While I have tasted wine that has inspired me to howl in delight (and derision), can the moon and the stars affect (and effect) our enjoyment of wine? Along with some other writers*, I am participating in an experiment with organic producer Avondale where we are tasting their wines over a series of ‘fruit’, ‘leaf’, ‘flower’, and ‘root’ days in accordance with a biodynamic lunar calendar.
Avondale's snail control patrol disembarking from the duckmobile
The assumption is that these lunar calendar days affect the wine and/or our perception of wine. The moon’s, (and other celestial bodies) affect on a number of natural phenomena is well documented including ocean currents and tides, movement of plant sap and generally having a significant (gravitational) affect on many earthly fluids. After all, we are mere ‘bags of hairy soup’ as zoologist and author Desmond Morris once said, or at least I think it was him.
Sociologists will tell you that crime and violence increase at fall moon and more babies are conceived during a waxing moon – and perhaps a little more wine is drunk. The challenge to make the results of such a test compelling is that there are so many vagaries including atmospheric pressure, our bio-rhythms, the wines evolution in bottle (and glass, making it a moving target) and then mood, setting, company, temperature etc, can all have an effect.
Wine is considered a ‘living’ entity in that there are ongoing – mostly organic chemistry – processes that occur during maturation and while in glass when exposed to more oxygen, for example.
Leading UK retailers like Marks & Spencer and Tesco (with their armies of MWs, wine technicians, wine buyers etc) appear to have seen and heard enough evidence to make them consult the lunar calendar when scheduling their tastings.
M&S’s resident winemaker Jo Ahearne MW says that ‘on fruit days, the aromatics in the whites are more present and the tannins in the reds are suppler; on a root day, the fruit flavour is muted and the tannins are harsher.’
German-born Maria Thun and her son Matthias believe the answer lies in the moon. Maria has gardened all her life and is an authority on biodynamics; she publishes an annual biodynamic sowing and planting calendar translated into 18 languages to advise gardeners on when to carry out their chores.
Based on more than 55 years of biodynamic research and experimentation, she has now published a biodynamic calendar (2010 was the first) for wine drinkers, advising when wines are likely to be at their best. The theory is that fruit and flower days would be more beneficial to wine-tasting, while leaf, and especially root days would be less auspicious.*Avondale proprietor Johnathan Grieve, winewriter and educator Cathy Marston, sommelier Higgo Jacobs, bloggers Hennie Coetzee and Maggie Mostert, Wine Extra editor Maryna Strachan and Platter’s editor Philip van Zyl.
As for day 1, it seems we all felt it was a fruit day. We will be tasting throughout May and results will be published here and on John Platter’s and Avondale’s website.
There was wide consensus among the panel on day 2 (yesterday) that the wines were showing less primary fruit, more tertiary fruit and whites seemed a touch steely while the reds more savoury. The sparkling wine (MCC) was more leesy, the mouse more aggressive – the panel was stunned by the difference from 2 days previous!
Next tasting is on 22 May, final on 24 May.
The twitter hashtag lunatastetest.