Wine with a hint of moonshine


It’s good to have a goal. When I read that biodynamic agriculture expert Maria Thun had published a calendar for wine drinkers, “When Wine Tastes Best,” based on lunar cycles, I decided to taste wine according to its recommendations for a month. The calendar even details the times at which wine tastes best, so I would have to drink throughout the day for total accuracy. Finally, some real direction to my life! 


First, a word on biodynamic viticulture. A form of organic agriculture based on the theories of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic farming differs from organic farming in its use of herbal sprays and composting techniques, as well as in timing land operations around the movements of the spheres. The controversial spiritual elements of biodynamics (burying a manure-filled cow horn for soil health, for instance) aside, the main tenets make sense: Wine is a living organism made predominately in the vineyard, as fermentation is a biological rather than chemical transformation. 

It follows that since the moon influences all living organisms, it could affect the taste of wine from one day to the next. Circling the planet once a month, the moon passes through 12 constellations once every 28 days. Each constellation is associated with one of the four elements—earth, air, fire, or water—and each of these elements affects a different part of the plant. Roots are held by earth, leaves are full of water, a flower’s scent is carried by air, and fruit is ripened by the sun’s fire. 

Now, before I lose you to the crescendo of “Age of Aquarius,” I’ll get to the drinking part. The best days to drink wine, according to Thun’s calendar (available through Barnes & Noble online), are “fruit” and “flower” days. That’s when a wine’s aromatics and fruit prevail. Avoid drinking wine on “root” and “leaf” days, when a wine’s flavors are muted and its tannins harsher. For my study, I used two everyday whites and two everyday reds. I tasted each wine on a fruit or flower day and again on a root or leaf day. Suffice it to say, my findings were truly intoxicating.

The wines really did taste better on fruit and flower days. I’m willing to concede to the power of suggestion, but my uninformed husband couldn’t believe the difference. He was just so-so about one of the wines on a root day, but on a fruit day, was so overcome by the same wine that he finished the bottle before I could. 

A London wine merchant who also nobly tested this principle wrote, “It is not that good wine tastes bad on an ill-advised day, more that on a ‘fruit’ day, it was like the heavens opened, the clouds parted, and the wine just expressed itself.” Amongst some wine professionals, the calendar is heeded when scheduling tastings, lest a wine show unfavorably; however, to the lay drinker, root and leaf days should simply mean think twice before opening that special bottle. 

For the skeptics out there, you are not alone. “Complete rubbish!” “Poppycock!” and the most biodynamically apt, “Bullshit!” are common refrains among many who find it horoscopy in disguise. Whether you choose to drink to the rhythms of the cosmos or not, remember that even wine has its bad days.