A closer look at Biodynamic wines - Finca Dinamia and Krontriras Winery

Criticized as pseudoscience by scholars, biodynamic viticulture is gaining force in Argentina, and delivering extraordinary wines, some of them very unique.

The practice of biodynamics in viticulture (grape growing) has become popular in recent years in several growing regions, including France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Canada, Argentina and the United States. A number of very high-end, high-profile commercial growers have converted recently to biodynamic practices. According to an article in Fortune, many of the top estates in France, "including Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, Château de la Roche-aux-Moines in the Loire, Maison Chapoutier in the Rhone Valley, and Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace," follow biodynamic viticulture. There are currently more than 450 biodynamic wine producers worldwide. Currently, for a wine to be labeled “biodynamic” it has to meet the stringent standards laid down by the Demeter Association, which is an internationally recognized certifying body.

Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic viticulture stems from the ideas and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), who gave his now famous Agriculture Course in 1924, predating most of the organic movement. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual/practical philosophy, called anthroposophy, which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.

As a practical method of farming, biodynamics embodies the ideal of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency just as with modern agro-ecology, but includes ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system.

Gorgeous spring day at Rama Caida district, in the southernmost oasis of San Rafael Valley. Pedro and myself drove the 162 miles from Mendoza, to honour Alejandro Bianchi´s invitation to see his 14 hectare (2.5 acres: 1 hectare) estate and taste his wines.

Alejandro descends from a Italian immigrant family that founded a wine empire, the Bianchi family, so he is fourth generation of vintners, but after working several years in the family business, he decided to follow his own way.

This is no ordinary vineyard, as we observed, looked more like a garden, with grass between the vine rows, lavender bushes growing at each row head post, and farm animals: chickens, horses, caws, geese, and goats every were. A sense of peace fills the afternoon.

Finca Dinamia, at San Rafael Valley, Mendoza
Very passionate about biodynamic practices, Alejandro, is now days considered among his peers as the "guru" of this practice in Argentina´s viticulture, while walking among the very healthy rows of his state, teaches us a great lesson on his way of winemaking, and the results show in his wines, as we later discovered.

At the moment he is concentrating only in two labels:

BUENALMA MALBEC: Its red ruby color and intense fruity character are obtained from the vineyard thanks to a balanced management of the ecosystem and ample day/night temperature range. On the mouth is gentle, velvety and with good intensity, and the finish is spicy with medium lenght. French wood ageing brings up complexity, elegance and sweet tannins.
VARIETY: 100% Malbec
APPELATION: Rama Caída, San Rafael, Mendoza.
YIELD: 70 qq. per hectare (104.09 bushels/acre)
CONTROL: Ecologic control over production to obtain higher concentrations and purity in our fruits.
HARVEST: By hand in 20 kg boxes.
FERMENTATION: Stainless steel vats, with indigenous yeast to bring out the characteristics of the terroir, observing organic elaboration standards at all times.
AGEING: Aged in oak during 6 months, then bottle aged.
BOTTLES: Thin-wall eco-bottles, for a better recycling of glass (Ecologic line ECOVA).
CORKS: Flor grade natural corks, produced under sustainable methods, certified by European organisms for to contribute to environmental care.
CAPSULES: Certified for contribute to environmental care, made with ecologic materials and inks.
PACKAGING BOXES: Second use recycled cardboard.
SULFUR DIOXIDE: Under 50 parts per million.

BUENALMA MALBEC ROSÉ: Light but very bright red color. Delicate on the palate, with quince jelly reminiscences, a typical descriptor of south-of-the-state mendocinean malbecs. It has a round, fresh and balanced finish.


Pedro helds an annual "friends from the industry" asado every year in his estate. Winemakers, winery owners, agronomists and somelliers among other friends and characters assist to this soiree were the motto is that everybody has to bring a rare bottle of wine or an unique label or sample that never hit the shelves, this is, not in the market.

Back in 2007, new neighbors settled not far from Pedro´s, a Greek investor, Constantinos Krontiras, and his Argentinian wife, Silvina Macipe purchased an abandoned 80+ year old malbec vineyard, so he decided to invite them to his party. With the winery in the works, greek head winemaker Panos Zoumbulis and project manager Thanassis Vafiadis assisted with their wines, and guess what: huge success!

The only one in the world:
This winery was conceived to produce wine according to biodynamic principles. There were no rules or guidelines for this type of buildings at the Demeter Association, which is an internationally recognized certifying body, so the challenge was to design, build and certify without precedents.

The design minimizes the use of electricity, water, uses gravity flow system. All vinification areas are circular or curvy. The architectural design applied the famous PI π=3,14..., which symbolizes eternity and health. The golden number PHI φ=1,618..., which symbolized the perfect proportion, the divine symmetry in ancient times has also been applied in the winery’s design.
The absence of angles in the outside shape of the areas also symbolizes eternity and life. Right angles (90 degrees) do not exist in nature; they represent the death of two straight lines.
The walls of the wine cellar are built-in with straw. Straw is believed to absorb solar energy during growth, and this solar energy is slowly transmitted to our wines while aging in the cellar.
All building materials used in the winery have been sent for analysis to specialized laboratories in order to avoid risks of contamination, and comply with biodynamic principles.

