Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mother Nature's Wine

The newest buzzword in the world of wine is biodynamic--a concept that takes the principals of organic wines and ups the ante. As if we needed another reason to tip back the good stuff, biodynamic wines not only do a thorough job of protecting the earth, they taste good too. (Otherwise, what's the point?)

In a recently published article in the Ecologist (April 2009), Monty Waldin, a writer and biodynamic wine grower, states biodynamic farming is one of the only sustainable methods to be proactive than reactive. Adding that growers in California might be blanketing their buildings in solar panels, but they only started doing so once government subsidies were thrown in the mix.

Biodynamic farming is done to the beat of the moon's cycles. (You read that right.) It is based in a concept of mysticm. The cow manure used to fertilize the soil is stuffed into horns and buried into the ground and oak bark fermented in the skull of a domestic animal is used in the compost along with herbs and flowers like stinging nettle, yarrow flowers and chamomile. The basic principle is to create ecological self-sufficieny while respecting the ethics and spirituality of Mother Nature.

It might all sound a bit hokey, but consider that many wine growers have claimed their near-depleted vineyards have been brought back to abundance using biodynamic principles. A taste test conducted by Fortune Magazine with some of the world's top sommeliers yielded the result that nine of ten biodynamic wines sampled were considered superior when compared to their conventional counterparts.

Of course there are some more practically based things going on as well. Fertilizer is made from cow dung and the recycled waste leftover from winemaking (grape stems, skins, pips etc). Biodynamic cows don't get BSE--they eat grass in the fields and not chewed up cow parts from who knows where. Rainwater is collected and reused (it's been said it takes seven litres of water to make just one litre of wine). And it probably goes without saying that chemicals are eschwed in every respect.

Waldin also cites the advantage of the biodynamic winery is an aesthetic one. The sight of horses plowing the fields call to mind a history that has long been forgotten (and of course, no fuel required). It's an idyllic mix that, to our ears, sounds like a new frontier. The world's favourite nectar just got even better.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

People have been asking me what Slow Food is. It's a hard question to answer, especially as the concept is new to me, but the more I read about it and think about it, the more I know that this is something I am passionate and excited about. 
The Slow Food International website ( details much more about the philosophy behind the movement, but I guess I should become well-versed at explaining it to people, so here goes nothing.
Slow Food is a worldwide organization that supports many different farmers and food producers. It was started in order to counteract the fast food phenomenon that swept the world and still has a hold in North America and across the globe. Slow Food Conviviums (chapters) strive to educate the public about where the food they eat comes from, how it was grown or raised, how it got from the earth to the plate, and what kind of footprint it left during that journey. 
Surely we have all eaten foods that we may not be proud of, foods that have come from massive factories which are focused on increasing profits and ignoring any kind of environmental, political or health issues surrounding their production. Well, it is time to take a step back and look at what we are supporting. There are many food producers, local and global, that take steps to ensure they are producing food in a sustainable, environmentally conscious and fair way. We need to educate ourselves and others about the importance of being smart consumers or even looking at ourselves as co-producers rather than consumers. 
Above all, we need to remember how to slow down and enjoy the pleasures of food. In every culture and every country across the world, people come together around the table. We need to stop relying on fast, ready-made, prepared foods and start cooking.
Nisha and I are really excited about all the directions Slow Food Winnipeg may take us. We are planning some really exciting events for this summer and hope to spark a lot of interest in the Slow Food Philosophy and lifestyle. Visits to local food producers, biodynamic wine tasting events, gardening and composting seminars and cooking classes and chef demonstrations are among some ideas we are working on.
Slowing down really does seem to be the best way to go!