After interviewing Ezra Cipes from Summerhill Pyramid Winery about the inaugural release of their Biodynamic 2020 Muscat and Chardonnay wines, I was very excited to receive these wines to taste and review for you. The grapes come from their estate vineyard and their biodynamic wines are also aged in the pyramid at the winery. I can tell you that the bottles of wines produced by biodynamic viticulture from around the world, I have noted tend to have more “energy” or vibrancy than wines in the same area produced with conventionally farmed grapes.
How does this compare to organic viticulture and winemaking? Biodynamic viticulture and winemaking go beyond what is done for organic certification.
According to the Biodynamics Association, biodynamics is “…a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose philosophy is called “anthroposophy.” Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.
Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health…” (https://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html)
DEMETER is the certifying body for biodynamic agriculture. There are many organic certifications from around the world. One certification, used by the USDA, is called the National Organic Program (NOP), which I will use to show a few differences:
- NOP permits imported organic fertilizers and pesticides while Biodynamics reduces imported materials by using materials within the agricultural system. Fertility is addressed by integrating livestock, use of green manure (cover crops that are grown between rows of vines in our case to add nutrients to the soil), and application of compost strays. Pests and diseases are handled by creating a biologically diverse habitat, giving a predator/prey environment, developing humus to improve resistance to insects and diseases. Water is address by increased humus level to allow a larger water holding capacity of the soil, and preserving riparian areas.
- NOP allows for organic feed to be imported from around the world while Biodynamics requires 50% of livestock feed to be grown on the farm.
- NOP allows for a portion of a crop area to be certified organic while Biodynamics requires the whole farm area to be certified.
More info about Biodynamics from https://www.demeter-usa.org. While Biodynamics goes beyond the requirements of organic certifications, I still look favourably upon purchasing organically produced wines.
Now, let’s get on to my review of these two wines.
My Wine Tasting Notes
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Estate Grown Biodynamic Muscat 2020 (BC $28)
The fruit was hand-harvested, destemmed, and soaked on the skins for 2 hours before pressing. Based on Biodynamic principles, this wine was naturally fermented with ambient farm yeasts in temperature-controlled stainless steel. The fermentation stopped naturally on its own.
Appearance: A bright, medium intensity lemon colour.
Nose: Medium-plus intensity with aromas of orange, lychee, spearmint (Summerhill noted ginger), candied fruit, sweet spices, and a touch of lime. After decanting the aromas became lighter, but the aromas persisted.
Palate: A little more than off-dry, this wine is medium-bodied, soft, smooth and round with lower acidity. There is a slight acidic prickle that fades quickly. Medium-plus intensity lychee, sweet spices and orange flavours, with touches of floral and minerality. Slightly lighter bodied after decanting. The wine remains soft, and flavours are primarily stone fruits, floral, and lime.
Finish: Medium length with a soft, light finish, with orange, and lychee flavours, and minerality.
A delightful, lower alcohol wine, that you can enjoy as soon as you open it with friends and family.
Rating: – A wine with an overall light touch. Orange, lychee, lime, and sweet spices aromas. Medium body, a little more than off-dry. Smooth with lychee and orange flavours, and touches of floral and minerality. A soft, light finish.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Estate Grown Biodynamic Chardonnay 2020 (BC $40)
This wine was naturally fermented with ambient farm yeasts, with 25% in new 500 litre oak barrels, and 75% in stainless steel tanks.
Appearance: Bright, medium-plus intensity pear skin plus lemon colour.
Nose: A medium intensity nose with deep aromas. Ripe apples, pears, apricot, honey, and touches of sweet spices and oak. You get lighter aromas, mainly peach and toast, and little of the other aromas if you decant.
Palate: Dry, medium-plus body, with a thicker, round mouthfeel. Medium-plus acidity that leaves a light prickle in your mouth. Pronounced flavours of ripe pears mainly, with lesser amounts of apples, apple skin and pear skin. Light flavours of sweet spices and pepperiness. Touches of lime and blossom, and honey and oak from mid-palate to finish. With decanting the range of flavours is lessened; mainly apricot and peach, but you do get some minerality and pleasant acidity.
Finish: Medium-plus length finishing with citrus and pears. Medium intensity pepperiness and some acidic prickle. With decanting you mainly get pear skin flavour on the finish.
Overall an elegant wine, but you should drink the wine as soon as you open it to experience the wide range of aromas and flavours.
Rating: – A wine with deep aromas of apricots, pears, apples, and honey. Full-bodied, round with a thicker mouthfeel. Acidity provides a backbone to the wine. Mostly ripe pears with lesser apples, apricots, and blossom on the palate. Elegant.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
These wines are also suitable for vegans. You can purchase these wines through the Summerhill website. These wines are newly released so not yet distributed in wine shops. As the wines get out to shops, I will update my post with those locations.
Depending on Dr. Henry’s recommendations for travel this summer, if it is permitted, go visit Summerhill in Kelowna. They have a beautiful winery overlooking the lake, a wonderful restaurant and a tasting room.