Today, the team managed by Thanassis Vafiadis, include young promise agronomist Maricruz Antolin, and her cousin Leonardo Sesto at winemaking. They conducted a great visit for us that started at the field and ended at the tasting room, were their pasion and hard work, plus the practice of biodynamics fully showed in their wines!

These are the labels we have tasted, all four exellent wines:

DOÑA SILVINA ROSÉ MALBEC: Clean and brilliant rosé, with light ruby tones. White flowers and cherry notes, expressive and elegant. In the mouth it is round and warm with a fruity finish.

DOÑA SILVINA FRESH MALBEC: This Fresh Malbec is harvested during the last days of February and the beginning of March (earlier than regular malbecs). It is made from 100% Malbec grapes from certified organic vineyards of Maipu. Once in the winery a double selection is performed. First the whole clusters and then after desteming, a berry selection is made. The selected berries are then put into stainless steel-wheeled-vats, which are moved to the top of the tanks to fill them (gravity flow). The berries stay in the tank at low temperatures for 5-6 days, where we make a long cold maceration. The alcoholic fermentation takes place at low temperature also, in order to keep the all the aromas. Once the first fermentation is finished, the juice is separated. Malolactic fermentation then takes place in a natural way with wild bacterias. Then the wine undergoes a cold stabilization. This wine does not have any wood contact during its elaboration.

A deep ruby red wine with bluish tones. Fruity and fresh with the right acidity, opens up in the mouth and leaves the memories of matured berries wrapped in spicy slightly tannic notes that linger in the mouth leaving a very pleasant finish.

DOÑA SILVINA MALBEC: Dark red color wine, with very pleasant aroma of red fruits and oak.
In the mouth, hot, with great balance between alcohol and acidity, soft tannins and an elegant, refreshing finish. 90 points Parker, Tanzer and Wine Enthusiast.

DOÑA SILVINA MALBEC RESERVE: Deep and brilliant red color, with ruby tones. White flowers, violets notes at first, then the vanilla and chocolate notes appear. Elegant and complex. In the mouth it is creamy and full bodied; The oaky notes are present as a back drop. Long and velvety ending. Robert Parker / Wine Advocate: 2006 Doña Silvina Malbec Reserva 93 POINTS - Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar: 2006 Doña Silvina Malbec Reserva 90 POINTS - Jancis Robinson: 2006 Doña Silvina Malbec Reserva 16.5 POINTS. Big wine.


Skeptic Brian Dunning writes "the best way to think of biodynamic agriculture would be as a magic spell cast over an entire farm. Biodynamics sees an entire farm as a single organism, with something that they call a life force."

What do you think about this?

Eduardo Soler



Is this Pinot?

Double jacket stainless steel tanks at Bressia winery
While visiting wineries with my friends Peter LaMotte and his wife Susan from Washington DC last week, and after much tasting of mostly malbecs, an interesting discussion surfaced. We were at Bressia Winery tasting different wines from the stainless steel tanks, when Walter Bressia (owner and winemaker) joined us.

While Peter and Susan were discovering new aromas, flavors and getting inside detailed information about fine wine making, they mention that they were big Pinot Noir fans.

Walter said that pinots from Mendoza are excellent in their own fashion, but they are different from the general style´s mainstream, therefore very hard to sell in a market that already have a strong formed idea of palate parameters for this varietal.

As a challenge, he produces a small quantity (3.000 bottles) of pinot with grapes from Uco Valley (not your ideal terroir for this fragile grape), and vintage after vintage he is trying to get close to the general standard for this varietal.

"Our main distributor in the US wont carry it", Marita Bressia (Walter´s daugther, in charge of marketing and sales) comments, "this wine is not what the average pinot drinker expects".

Peter, Susan and myself founded this wine delicious, exotic and different, and concluded that it is perfectly fine to break the mold once in a while. This is what makes wine such a fantastic experience: diversity!

TASTING NOTES: This 100% Pinot Noir surprises by its color intensity, offering a deep and intense red purple color with black shades (hence its name, black skin) of attractive vivacity. On the nose, descriptors from this varietal perfectly appear: cherry, blackberry, dry tomato, rose petals and violets. Spicy but elegant, in the mouth reminders of cinnamon, rosemary, and mint, combined with coffee, vanilla and smoke reveal in layers, a side effect of the french oak barrels. Despite its structure and body, it has the right texture to pair with lamb, duck, and meats with heavy sauces like bourguignon, as well as salmon dishes, red tuna, lobster and seafood.

2009 Bressia Piel Negra Pinot Noir - From The Vines of Mendoza
From local cult wine maker Walter Bressia, this is a sweet, earthy Pinot with lively acidity and plenty of vanilla and spice on the finish. With fruit from Uco Valley, Piel Negra is an excellent display of what this region can do with this classic varietal. With fresh red fruit, floral aromas, and plenty of earth, Bressia puts out a Pinot that does the grape justice.


