A BRIEF history of biodynamics

Agrochemicals emerged in the 19th century and began to gain acceptance.

During the first half of the twentieth century, their use became widespread when the few grape growers to have overcome phylloxera, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II massively turned to agrochemicals to lessen their workload. In the process, vines became less and less able to survive without the chemicals.

By the 1960s, the poor state of soils gave impetus to the theory of biodynamics created in 1924 by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. He proposed that chemicals be replaced by one of nine herb and mineral-based preparations and that all tasks be done at their most effective time, based on lunar, solar, planetary rhythms.

The history of “green” farming is roughly divided into three waves.

Rudolf Steiner, occultist philosopher and founder of “anthroposophic agriculture”, later known as “biodynamics”.

1960s–early 1980s

Young idealists embrace organic and biodynamic principles.

Usually small, artisanal operations, they found the first organic-certified wineries.

Late 1980s–2000s

Two trends take hold.

Led by marquee estates in Burgundy, Alsace and the Loire, France becomes the epicenter of biodynamic winemaking.

Blending eco-idealism and business savvy, wineries around the world adopt organic farming methods. Selling good organic wines becomes a business model.

2010 to today

Again, two major trends.

Earth-friendly practices in some form or another start to become an industry norm – from artisanal, tiny production estates to huge operations managed by global companies.

The “less is more” movement in winemaking goes even more minimalist as categories such as “natural wines,” “vegan wines,” and “zero-zero” wines are introduced in the marketplace.

The birth of biodynamics

Rudolf Steiner presents the theory of biodynamics in a series of lectures.


Lord Northbourne, an agricultural science teacher at Oxford University, coins the term “organic farming.”


In the U.S., J.I. Rodale popularizes the term “organic” in his publication “The Organic Farmer.”


François Bouchet, an early adopter of biodynamic techniques and certainly the first in France, employs biodynamic practices on his 15-acre/6-ha Domaine de Château Gaillard in Touraine.


Négociant Jules Chauvet in Beaujolais fleshes out the concept of “natural wines.”


France’s biodynamic movement gains steam as leading players convert to the practice including Domaine Leflaive(Burgundy), Domaine Leroy (Burgundy), Chapoutier (Rhône), Huet (Loire), and Kreydenweiss (Alsace).

LATE 1980s

The United Nations defines sustainable development and couches the definition in terms of environmental protection.


Agronomist Claude Bourguignon declares the soils in Burgundy have less life in them than those in the Sahara!


The USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) defines the standard for organic food and drink through its National Organic Program (NOP)


The United Nations expands its definition of sustainable development to include economic and social impact.