Beyond Biodynamics, Domaine Viret’s Cosmoculture

Ξ July 2nd, 2008 | → 5 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Interviews, Technology, Winemakers, Wineries |

Cosmoculture. Imagine an energetic continuum in the vineyard, a spectrum, that of light, for example. It begins with conventional growing methods, including a dependance on pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, winery manipulations. This approach would radiate a deep red, the red of the sun declining over a burning tropical forest. Next, orange to yellow, would be sustainable vineyard practices, as ordinary as a Montana wheatfield in the flat light of the afternoon. Organic and Biodynamic, blue to violet, of course. And Cosmoculture? Philippe Viret’s vineyard and winemaking philosophy has its angstrom equivalent in invisible wavelengths.

I first became aware of Cosmoculture while conducting research for an interview with Randall Grahm. I asked him about the practice and he wrote,
“…I am extremely interested in what the Virets are doing, with ‘informed water’ and the strategic placing of stone menhirs as a means of aligning energetic fields within their vineyards. I am particularly interested in the possibility of making wines that have a strong life-force, i.e. the ability to tolerate multiple saturations with oxygen without themselves becoming oxidized.”
The Virets, Philippe and Alain, explain their principles (from their web site):
“According to the ancient Mayan and Inca civilizations, cosmoculture is based on exchanges between cosmic and telluric energies.
On the ground, beacons of cosmic energy situated at precise points are used to support the close relationship that exists between the sky and the earth, and to recreate an environment where the vine can defend itself naturally.
“Cosmoculture is a form of natural agriculture which joins together the fundamental principles of biological and biodynamic cultures. It opens new horizons on forgotten ancestral principles.”
The following interview with Philippe was conducted via e-mail. And he answered my questions in English since it is better than my French! Very generous of the gentleman. But it has required of me some modification of his responses into an easier read. For any remarks semantically undecidable I’ve left in the original as written for my readers to grasp. As Philippe writes, “I am a better winemaker than a writer in Americain”.
Admin Philippe, you were awarded a diploma in oenology in 1998. Yet Domaine Viret began its transformation to cosmoculture a decade earlier, in 1989. Can you tell us what you needed to study in the university?
Philippe Viret I studied at the university to understand the vine and wine in general and to obtain a scientific approach. It’s important for better understanding natural wine.
How was your winemaking philosophy influenced by your university experience?
P.V. I think that the oenologist diploma permits the analysis of the process of fermentation and maceration. The first time I understudied, [I learned] that my wine was very resistant to oxidation and that SO2 was not always necessary in my wine.

In the second time, I worked with oxydo-reduction and I observed the longer time for ageing [allowed] in my wine. I’ve chosen, too, for the future, experiments with Amphora. I work to make better natural wine by respecting my soil and my grapes, for the pleasure of my customer. I make wine differently that must be in the image of my ideas and of my site.

Did you discuss cosmoculture with your professors? And what were their responses?
P.V. Cosmoculture was not known by people before Domaine Viret wine, and my professors didn’t speak of organic or biodynamic wines. I learned of organic wine in books, in nature, in the tasting, and in my work, but never at school.

Maybe now it changes!

How did you discover the principles of cosmoculture?

P.V. Cosmoculture is a school of life we learned in esoteric books, and then in the energetic application to my domain. [Our understanding] of it has evolved with practice in this world.

At my starting, the producers thought that we were crazy. [But then] they actually began to copy my method and my mark. So last year I registered internationally cosmoculture in order to protect the method and to ensure good, [responsible] development [under its name] in the future.

Domaine Viret uses a number of conventional methods in the vineyard, ploughing, inter-row cropping, sowing grass, for example. How is it decided which conventional methods are acceptable?
P.V. We work with traditional biological methods, but we’ve evolved to a world more subtle and complex. The work of the soil is very important, a natural food for the vineyard, and the preparation for treatment must be to help the plant to be more resistant.
How does cosmoculture differ from biodynamics?

P.V. It’s more energetic in the vineyard and it continues into the cellar. We have a good balance in the energies of the site; the vineyard must be always separated and preserved, an ecologic reserve, never a mix with chemical-using producers. We work on the energy of the soil, of the plant and of the wine.

