True or false? Biodynamic wine is superior in taste and quality

True or false? Biodynamic wine is superior in taste and quality

Cups of wine.

On the shelves, so-called “biodynamic” wines are popular. In Quebec as elsewhere, their popularity is growing, as shown by the search engine of the SAQ website: the expression “ biodynamic wine ” generates 848 results at the end of 2022. The Rumour Detector sought to understand.

For their followers, biodynamic wines are simply of better quality, and therefore better in taste, than their conventional equivalents. But what does science say? Are biodynamic wines really better?

What is biodynamic?

“More organic than organic! “, claim the producers. “ Organic farming, sprinkled with homeopathy, astrology and a bit of magic ”, retort the skeptics. It is true that biodynamic agriculture has something to raise eyebrows, even the least critical minds.

It consists in particular of not applying any synthetic product to the fields, which makes it similar to organic. But to this is added a list of things to do or not to do, and the times of the year, or of the day, or of the lunar month, when they must be done or not done. To the point where the task of winegrowers is significantly increased.

For example, once or twice during the growing season, the plants should be sprayed, very early in the morning, with “energized” water (a reference to homeopathy), i.e. containing a few grams of silica per hundred liters. Or, mix a very small quantity of cow dung that has remained in a cow's horn, underground, for a whole winter with fertilizer, to “ charge ” it with energy from elsewhere (a reference to Magic). Some actions can only be performed when the Moon is ascending, others when it is descending, or even when it passes in front of certain zodiacal constellations (a reference to astrology). To this is added the observance of certain feasts of the Christian calendar.

The whole thing was proposed almost 100 years ago by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian intellectual with no training in agronomy or expertise in agriculture. In fact, Steiner is the basis of Anthroposophy, a movement described as sectarian by many observers, as well as by people who have come out of it, and which adds a good layer of esotericism and magic on the world. Indeed, according to anthroposophists, there is a whole immaterial world that modern science cannot detect or measure. Some “clairvoyants” manage to connect directly to it. But people without this predisposition could still draw some bits of energy from these mystical dimensions by reciting several mantras and performing many and varied rituals.

 And all spheres of humanity can be tinged with anthroposophism. There is thus an anthroposophical pedagogy (the Steiner-Waldorf schools), anthroposophical medicine (in particular opposed to vaccines), anthroposophical cosmetics (Weleda), anthroposophical banks (La Nef in France, GLS in Germany, Triodos in the Netherlands )… and anthroposophical agriculture, including viticulture. All variations of an occultist movement that believes in the existence of worlds superior to ours and where scientific data is no match for intuitions… The “horn dung” for example is supposed to have accumulated a certain celestial energy and be able to retransmit it to the plants.

In short: the foundations of biodynamic viticulture are based only on ideas, supposedly mystical, or even outright invented. But could biodynamic viticulture still be effective? Could Rudolf Steiner have been right?


Two studies on biodynamic wines, published in August 2016 and  May 2021, would have confirmed their superiority over conventional wines, respectively for Californian and French wines.

By exploring these studies, we realize that they are not the result of rigorous double-blind tasting protocols. Rather, it is an analysis of scores given by leading expert sommeliers in specialized publications: Wine Advocate (Robert Parker), Wine Enthusiast  and Wine Spectator for the California Wine Study, and Gault & MillauGilbert & Gaillard and Bettane & Dessave for France. In fact, the two studies were not published in oenology journals, but in specialized economics publications (Journal of Wine Economics and Ecological Economics).

For Californian wines, the scores, out of 100, increase on average by 4.1 points when the wine is certified (organic or biodynamic), while for French wines the increase is 6.2 points for organic wines. and 11.8 points for biodynamic wines. The tastings of the masters were done blind, but knowing that a certified wine was hiding among the traditional wines. For these experts, it was easy to detect, by its differences in taste, the wine concerned and, in the event of favorable prejudice, to grant it a higher score.

But there are real comparative studies that include biochemical analyzes (to compare the molecules actually present in the liquid) as well as blind tastings carried out according to a rigorous protocol by several expert sommeliers (to compare the quality and therefore the taste ). For example, an Italian team compared in 2020 traditional Sangiovese to Sangiovese from biodynamic viticulture. Biochemical analyzes confirmed the difference in concentration for several aromatic compounds, mainly due to natural yeasts (because the fermentation of wine can also be biodynamic, which means, in this case, no yeasts added by human hand ).

So biodynamic wines are different from others. But are they any better? Not according to the 15 expert sommeliers who carried out the taste analysis. If they did detect differences in taste, they judged the two wines to be of equal quality.

Finally, all the rigorous studies come to the conclusion that none of the three types of viticulture (traditional, organic or biodynamic) is superior to the others in terms of taste and wine quality. However, in terms of environmental benefits (microbial soil biodiversity, crop biodiversity, etc.), the performance of biodynamics is the same as that of organic, and superior to that of conventional viticulture. In other words, under the magnifying glass of science, the biological and the biodynamic are indistinguishable. Biodynamic is greener than traditional, but not more so than organic.

What sets it apart, then? The workload to produce it is higher than for the conventional one. The label requires significant maintenance of the vines because of the absence of pesticides, in addition to the addition of all the tasks recommended 100 years ago by Rudolf Steiner – but without the effectiveness of any having been demonstrated. An overload of work which explains the higher price of biodynamic bottles.


Biodynamic wines do not taste better than others. They are greener than traditional wines, but without surpassing organic wines.

Elsewhere on our site

5 stubborn myths about homeopathy (2019)

Do you know Rudolf Steiner? (2016)

In the Bowels of Anthroposophy< em>(2015)

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This article is part of the Detector of rumors, click here for the other texts. 

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