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Wine

Biodynamic – going beyond organic

If someone told you that filling a cow’s horn with dung and planting it at a certain phase of the moon would help your vines to grow, you’d probably think they were bonkers. Far out it may indeed sound, but this is one of the central steps in biodynamics, a form of organic viticulture that’s being embraced by an increasing number of Australian wineries. While it might sound like a theory cooked up by modern hippies, biodynamics actually has its origins in Europe over 90 years ago.

Let’s set the scene.

It’s 1924 in Silesia, Germany (now part of Poland) and a group of farmers has gathered to hear a series of lectures by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The farmers are looking for an alternative to chemical fertilisers, which they believe have caused extensive damage to their soil and brought poor health to their livestock and crops.

Steiner proves sympathetic as he reveals a system of agriculture that shuns chemicals and treats the farm as an individual, self-contained entity. Rather than focus on the health of individual plants, Steiner’s system teaches that good health requires that the entire eco-system in which the plant exists be thriving. This includes the other plants, the soil, the animals and even the humans who are working the land.

The system he describes he calls biodynamics. By taking away all artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, Steiner presented one of the earliest models of organic farming. However, it’s the next steps that really separate biodynamics from organics (and it’s at this point that I imagine some of the listening farmers’ eyebrows began to rise).

Steiner claims that for this environment to truly blossom, a series of field and compost preparations needs to be added. These preparations, nine in total, are man-made solutions, derived from nature, that are labelled 500 through to 508. To the conventional farmer, these preparations may appear somewhat far-fetched. For example, ‘500’ is made by filling cow horns with cow manure, which are then buried over winter to be recovered in spring. A teaspoon of the manure is then mixed with up to 60 litres of water, which is stirred for an hour, whirled in different directions every second minute. ‘501’ also requires a cow horn, this time filled with crushed quartz. It is buried over summer and dug up late in autumn, then mixed the same way as 500.

Stretching his credibility even further in the eyes of the pragmatic farmer, Steiner brings a spirituality to his teachings by suggesting the growth cycles of the farm are influenced by astrological forces.

Decisions such as when to spray the preparations, when to weed and when to pick should all be made according to a calendar that details the phases of the moon and stars.

“Hocus-pocus!” you may very well cry.

Not so, according to the ever-increasing number of wine producers in Australia and internationally who have embraced biodynamics. Choosing an environmentally sustainable approach to viticulture is obviously to be applauded in these times of climate crisis. However, talk to biodynamic producers and you’ll find that superior wine quality is the number one motivation for being biodynamic.

At South Australia’s Cape Jaffa, the Hooper family has been using biodynamic principles for many years and their conviction in its effectiveness is complete. “We believe that cultivating the vines in this way is what allows them to achieve balance within their environment. Achieve balance, and the vines are able to fully express themselves – leading to a wine that bares a true and remarkable resemblance to its environment,” says Derek Hooper.

The Buttery family of Gemtree in McLaren Vale are also converts. Since their biodynamic beginnings in 2007 they say they can now “see a noticeable difference in the health of our vineyard and quality of our fruit.”

A fellow McLaren Vale winemaker, David Paxton of Paxton wines says, “Biodynamics is the most advanced form of organic farming. It uses natural preparations and composts to bring the soil and the vine into balance, resulting in exceptionally pure and expressive fruit.”

The proof is in the tasting, however, so next time you’re looking for a new wine to try, why not put biodynamics to the test and see if you can taste the natural difference?

