I was in a car, driving to San Miniato from Pisa Airport when I heard the word, WWOOFer, for the first time in my life. My new boss, Cosimo was on the phone; telling me that he was sorry because he was not going to be in the winery when I arrive. He was expecting a big English group on the following day. He kindly asked me to make a tasting for them and told me that a woofer was going to help me.
I had just arrived in Italy 40 minutes ago. I had never tasted his wines in my life. I did not even know what a woofer was. But at that moment, I also had no idea that I was going to spend one of the best months of my life in this winery.The following day was not very easy, but in time, I got to know the Masini family, tasted the wines of Cosimo Maria Masini and discovered San Miniato, a lovely small town famous with its middle age architecture, tower and truffles. I also learned that wwoof is an abbreviation for worldwide opportunities on organic farms and wwoofers are volunteers who travel the world to be a part of this sustainable movement.
Masini family own one of the biggest waste management companies in Italy based in Pisa. They focus on waste management, land improvement and renewable energy. Considering their environmental sensibility, it wasn’t a big surprise when I learned that they are also producing biodynamic wines.
Recently, we have been hearing the word ‘biodynamic’ ever-increasingly. But what does it really mean? First of all, biodynamic production is different than regular organic production. Growing grapes organically means avoiding synthetic additives and using minimum amount of sulfites. Biodynamic includes this organic approach. However, it is not only an agricultural system but it is also has a philosophy that was established by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. The key point of this philosophy is to create a farm as a closed self-sustaining system. The farm is seen as a part of the lunar and cosmic rhythm. The grape grower follows a special calendar for the vineyard activities, such as pruning, spraying, planting, harvesting. The calendar, which is based on the movements of the moon and the planets, divides the year into parts in order to schedule the vineyard work. Furthermore, in biodynamic production there are also several compost preparations such as horn silica (501), horn manure (500) that are applied in accordance with the rhythm of nature, to enhance the life of the soil. The winemaker does not manipulate the wine and uses natural yeasts in the winery and does not adjust the acidity or sugar level.
There are many known biodynamic wineries such Romanée Conti from Burgundy, Clos de la Coulée de Serrant in Loire, owned and run by the biodynamic wine pioneer Nicolas Joly, Zind-Humbrecht from Alsace, Château Beaucastel from Chateauneuf du Pape. The trend has certainly been towards to organic production and nowadays; biodynamic approach is increasing among important wine regions of the world. For instance, according to recent news, Château Palmer will also be certified as biodynamic in 2017 after Château Pontet Canet and Château Climens.
If we go back to the beautiful biodynamic winery in the middle of Tuscany: Cosimo Maria Masini Winery was full of wwoofers, preparing biodynamic composts and spraying early in the morning before sunrise. Hoeing, harvesting by hand, pressing, punching down regularly… Touching the soil every day, but also eating together, cooking in one kitchen for 20 people, drinking wine after a tiring day, dancing, singing and waking up again at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Thee wwofers working at the winery came from different areas of the world; US, South Africa, Israel, Italy, Japan. Some of them were chefs, some journalists, teachers, students, brokers… They all had one common interest; to discover different sustainable farms in the world. Wine making was only one of the tasks of the wwofers. In other farms they help out with different kinds of jobs, such as sowing seed, gardening, milking, feeding animals, cutting wood, making bread or cheese.
Three years ago, I landed to Pisa Airport to work in a winery for marketing purposes. I ended up in the world of wwoofers and had the best experience of my life. It was a big chance for me to discover a better and higher level of living. It was the first time that I worked under the sun for hours without knowing that I was making amazing friendships. It was a period full of fun and joy…
How To Become a Wwoofer:
You can easily register as a wwofer from wwoof.net.
Then select a country, see the possible farms and get in contact with the farm owners. They will provide you a place to stay and food. The rest is being a part of their life for a while and enjoying the experience.
For Further Information About Biodynamics:
Watch Les Clefs des Terroirs : www.laclefdesterroirs.com/en/
Read ‘Wine from Sky to Earth’ by Nicolas Joly