Featured wine of the week: 2008 Viña Alicia Brote Negro Malbec

Viña Alicia is a winery that combines the wine grower tradition of its makers and the privileged location to get collection wines.
With more than 25 years of research and study to obtain "excellent wines", in 1998 Alicia Mateu Arizu, wife of the well-known "winemaker" Alberto Arizu (Luigi Bosca's alma mater), started the commercialization of the wines that bear her name, along with the youngest of her three sons, Rodrigo Arizu.
Featured as a "chateau", the winery "Viña Alicia" is surrounded by a 10-hectare vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot grapes and some vines that are hardly found in Argentina, such as Nebbiolo, Grenache Noir, Carignan, Albariño and Savagnin.
Although the winery has a 50.000 liters production capacity, it only commercializes 25.000 bottles per year of Viña Alicia's wines and 80.000 bottles of both Paso de Piedra's wines, which are all exported to fourteen countries."Viña Alicia" currently enjoys the international prestige and recognition of the most outstanding personalities of the wine world.
Brote Negro is a "natural rareness". A Malbec biotype, found in a very ancient vineyard of vines from this variety. A follow up of this "rareness" was made during a long time. Then, those vines with different characteristics were transplanted and they currently give origin to the grape variety which makes up this wine. The most prominent characteristic at first sight is its very dark, almost black buds (vine branches) which last for a certain time. Buds grow straight and bunches are smaller and looser than those of the regular Malbec, the winery explains in its website.
Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. 94 points. by Stephen Tanzer. Bright, fully red-ruby. Knockout perfume of blackberry, violet, minerals, licorice; conveys a tiny-berry quality. Compellingly intense and racy in the mouth, with great energy and definitionto the perfumed flavors of blackberry, boysenberry, minerals and licorice pastille. This suave, classy, essentially gentle wine finishes with mounting tannins, great sweetness and terrific grip These "black shoots" are a mutation of malbec from the same hundred-year-old vineyard used to make Las Compuertas wine. This wine has been consistenly superb in recent years , but 2008 gets my highest rating yet. - 



The Malbec Adventure in Argentina

Malbec is originally from the southwest of France, were known as COT, and it has a tannic, hard style. It was introduced in Argentina in 1852, by Michael Pouget, a French agronomist hired by the Argentinean Government.

In 1863, the Phylloxera plague took a strong hold on France, causing serious problems to the wine industry of that country. Vines were hard hit and began to deteriorate massively on the southern Rhone.

Argentina was one of the few regions, together with Chile and Cyprus that remained exempt from phylloxera. Towards the end of the XIX century, argentine viticulture experienced exponential development in the hands of Italian, French and Spanish immigrants. Malbec in particular adapted quickly to the varied terroirs offered by Argentina´s rugged landscape, and began to produce wines better than in its original land. Argentina becomes the only country to have original malbec vines from true French heritage. A superior malbec then was elaborated in French oak casks, and a star was born: Argentine Malbec, a delicate passion that is characteristically ours.
Presently, Argentina is the main producer of malbec in the world, with 76.603 acres planted across the country, followed by France (13.097 acres), Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and the US., although none of these countries is known for the production of malbec as a single varietal wine. It is used to add roundness to blends.

Argentine vintners have grown malbec everywhere and winemakers are constantly experimenting with new techniques and conditions. Today you can find thriving succulent malbecs along the Andes Range, from Salta to Patagonia, each with its own distinct personality and charm.

Lujan de Cuyo (Mendoza) was the first region in the Americas to gain the regulatory Denomination of Origin (DOC) designation for Malbec.

A Malbec wine from this sub-region has an intense and dark cherry red color, which may look almost black. Lujan has deep stony soils, controlled irrigation, excellent sunlight exposure, and good altitude for vineyards. Malbecs from Lujan de Cuyo are wines with good mineral expression, in which black fruit and sweet spices are predominant.

At Uco Valley, the combination of high elevation, alluvial soils, controlled irrigation sourced from the Andes, a long growing season (over 250 sunny days a year), little rain and vast temperature differences between day and night are all conducive to growing quality grapes. These climate and geography elements come together to provide excellent fruit ripening and concentration, developing extreme colors, aromas, flavors and textures resulting in complex wines that are deep in color, intense in aromas and rich in flavors.
So, malbecs from Tupungato, Tunuyán and San Carlos (Uco Valley), have a more elegant expression and clearly define spicy floral notes in different layers.

In Patagonia, Neuquén and Rio Negro, we find a slightly colder climate, and less extreme altitudes, which help grape berries to retain acidity, and produce wines that have notes of ripe black fruit, combined with marked mineral character.

The Argentine NW, Salta, Jujuy and Catamarca, loves the sun and the heights, like all products from this region, malbecs has an unique expression and personality, aromas that evoke very ripped and black fruit, black pepper, paprika and a very solid structure, with firm sweet tannins.

Malbec wine has great varietal expression in regions were the wide temperature range, and lime, clay or sandy soils are find, such as those along the Andes Mountain Range.

As a result of these geographical and climatic conditions, Argentine malbecs stand out primarily for the quality of their tannins, sweet, silky, mouth-filling, ranging from simple fruity wines, to complex wines with good aging capacity. Argentine malbec has maintained, vintage after vintage, a high standard of quality.