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How to host your own wine tasting party!
Gather your friends and put your collective wine knowledge to the test with a wine tasting party! It’s all about bringing that cellar door tasting experience to your home and enjoying good wines and good times. There are no rules to the type of tasting you host –  from a sit-down dinner to an impromptu barbeque, or a casual lunch. Or, you can step it up a notch and host a themed party using some of our ideas (see further below), or make up your own – just make sure it’s lots of fun! WHAT YOU’LL NEED So, what do you need to set up your wine tasting? Besides, the wines of course, you’ll also need: Wine glasses – white or red wine glasses depending on the wine being tasted Covers –  to disguise the wine bottles Water – supply still or sparkling water to cleanse the palate between wines Spittoons –  in case some guests don’t want to drink the wine once tasted Snacks – to cleanse the palate. Plain water crackers, breads, olives and cheeses are perfect Pens and note pads – to complete your tasting notes Friends – from two to ten friends, the options are endless HOW TO PLAY
Disguise the Wines Put the wines in bottle covers and mix them around so no one knows which is which and number the bottles. We suggest tasting up to four wines each session. Once you’ve assembled the glasses, bottles and the extra bit and pieces, there’s really one thing left to do – enjoy the tasting Taste Now for the best bit. Pour a wine into the corresponding numbered glass for each player. Announce the theme and let the tasting begin. Make Notes Thinking about the colour, aromas and taste, each player should jot down their thoughts on their tasting sheet. Mingle Reveal and discuss each wine, reading out your tasting notes, remembering there is no absolute right or wrong. Re-set and start again. Be the host with the most
Have fun choosing the wines for your party. Simply select from your latest Wine Selectors collection or ask your friends to bring a bottle. Tasting theme ideas There are so many themes you can chose for your wine tasting party. Here are a few different ideas to get you started. Regional rumble – taste the unique characteristics of varieties grown in various regions. Favourites – ask your guests to bring their favourite varietal making sure they’re all different. Price wars – choose the same variety and vintage from different price points and see if the price reflects the quality. Vertical tasting – choose one wine and taste several different vintages. It’s really interesting to experience the similarities and the differences from year to year. Food theme – Thai with Riesling or Gewürztraminer, tapas with Tempranillo or Sangiovese, seafood with Semillon or Sauv Blanc, the combinations are endless. New wave wines – with so many fantastic emerging alternative varietals now available, step out of the comfort zone and introduce your guests to some deliciously new drops. Practice makes perfect With each party and tasting session you’ll detect deeper, more involved aromas and flavours – after all, practice makes perfect. Get Your Own Wine Tasting Party Kit!
To help expand your love of wine and make tasting fun and easy, we’ve created a great kit, which you can use next time you’re hosting a tasting or even at an impromptu get-together.  
Wine
Whites of delight
Words by Mark Hughes on 6 Aug 2015
Ahhh summer. There aren’t many things better than kicking back on a warm sunny afternoon and enjoying a chilled glass of white wine. More often than not that wine will be a Classic Dry White. For those of you who don’t know, this is actually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (SBS or more commonly, SSB). Did that surprise you? After all, it is the most popular white blend in the country and it has been for ages. Yep. Years, and I am talking decades, before Sauv Blanc cast its spell on us, we were downing this crisp, refreshing white by the bucket load. We still do and probably will long into the future. What really got me thinking is the reason why it is so popular. I mean, we produce world class Semillon in Australia, but (shamefully) we hardly drink it. We also deliver pretty good Sauv Blanc, but for some reason most of us prefer to buy it from across the ditch. Blend these two varieties together, however, and its like Harry Potter has grown up to become a winemaker and put a spell on all the bottles of SSB to make them insanely appealing to the drinking public. Bubble bubble, little toil, no trouble Technically speaking, I can understand why you would blend these two varieties. You take the lazy grassy aromas and tropical flavour of Sauvignon Blanc and smarten it up with the structure and mouthfeel of Semillon. It’s like an overweight teenager with nice skin making use of a season pass to the gym. Conversely, and this is perhaps a reason given by those who can’t take to the super zingy freshness of young Semillon, it softens the acidic nature of Sem and endows it with a subtle fruit-punch appeal. Value-wise, it is also very appealing. Most SSBs on the market are somewhere between $15 and $25. And while it is not the first choice match for most dishes, it goes pretty well with a range foods, especially summery fare such as seafood, salads and mezze plates. Add all that up, and SSBs seem like a pretty handsome proposition. Must be those hours in the gym! A bit of history While Australia has taken SSBs to its vinous heart since the 1980s, this classic white blend has actually been produced for donkeys in the south-west of France, namely Bordeaux and Bergerac. More often than not it is as the crisp, dry white that we are familiar with, but the French also blend Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc to make the sweet dessert wine, Sauternes. Western Australia’s Margaret River virtually owns the Classic Dry White category in this country, which again, is a bit strange seeing the region isn’t really noted for producing either Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc in their own right. But, as you probably know by now, when talking about wine in this country, two plus two doesn’t always equal four. So what gives here? Well, two things (or more if you adhere to my mathematics from above). The Margaret River region was the first to really latch onto the SSB blend. It became popular at cellar door and other producers in the region saw it as their ‘bread and butter’ wine, and jumped on board. When the region started selling their wine to the rest of the country, Margs had already established a reputation for producing refreshing and attractively priced Classic Dry White. They have been running with it ever since. But as we found out in this tasting, there are other regions starting to cotton on. The magic of Margaret The second reason is best answered by Kim Horton, senior winemaker at Willow Bridge Estate in Margaret River. “You would think that by looking at the Semillons from the