If there's a single trend in how to grow wine grapes, it's biodynamics—admittedly an odd development for an approach based on a series of lectures given in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
What is biodynamics?
At its most basic, the biodynamic approach to grape-growing sees the vineyard as an ecological whole: not just rows of grapevines, but the soil beneath them—an organism in its own right—and the other flora and fauna in the area, growing together interdependently.
Where biodynamics differs from other forms of organic or sustainable agriculture is in its idea that farming can be attuned to the spiritual forces of the cosmos. This might mean linking sowing and harvesting to the phases of the moon or the positions of the planets; it also might mean burying cow manure in a cow's horn over the winter, unearthing it in the spring, diluting a minute amount of the substance in 34 liters of water, "dynamizing" it by stirring it by hand in alternating directions for an hour or so and then spraying the mixture over one's vineyard.
Does it work?
Well, adherents of biodynamics think so, though the success of the practice is impossible to quantify: Scientific measurement of the spiritual is a contradiction in terms. The most effective argument for biodynamics is that wines produced employing it are more evocative of the place they're grown—and, consequently, better. Consider that converts to biodynamics include some of the most significant high-end wine producers today, such as Lalou Bize-Leroy of Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus in Spain, and Olivier Humbrecht of Alsace's Zind-Humbrecht. Also, a growing number of large-scale producers—Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy, DeLoach Vineyards in Sonoma County—are experimenting with biodynamics. Finally, regardless of the more outré aspects of the biodynamic approach, the intense attention it forces growers to pay in the vineyard can't be anything but good.