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Winzerin Carmen von Nell-Breuning arbeitet biodynamisch in ihrem Weingut im Ruwertal.

The biodynamic - an interview with convert Dr. Carmen von Nell-Breuning

The art of viticulture has over 350 years of tradition in the von Nell-Breuning family. In the 11th generation, Dr. Carmen von Nell-Breuning The Dominican winery in the Ruwertal and has been using the biodynamic principles for three years now.  

Those who work biodynamically are often smiled at by conventional winegrowers. "These are those who can dance their names in the vineyard?" How do you deal with it?

I can't dance my name and I don't intend to do that ... it is certainly true that many colleagues look at what I do. One may have a critical look and the other may smile. In general, I perceive it so that there is an interest in what the biodynamics is and how it works in the vineyards. In other words: whether the whole thing works at all.

I think we all do our work and everyone goes their way. In my perception we respect winemakers and accept our individual ways at work.

What does biodynamic viticulture mean for you in practical work?

A good deal more work and a good deal more joy. Biodynamic viticulture changes daily do a lot.

The biodynamy requires many additional work steps in the vineyard. We only work by natural means and this requires, for example, narrower intervals in crop protection. This is identical to ecological wine growing. The "dynamic" aspect in the organic dynamy also includes working with preparations. That is per se But a lot of work in the steeplace extremely demanding. We bring the preparations by hand and run up and down the mountain. You can't imagine that in other wine -growing regions with flat vineyards. There are also practical reasons why biodynamic wineries on the Moselle are less represented compared to other regions.

Those who work biodynamically change their inner attitude. The perception becomes more holistic. I feel connected to my vineyards as never before. For me, the vine is no longer a pure crop that I have always well maintained. Now the vineyard is a living system for me in which there is so much more than my vines. We are still at the beginning of a development, but that's okay for me too. The development never stops and that's why you are in the right place wherever you are.

What role do Rudolf Steiner's teachings do to this day, who have been almost 100 years ago?

I certainly don't read Rudolf Steiner every day, but when I read him, I do how to read Goethe or hear Beethoven. There are timeless works. In my opinion, it's not about taking over the written 1: 1. It is about the core, or formulated differently, about the spirit of these works. Rudolf Steiner must certainly be seen critically in some aspects, but he was undoubtedly a genius that we also (or straight) can get involved today.

What experience have you obtained in dealing with preparations that play an important role in crop protection in the vineyard in the biodynamy?

The preparations are important to strengthen the vines. Less to protect them. This is another aspect: Salutogenesis versus pathogenesis. Do I want to strengthen health or protect against illness? The biodynamy pays her attention on the former.

For me, the preparations have become an important part of my work. In a way, the preparations bring the "dynamics". As we all know, the whole life is movement. It is good to consciously integrate this aspect into the actions.

Cosmic forces are also observed and are considered a rhythmic man, do you also work with the observation of the moon phases?

Yes, as far as possible we take the moon phases into account. For practical reasons, this is hardly possible for practical reasons: the weather and availability of the employees are certainly more important than the phases of the moon. In preparation work and in selective activities such as, for example, we follow the filling of the wines according to the moon phases.

The biodynamics is therefore not a dogma and rather calls for a high level of Intuition and sensitivity as well as an intensive experience and observation in the vineyard. How much does this approach demand in daily work?

This is a very important point. Biodynamics is not a dogma and should never become one. Dogmas are in "stone" but the biodynamy is about the opposite: the "dynamy" and the movement. Nature lives from its relativity. Everything is in motion. A good perception and intuition help to get involved in this movement. Of course, this requires time and attention. I am now much more common in my vineyard than I used to be. At the same time, I trust my wines in the basement to develop from their own strength.

As additional helpers, you are also in the Kaseler DominicanbergShropshire sheep in use for six months. How important is this help in the vineyard?

Yes, now there are 15 sheep because we got offspring in May. The sheep are a real enrichment for us! They also prepare a lot of work - more than I expected - but they give us an incredible amount of joy and change the Dominican mountain. On the one hand, of course, they eat the grass, keep the greening under the vines briefly and support the soil structure. On the other hand, they really bring good energy and a lot of life to the vineyard. If I am now in the Dominican mountain, I hear the blushing of the sheep. They run through the lines and it rustles everywhere. Many people, especially families, come to the vineyard and visit the sheep. My vineyard is no longer a monoculture landscape but a place full of life! That is fun.

You have been working according to biodynamic principles for three years, has this also affected the taste of the wines?

I can't ,absolutely' claim. On the one hand, three years are not long. On the other hand, every year is so individual that it is difficult for me to attribute the taste character of a year to the biodynamy. In this regard, I personally like to take a little more time to answer this question. Like to ask again in three years ;-)

You also decided to join the Demeter Association. This means that you still use essential stricter guidelines for certification?

