If you drink wine, you’ve probably had some made with grapes grown according to lunar cycles and fertilized by dung-filled cow horns. It’s not some kind of voodoo vintage, but a product of biodynamic winemaking, an organic farming method that claims to harness the spiritual forces of the cosmos.

If you drink wine, you’ve probably had some made with grapes grown according to lunar cycles and fertilized by dung-filled cow horns. It’s not some kind of voodoo vintage, but a product of biodynamic winemaking, an organic farming method that claims to harness the spiritual forces of the cosmos.


Biodynamic agriculture has been prevalent in Europe for decades, and it has grown in popularity in the United States in recent years, as organics have become more mainstream. Other biodynamic products include coffee, herbs, flowers, meats and cheese.


Still, you may be hard pressed to find the word “biodynamic” on many wine labels, says Tyler Balliet, founder “The Second Glass,” an online wine magazine in Boston.


“Some winemakers who use biodynamics have been reluctant to talk about it, but it’s becoming more accepted,” he said.


For instance, when Balliet visited Benziger Winery in Sonoma, Calif., he learned much of the reluctance was more about perception than process.


“Benziger has really been leading the charge in biodynamic wine in this country. They’ve been farming this way for the better part of the decade, but said they only felt like they could start telling people about it around four years ago,” he said. “They were afraid of being labeled ‘hippie’ wine.”


Baillet said a winery sales director once explained the difference in selling this type of wine in “red states” and “blue states.”


“If your wine gets stuck on an ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ shelf in Nebraska, no one will buy it because they’ll think it sucks or don’t believe in organics. Then there’s the whole cow horn thing,” he said.


Biodynamics first appeared on the scene in the late 1920s as the vision of Rudolph Steiner, an Austrian philosopher who believed that a farm should be a self-contained ecosystem. This meant farmers should only sow and harvest during certain moon phases and planetary alignments. No synthetic pesticides or composts should be used. Instead, they could stuff yarrow blossoms into the bladder of a red deer (or manure into a cow horn), bury it for a season, and then use the results to spray and fertilize the fields.


Barbara Haumann of the Organic Trade Association in Greenfield, Mass., said the market for organic beverages has grown exponentially in the past five years and wine is a huge component of that.


“More consumers are savvier about organics today. Also, the quality of the wines today are so much better than the ones of yesterday,” she said.


Also, with Whole Foods markets becoming as prevalent as Kohl’s in the suburbs, organics and biodynamics are reaching a whole new audience. These kinds of wines may appeal to health- and earth-conscious people, as well as purists and wine snobs (“My wine was harvested over the autumn equinox. How about yours?”) But overall, these kinds of wines are becoming more accessible to the masses.


Still, Baillet stresses that most winemakers don’t practice biodynamics out of devotion to any health or “green” trends but because of their love of wine and the art of the process.


“Personally, I think there is a difference in taste. This might sound cheesy, but the wines taste more alive. However, with that said, I doubt I or most other experts would be able to pick a biodynamic wine out in a blind tasting,” he said.


Bob Magner, owner of Bob’s One Stop Market in Rockland, Mass., says he’s become a quick study in organic and biodynamic wines since opening his store five months ago.


“Before this, I was in the produce business, so I understood the interest. Still, most of the answers I got about biodynamic wine were pretty vague,” he said. “And the stuff I read involved bizarre rituals involving animal skulls and lunar tides.”


He’s since learned that wines don’t have to be “officially certified” as biodynamic to be biodynamic.


“There are a lot of organic wines with biodynamic elements or ones that are fully biodynamic, but the winemakers just didn’t want to go through the costly and rigorous certification process,’ he said. “For many, it’s just not worth it.”


Demeter USA, based in Oregon, is the only U.S. agent that can officially certify wines as biodynamic. Certifications can take up to three years, and vineyards must get their certifications renewed annually..


Biodynamic wines aren’t created equal.


“I could grow chardonnay at my dad’s house in New Jersey and be biodynamic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the wine will be any good,” said Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine LibraryTV.com.


Vaynerchuk, who will be at the Boston Wine Expo this weekend at the Seaport World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel, said he expects to see a substantial number of biodynamic producers at the Expo, where people can taste for themselves and decide.


“I certainly see more inquiries about biodynamic wine these days. People want to know more about what goes into their wines and how they are made,” he said. “And any time prices go down and quality goes up, people will come along for the ride.”


Gary Vaynerchuk’s  recommendations:


1. Ocone Falanghina Taburno 2008 ($12): “A clean, crisp Italian white with great acidity that blows away most $15 to $25 pinot grigios.”


2. Descendientes de Jose Palacios Bierzo Petalos 2007 ($17): “A smoky Spanish red that delivers the combination of sour cherry and beef jerky that I adore.”


3.  Movia Ribolla Gialla 2007 ($24): “I’m on a mission to have people try wines like this. A Slovenian white with great depth and weight on the palate.”


If you go . . .


What: The Boston Wine Expo featuring  chef demonstrations, educational seminars and samples of hundreds of wines from around the world.


When:  Saturday and Sunday  at the Seaport World Trade Center.


How much: $95-$175.


More info: Call  877-946-3976 or  go to www.wineexpoboston.com