Pontet Canet: The Principles of Biodynamism


combining form
1. indicating or involving life or living organisms: biogenesis; biolysis.
2. indicating a human life or career: biography; biopic.
  1. the quality of being characterized by vigorous activity and progress.
  2. the theory that phenomena of matter or mind are due to the action of forces rather than to motion or matter



    “Over there, behind the trees,” the vineyard worker told us.  We were lost in a maze of Pauillac fields.  The worker was pointing straight across the fields and smiling.  We started off through the tilled rows of grapevines to the disturbingly far away line of trees in the distance.  We were going to be late.  

    “These fields aren’t Pontet Canet fields,” said Josh, who had learned to be suspicious of my listening comprehension skills in the French language, especially when it came to directions.  “Just look at the tractor marks.”


    Pontet Canet doesn’t use tractors to till the fields, they use ingeniously designed plows pulled by horses.  Also, they don’t use pumps to macerate the grapes, they rely on gravity.  And, thank heavens, they don’t waste a million powdered egg whites to remove the sediment from the wine.  I’ve unsuccessfully tried to keep my preaching and pontificating to a minimum, but the egg white thing… is the worst.  In my opinion.  

    At Pontet Canet, this radical switchover began as a collaboration between the manager and the owner based on the agricultural teachings of man named Rudolf Steiner.  Steiner was a crazy, genius, Renaissance man who not only founded a new agriculture philosophy known as biodynamic agriculture, he also founded a new educational philosophy that is still practiced in Steiner schools and Waldorf schools.  In professional educational opinion, the Steiner methods are much more congruent with actual cognitive theory and brain research than traditional education.  Vygotsky’s concepts of development and processes of learning, Bruner’s work on creating meaning with language- all of it supports Steiner’s pedagogy.  And Steiner was completely unaware of the research, as far as I know.  

    Rudolf Steiner. This guy is serious.

    Steiner was a prolific author, and when browsing through his penned works, you can immediately notice that he was a strange hybrid of a man- half data-driven scientist, and half crackpot mystic.  The same man who wrote The Education of a Child and Early Lectures on Education also wrote Cosmic Memory:  The Story of Atlantis, Lemuria, and the Division of the Sexes.  Steiner’s thoughts on agriculture seem to represent both halves of Steiner’s mind.  In biodynamic agriculture, there are no harsh chemicals used, and the soil is organically enriched to keep it productive without exhausting the minerals.  Also, the moon cycles and astrological year marks are observed and acted upon in the fields. My brother told me that when an animal dies who worked the land, the skull has to be buried and filled with flowers.  I have no idea if this is true.


    Pontet Canet is certified biodynamic, so they practice the whole shebang.  And it works for them.  Robert Parker and the rest of highfalutin’ prophets of the wine world can’t get enough of Pontet Canet’s wine.  Parker gave Pontet Canet multiple 100 point scores since their switchover to biodynamic practices.  It seems that one day, the manager (who must be a quirky, radical, passionate type) came up to the owner (who must be an open-minded, idiosyncratic sort of rich person), and proposed getting rid of all the machines and switching over to biodynamism.  And the owner agreed.  One day, all the men who rode tractors were told they had to learn to till the fields with horses.  No wonder the man in the fields laughed at us as he gave directions.

    Josh and I kept walking, and distant tree line began to materialize in the haze as it came closer.  “Look at the ground, Annie,” he said.  I looked down at my feet, and there were no more tractor tracks.  Instead, there were parallel lines carved in the earth, divots that could have been made by a rake.  A rake pulled by a horse.