Demeter is the oldest biodynamic association in Germany and also has an international network. For example, many renowned wineries are also a member of Demeter in France. Yes, Demeter has very strict guidelines. Probably the strictest. I didn't compare that. For me it was essential to join an association that is clearly positioned in terms of biodynamics and does a great job here. It was also important for me to combine agriculture and viticulture and Demeter is a bandage for both: farmers and winegrowers. If you look at some wineries today, you no longer have the impression that viticulture has something to do with agriculture. But the viticulture is Agriculture and I am convinced that winemakers and farmers can learn a lot from each other. Demeter offers this option and I find that important.

A special location is your monopoly layer Kaseler Dominikererberg, what distinguishes the wines from this sole ownership and what characterizes the wines from the Ruwertal?

The Kaseler Dominicanberg is in my family's sole ownership and a very unique mountain. It is the highest vineyard in the Ruwertal and - in the already cool microclimate on the Ruwer - offers a very cool climate for our Riesling grapes. It was sometimes a problem 40 or 30 years ago. Today this cool climate is a great treasure. In the Dominicanberg we only grow Riesling grapes and find a perfect terroir for this: barren blue slate and a cool climate; very well protected from frost.

The Riesling wines from the Dominican mountain shine with minerality and are very clear and light in character. Sometimes you have to get used to this lightness - many wines on the market are denser and fuller in taste today. I personally love the brilliant, light and mineral type of wines from the Dominican mountain. They are also wines that have an enormous maturation potential. But that also means that you need time. Many of the Riesling wines from the Dominican mountain only show their face after four or five years.

Our Riesling sect also come from the Dominicanberg. Here, too, it is the lightness and minerality that gives our sects great elegance and a backbone.


With the Kaseler Nies´chen, your winery has a premium location with a world reputation, to what extent is this also an obligation to produce elegant Riesling white wines here in careful manual work?

Careful manual work and traditional craft are a daily obligation for us. The Kaseler Nies´chen is a very exciting location: profound slate soil with a good water guide. The Riesling wines from the Kaseler Nies'chen are spicy and in character "warmer" than the Riesling wines from the Dominicanberg. We work with a lot of dedication to bring every vineyard into its uniqueness into the glass.

Our steepest vineyard is also located in the Kaseler Nies': 75% slope. Individual parade. A terrace wall in the middle of the mountain. That is demanding. But that is also a cultural heritage and it is important to me to preserve and maintain this piece of land as well.

In the Kaseler Nies' you also cultivate Pinot Noir, that sounds very exotic at first to grow a red wine from a "Grand Cru" location?

One should not forget that red grapes have been grown on the Moselle for a long time before the National Socialists banned this because they believed that only "white wine" belongs to the Moselle ... but you are right: we are the only winery that im im Kaseler nies' Pinot Noir. The entire vineyard is otherwise exclusively with Riesling.

At the end of the 1980s, my parents decided to plant half a hectare country at the foot of the mountain - with a southern orientation - with Pinot Noir and that was a very good decision for us! The floor is profound, the climate warm and the water guide is optimal. Every year we read wonderful Pinot Noir grapes from now 30-year-old vines and expand the wine in five different lines: including sparkling wine and rosé. For us, the Pinot Noir is an important part of the range.  

You have also made a name for yourself as the oldest champagne manufacturer in the Ruwertal. What characterize your Riesling sect after traditional bottle fermentation?

The grapes to our Riesling sects always come from the Dominican mountain. The basic wines are light and very mineral. This is an important basis for our sect. Our Riesling sect are stored on the yeast for four years! This gives you your fine mousseux and a creamy character. We offer Riesling sparkling wine in the flavors half -dry, brood, extra brood and brood nature. Each sparkling wine stands for itself and brings a lot of character with it!

How important is it to you after the 3-year conversion phase to finally appear officially as a certified biodynamic winery?

It was not important to me in the initial phase. I even considered whether I should initiate a certification process at all. In the meantime, I am aware that a certificate as a seal of approval is already important. In communication with customers, but also as a statement that we do and what is important to us. In this respect, I am now looking forward to the official Demeter certificate.

What role will biodynamic viticulture play here in the growing area in the future or what would your wish for the next five years?

I am convinced that biological work on the Moselle will increase. Organicdynamic will always be the smaller proportion but will certainly increase. Awareness of ecological and sustainable work is growing. What strikes me in addition to the question of ecological viticulture is at least the same as the question of industrialization of viticulture. From my perspective, we must not underestimate this topic, especially on the Moselle. We are an ancient cultural landscape that has shaped and preserved for centuries, yes - over two millennia. If we believe that this landscape can manage this landscape over a large area, this will be a huge topic for the Moselle in the future. This is one of the reasons why the biodynamic is important to me: here people in the circulation of nature has their place and its meaning. The biodynamy cannot be industrialized. We should heart for the Moselle.