Wine's Witchcraft

The truth about biodynamic winemaking

We're not typically prone to referencing magic when speaking about wine.

After all, incantations and strange rituals involving medieval ingredients don't much intersect with our take on the wine world.

Or so we thought. Thanks to the new book Voodoo Vintners by Katherine Cole, we've discovered a winemaking sect that might as easily be featured in a volume of Harry Potter as in the pages of Wine Spectator.

The narrative covers the ins and outs of biodynamic winemaking, particularly as practiced in Oregon. This explication comes right in time: The term has been bandied about with frequency lately, but without much care for its actual meaning.

But unlike other wine topics, which, when written about, come across as stuffy and pedantic, Cole's demystification of the practice is full of strange and thrilling stories–some almost beyond belief. In the name of great results, for example, winemakers stuff animal organs with herbs and bury them in their fields or hang them from the eaves of their houses.

If you're seeking a simple answer to the question of whether the practice is worth it, you may not find it here. The book approaches biodynamic winemaking evenhandedly, alternately cheerleading and calling out contradictions. At its core, Voodoo Vintners is an entertaining reminder of the passion–however strangely manifested–that goes into each glass we enjoy.