eastern seaboard, that as a variety it would be the least likely to sit with Sauvignon Blanc in a blend,” levels Kim. “However the weather conditions in Western Australia’s south allow clean and longer ripening of Semillon. The Semillon aromatics are very herbaceous and grassy, but also, depending on the climate, quite lemon dominant or veering towards watermelon and guava. In short, what one variety lacks, the other can assist.” The Tasting and the results For this State of Play tasting we looked at SSBs from across the country. Naturally, the majority of the wines entered were from the Margaret River region, and they dominated the Top 30, with 19 wines. Five of the other top scorers were from other Western Australian regions, namely Great Southern and Frankland River. Of these WA wines, most have Sauvignon Blanc as the dominant partner in the blend. An interesting observation from this tasting was the subtle use of oak which brings a bit of structure to the mid-palate, particularly of the Sauv Blanc dominant wines. This added complexity broadens SSB’s food matching abilities and shows the blend has an exciting future away from its ‘simplistic’ label. The most surprising result was that two of the three top scoring wines were not from WA! The Drayton’s 2013 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc was top of the pops, wowing the judges with its savoury nose and fantastic mouthfeel. While the Grosset 2015 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc earned its spot on the podium with its thrillingly elegant purity and ripe fruit characters. The most notable feature of these wines, as with most of the other standouts from the eastern seaboard, was the fact that the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc were sourced from different regions. For instance, for the Grosset, the Sem was Clare Valley , the Sauv Blanc from the Adelaide Hills . “For me, the perfect SSB blend must be from two regions,” says Clare Valley winemaker Jeffrey Grosset. “Semillon from a mild climate with plenty of sunshine to achieve a generous citrus and structured palate, and Sauvignon Blanc from a cooler climate, such as the Adelaide Hills, where it can achieve tropical gooseberry-like flavours. To produce a blend from one region alone is unlikely to achieve the depth of flavour and balance.” The sentiment is shared by Edgar Vales, winemaker at Drayton’s, who sees a real future for SSB in the Hunter. “There is a synergy that exists between the two varieties,” says Edgar. “Particularly with Hunter Sem blended with Sauv Blanc from cooler regions such as Orange , Adelaide Hills or Tasmania .” While you can expect to see the emergence of new names in the SSB category, the Margaret River region will continue to shine. And that’s music, a classic (dry white) hit, to the ears of winemakers like Kim, and the drinking public. “The fact most parts of Australia enjoy six months of sunshine, a high percentage live near the coast and with our general love of fresh seafood, the Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend is a perfect accompaniment to our everyday life.”   The Top 30 Classic Dry Whites (November 2015) Drayton’s Family Wines Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Hunter Valley, $20) Howard Park ‘Miamup’ Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013   (Margaret River, $28) Grosset Wines Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Clare Valley/Adelaide Hills, $35)   Happs Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 (Margaret River, $24) Redgate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 (Margaret River, $22.50) Vasse Felix Classic Dry White Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Margaret River,   $19) Willow Bridge Estate Dragonfly Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 (Geographe, $20) Rob Dolan Trye Colours Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013 (Yarra Valley, $24) Fermoy Estate Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Margaret River, $22) Miles From Nowhere Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2015 (Margaret River $15) Millbrook Winery Barking Owl Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Margaret River,   $17.95) Moss Brothers Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Margaret River $25) Forester Estate Block Splitter Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Margaret River, $20). 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Wine
Wine well stored is wine well enjoyed
Words by Vintec on 4 Nov 2017
Wine well stored is wine well enjoyed. Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of wine storage thanks to our friends at Vintec . Did you know the wrong storage environment can negatively affect your wine after only a few weeks? Check out this list of all the places you might store your wine at home, and which ones you should absolutely avoid. The Ugly Surprisingly, some of the worst places that you can store your wine are in your kitchen. This includes near your oven, or next to your fridge – which dispels a considerable amount of heat during its compressor cycles. Any wine professional will tell you that fluctuating temperature is the worst for your wine. Similarly, storing wine in a consistently hot environment, will literally cook your wine, resulting in ‘spoiled fruit’ flavours. The Bad Unfortunately this category covers a lot of the places we often think are okay for wine storage, such as under the staircase, in a basement, or in Styrofoam boxes. Wine’s ideal cellaring temperature is between 12ºC and 14ºC. Storing wine under 10° will stunt maturation, while above 16° will prematurely age the wine. On top of this, low humidity environments dry out corks, which allows air into the bottle – this is really bad. The Good
So, where should you store your wine?  The best place is somewhere that has been specifically designed to accommodate the needs of your wines, like a cool natural underground cellar or a climate-controlled wine cabinet. A well-made wine cabinet replicates the conditions found in the best natural underground wine cellars by controlling humidity, temperature and UV light. While you may assume a wine cooler is a good alternative, unfortunately these generate intense blasts of cold air, creating large temperature fluctuations, and they remove ambient humidity, causing your corks to dry out. The most convenient option for wine lovers is a product specifically designed for your wines. Wine storage experts Vintec have developed a comprehensive range to suit all needs and requirements, offering wine cabinets with 20-bottle capacities right up to walk-in cellars for over 4000 bottles.  Their range includes something for all budgets and spaces, and is well worth the investment to protect your favourite drops. For more details on Vintec’s extensive wine storage range visit vintec.com.au
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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