Just when we understand the meaning of “sustainable,” “organic” and other grape-growing terms, the world of wine is adding another. It is “biodynamics,” a method of grape growing based on principles the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner set in the 1920s. It is, in a way, looking back for its future.
Like organic methods, biodynamics bans the use of pesticides and chemicals. Unlike organic, biodynamics adds a bit of spirituality. For a wine to be biodynamic, vintners must perform all vineyard and cellar work according to phases of the moon, stars and sun. They must use natural fertilizer in the form of dried cow dung stuffed into cow horns and buried in the vineyard at the time of the equinox. They must follow with eight other biodynamic vineyard preparations including ground quartz stuffed in cow horns and buried in the vineyards in the summer; and yarrow flowers buried in a stag’s bladder, hung in the sun and buried over winter, after which the contents are put into compost.
The purpose, proponents of biodynamics say, is to make wines that are clean and pure and express their soil, their vintage and nature.
Do they? Is a biodynamically produced wine automatically a better wine? Not necessarily and not always, judging from some recent tastings. I tasted biodynamic wines at an Italian winery that were indeed clean, but they were also neutral to the point of blandness. On the other hand, I tasted Coyam, a biodynamic red wine made by Emiliana in Chile, a blend of Bordeaux- and Côtes du Rhône-style grapes. It is ink-dark, intensely flavored with a rich aroma dominated by dark fruits and vanilla, exquisitely balanced, full-bodied, complex and velvety. Whether due to its biodynamic birth or simply great winemaking, it is a lovely, satisfying wine.
In Austria, I tasted the biodynamic wines of Meinklang Winery and they, too, are winners. Among them, the winery’s Blaufrankisch is deep-shaded, rich with a heady aroma of cherries and wild herbs. Add to these other notable wine properties that have gone biodynamic, such as Maison Joseph Drouhin, Domaine Leroy and Domaine Leflaive in Burgundy; Zind-Humbrecht of Alsace; Raymond and Benzinger of California; and a current estimate of well over 500 other biodynamic wineries. Fad, or the future?
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group announced plans to take over an existing hotel in Switzerland. The property is undergoing extensive renovations in preparation to open at the end of next year as Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern. The property was previously Hotel Palace Luzern, on the shores of Lake Lucerne and in the heart of the city; it originally opened in 1906.
United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.
As part of Germany’s climate package, a plan to reduce emissions, the country will raise departure taxes at German airports. Taxes will go up as much as 60 percent, and are expected to raise up to €740 million. The funds will then be used to lower VAT on rail fares from 19 percent to 7 percent.
Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of its newest ship, Norwegian Encore, ahead of its naming ceremony Nov. 21. The 1,100-foot-long ship boasts a guest capacity of nearly 4,000. Since Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of the shi, Oct. 30, Norwegian Encore sailed from Germany to England before making its way to New York City, then Miami, where the christening ceremony takes place next week.
Swiss-Belhotel International boasts an impressive portfolio throughout 22 countries, including 10 ASEAN member countries. This growth is continuing with the group’s new plans to debut four properties in Thailand.
One of Palm Desert, California’s, signature hotel properties recently finalized its biggest-ever redesign. The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa is home to 884 guestrooms and nearly 250,000 square feet of event space. Every facet of the property has been redesigned ahead of the property’s grand re-opening in January.