state on the bottle;
      “May contain traces of entirely made up magic & actual bullshit”
      Not unlike produced are required to list legal, actual additives. (SO2, ascorbic acid, animal fining products etc)
      Think on that next time you support a BD producer over someone who doesn’t purport to use magic. Which is more honest?

      1. Kevin Gagnon says:

        Mike, your assumption that I have fallen victim to the argument from incredulity is simply unreasonable. At no point did I state or imply that the aforementioned professionals did not say they were unaware of the biodynamic calendar. What I expressed was surprise that they wouldn’t have heard of it. My surprise at a situation is not a denial of that situation, nor is it in any way an argument. As far as labelling on wine bottles is concerned,until every single additive that a wine maker has used – be it tannin, acid, so2 or whatever else – is listed on the bottle, dishonesty in winemaking is by no means restricted to biodynamic producers.

  7. Kevin Gagnon says:

    As a wine professional myself, I find it a bit surprising that several professionals in such a small group would claim to be unaware even of the existence of a biodynamic calendar. I would be interested how the question was phrased…

    1. Mike says:

      Why would they be? BD is fringe at very best.. It’s akin to a modern Epidemiologist learning about the concept of miasma being the causes of disease.

      1. Kevin Gagnon says:

        What, seriously? “Natural” wine is even more fringe, “at very best”, and yet I imagine virtually every wine professional worthy of the designation has heard of it, and regardless of what their personal feelings about it may be. Likewise with Biodynamics. You have made your feelings pretty clear, though, so thanks for that 😀 Notwithstanding, it is a movement with many well-known proponents, and ignorance of it is surprising. Less surprising, perhaps, not to know about the calendar based on Maria Thun’s efforts – but still surprising.

      2. Mike says:

        “Natural” wines, along with “organic” do not purport to use a modality that Is, if real,(it isn’t, unless you’ve got some very, very good evidence to the contrary) going to require the rewriting of physics and chemistry as we know it.
        Apply Occum’s razor.

      3. Mike says:

        Kevin, you’re having difficulty that these reviewers may or may not be aware of X.
        That’s “the argument from personal incredulity” fallacious reasoning.
        It’s entirely your opinion, & I have no need or desire to explore your motivation.
        I’m glad we share the same understanding of the lack of Bioydynamic’s credibility amidst the scientifically literate.
        It is unfortunate that BD producers are not compelled to state on the bottle;
        “May contain traces of entirely made up magic & actual bullshit”
        Not unlike produced are required to list legal, actual additives. (SO2, ascorbic acid, animal fining products etc)
        Think on that next time you support a BD producer over someone who doesn’t purport to use magic. Which is more honest?

  8. Mike says:

    Biodynamics is about as efficacious as sacrificing virgins to the gods of the field. It’s not even pseudoscience. It’s superstition.
    Unless, of course, one of the devotees can describe what unit of measurement they use to describe the “life force”, & what device they measure it with. Remember, energy is “actual work potential. It’s not a glowing ephemeral cloud of good vibey-ness.

    Any (entirely subjective) good results are the result of good Viti management & winemaking practices, not infinitesimal dilutions of yarrow that’s been in a stags bladder.

  9. Huon Hooke
    Huon Hooke says:

    Agreed, the BD practitioners take a lot of care. And wine is as much about the sizzle as the sausage. But this study is not about BD wine, it’s about the calendar, and of the wines they tasted, only one was BD/organic, as I recall.

  10. Mark Hubbard says:

    Still, you have to feel there’s a lot of love in every biodynamic bottle, Huon 😉 Thankfully wine is not ‘just’ about science, but romance and a little bit of eccentric battiness thrown in.

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