Moon power

Moon above mountains (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

Huon’s article NZ study debunks biodynamic calendar for wine tasting revealed the details of a scientific study that debunked the popularly held belief, in biodynamic circles at least, suggesting that phases of the moon influence our ability to taste wine.

The first I’d heard about any link between phases of the moon and wine was in 1977 when, during a visit to the Bersano winery in the north of Italy, the winemaker explained that he only racked wine on a descending moon. I thought this was wine and witchcraft at work until he explained how the moon influences the tides and that the volume of wine in a tank decreased slightly on a descending moon phase which meant that the lees were more compact allowing more wine to be pumped from the tank without disturbing the sediment. That made sense.

When I came across the NZ study mentioned by Huon I referred it to James Millton, founder/owner/winemaker of Millton Vineyards (tastings) in Hawke’s Bay. I regard James as the founding father of the biodynamic movement in New Zealand and was keen to see how he reacted to the claim that phases of the moon don’t affect our taste for wine.

James replied,

“I swore and declared I would never do emails on my phone in the vineyard and here I am… working on some reconditioned 28-year-old Chardonnay vines to revive them for another 50 years now seated in their shade emailing you.”

He went on to say,

“I hold scientific study somewhat at arms length when it comes to emotional content.”

Before revealing that while he had been following biodynamic practices for 35 years he had not once referred to the calendar before tasting wine.

“I know full moon (increase in water matter, king tides, lunatics and psychiatric issues etc) has an effect on objective taste as do ascending and descending moons. For growing things (apples, grass, grapes, wheat) I have seen very clearly the effect of planting times in relation to fruits leaves flowers and seeds. You only have to slice an apple at new moon and full moon and see the different rate the flesh oxidises and goes brown.”

Really? My interest piqued when I read that last sentence. I had no idea that the moon could influence the rate of oxidation on a freshly cut apple. Fascinating … and easy to test! I checked the calendar. There was a full moon in a few days. On 12th January I cut a Granny Smith apple in half and photographed the exposed flesh at five-minute intervals. I intend to follow the same procedure on 28th, a new moon day and compare the photographs.

Watch this space!

7 thoughts on “Moon power”

  1. Bob Campbell MW
    Bob Campbell MW says:

    The moon apparently affects the volume of water in the ocean creating tidal movement. The same phenomenon occurs in tanks, I’m told, with volume shrinking on a descending moon to give more compact lees. I guess it could proven, or disproved, by marking a sight glass on a tank and checking the change in volume with a standard temperature.

  2. Huon Hooke
    Huon Hooke says:

    I’d love to have James Millton show me how the volume of a tank of wine varies according to the phases of the moon. It sounds like tosh to me.

  3. Bob Campbell MW
    Bob Campbell MW says:

    Thank you for your comments. I’ve done the full moon test. I cut an apple in half at midday and photographed it at five-minute intervals. Bit worried about the apple, which hardly went brown at all. The supermarket didn’t have fresh apples so I’d bought a bag of granny smiths but now wonder if they had been preserved using a sulphur-related gas while in storage. I have a vague memory of such a practice. I have plenty more apples for the 28th experiment but might repeat both full and new moon tests on freshly harvested apples when they are available. Temperature is a consideration as is lighting (I used daylight which may not be the same on both days). More tests required I think.

  4. Hugh Campbell says:

    To make it a proper comparison, you will have to make sure that the temperature of the apple (and of course, the type of apple) is the same between the 12th and the 28th. The reason for this is that the rates of chemical and biochemical reactions, such as the enzymatic oxidation of phenols via polyphenol oxidase that occurs in apple browning, are significantly influenced by temperature. Ideally, you should also do a number of apples at each timepoint, and apply appropriate statistics, to ensure that apple-to-apple variation does not affect the results. I have a research background…..

  5. Adrian Read says:

    Don’t be so empirical… Haven’t you heard that thoughts and feelings can generate alternative truths?

  6. Mark Hubbard says:

    Have circled 28th on my calendar 🙂 Very much a skeptic in such things, but love that you’re putting it to the test. (And apart from science, some of the romance of the wine world – for me – is a touch of eccentricity.) People passionate about what they do often, thankfully, had down the byways.

    1. Mark Hubbard says:

      …. that’s ‘head down the byways’.

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