The information of my preparation is important; we work on the memory of the water, with sound, colour, frequencies etc…

I make the wine with very low sulphur (98% of my production is without S02.)

Would biodynamic viticulture be improved with the addition of cosmocultural practices?
P.V. I think that cosmoculture can improve and give an evolution to biodynamic principles because cosmoculture opens onto a world of energies, and [therefore improves as well] the sensitivity of producers, for man is very important in cosmoculture. It’s the 5th element!
What is your position on the use of copper in the vineyard?

P.V. During 5 years nothing with copper [was used] in my vineyard, but in a year with intense mildew, we use a low quantity of cooper or substitute to help the plant when the preparations are not sufficient for the vineyard in the attack period.

We’re always working to improve our preparation, and we will find a solution in the future. Science works, too, [in order] to find a substitute product.

Have other vignerons taken up your innovations?
P.V. Yes, we receive a lot of vignerons [from around] the world. I think that the method will become more collective in the future.
Have you experienced the effects of climate change in your vineyards? What do global warming models predict for the future of the Côtes du Rhone?
P.V. We’ve observed a change of the climate. The harvests are always earlier, the soil is hotter, and the water reserves are much lower.

We want to create an ecologic reserve, with animals for compost, several points of reserve in water in the domain, we work on the [proper] selection of vine, and we try to keep the [biodiversity] on the domain.

What do you do in the winery to conserve energy? Do you recycle water? Any ‘green’ practices you’d care to mention?

P.V. We have built a special cellar with a good orientation, a telluric point with the spring in the Centre of my cellar, and we used the number gold.

We have a good potential energy inside of my cellar.

We have a system to recycle all the water on my domain, [including] a basin-lake, and we use the water for the garden and the animals.

Here in the United States we have many Organic, sustainable, and Biodynamic producers. Do you have a professional relationship with any of them?
P.V. The Bezier staff visited my domain and Randall [Grahm] is a friend. I think that he’d like our work in cosmoculture.
I first learned of cosmoculture through California’s Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame. He is practicing biodynamic viticulture to some degree but is also considering adding elements of cosmoculture. Are the principles transferable? Could cosmoculture be considered an element of terroir?
P.V. I think that its method is transferable to California. We must find good energetic sites and the [right] producers for good development.
What is your opinion of wine critics? And Robert Parker in particular?
P.V. It’s Necessary to have wine critics in the world of wine. Our work must be judged. Robert Parker I have never met the person. He doesn’t know my wine or my domain.
Do you enjoy any American wines?
P.V. [Throughout] the entire world we can find good wines and good producers. Most importantly, we must to work hard to obtain good wine and we must respect our soil, our vines, our wines so as to give [great] pleasure to our customers.
What is the most important idea we should understand about Domaine Viret?
P.V. It’s a more energetic world, more alive with natural and authentic wines.
Thank you very much, Philippe.


5 Responses to ' Beyond Biodynamics, Domaine Viret’s Cosmoculture '

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  1. Jason B. said,

    on July 3rd, 2008 at 10:04 am

    All wines are able to absorb multiple saturations of oxygen without oxidizing, regardless of the viticulture and enology techniques used. Most of these saturations are depleted soon after fermentation though. Frankly, this is old news. It’s common knowledge in the academic field.

    And how did it come to be that the ability to tolerate multiple saturations is a hallmark of biodynamic viticulture? Seems like circular logic where a positive outcome is used to justify the means.

  2. Administrator said,

    on July 3rd, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Jason, the limits of this modest interview necessarily leaves many good questions unanswered. My purpose was to present Domaine Viret’s pov, not to adjudicate their merits.
    Philippe Viret is a willing correspondent. I encourage you to drop him a line.

  3. on July 7th, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Thank you for the great interview. It is always refreshing to hear different opinions from different people all over the world. I think that Philippe’s approach is interesting and adds to the important conversation of Terroir and individuality. I would love to visit Philippe’s estate next time I am in the Southern Rhone.


  4. Administrator said,

    on July 7th, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Thank you for the comment, Nicolas. I very much enjoyed my exchanges with Philippe.
    I trust all is going well with your Biodynamic efforts at Pacific Rim up in Washington State. Cheers.

  5. on July 8th, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Doing good, Ken – keep pushing the envelop for Riesling to appear… Take care

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