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Gastronomy and Wine Portal


Biologist goes biodynamic. Successful debut with a high potential

10.07.2023, News Автор: Victoria Makarova

Ukrainian winery‘s first biodynamic release opens the gate for the industry.

“But, seriously, do you really have a bull’s horn filled with manure buried in the ground somewhere?” – “Not just a horn. We have the whole skull. Would you like to take a look? Over here, behind the barn” – says winemaker Ihor Petrenko, co-owner of Biologist, an organic and biodynamic winery located in the village of Lisnyky near Kyiv. He takes up the shovel, and one minute later there’s a cow’s skull in his hands, spreading a very peculiar “organic“ odor. Because, well, manure is manure.

“We make preparations from fermented herbs, too: St. John’s wort, celandine, clover, nettle – in total, more than 20 varieties of plants and herbs growing in the neighborhood. In biodynamics, it is important to use everything that is at hand, which is exactly what we do,” continues Igor. – “The bad news is, fermented herbs don’t smell very good either. Two weeks after the start of fermentation, when we add a little sulfur and copper to the vats and start cultivating the vineyards, even the birds fly away in horror, unable to stand this ombre, and the neighbors wonder if we have set up a pig farm in the vineyards. This situation usually lasts a couple of days – short, but rather intense. In a while the aroma dissipates, the birds come back, and the neighbors are happy and relaxed again.”


Here we have to make a disclaimer regarding organic and biodynamic traditions in Ukraine. For Ukrainians, organic method is nothing unusual: even if we do not take into account the ancient history of Ukrainian winemaking, which is currently being actively researched and revived by experts and which, according to their estimates, dates back at least a couple of thousand years, we can be sure that Ukraine’s “new wave” winemakers, primarily craft ones, have been producing organic and natural wines for many years, even though they’ve never bothered with certification. However, Biologist is the first Ukrainian winery to announce the use of the biodynamic method in viticulture and winemaking. This year, they’ve had their first release of biodynamic wines under the symbolic name of Pershotvir, which, translated from Ukrainian, means “the first creation“.

Only a few years have passed from winemaker Ihor Petrenko‘s first acquaintance with biodynamic wines till the moment when he released his first biodynamic collection. “Even before I launched my own winery, I‘d heard a lot about biodynamics, but I hadn’t really immersed myself in the subject. In 2019, at the stand of my favorite Michel Chapoutier at ProWein expo in Dusseldorf, I was especially impressed by one of his wines from Condrieux – I think it was Coteau de Chery 2012. By then I was very well familiar with Chapoutier‘s wines, and I really loved them. However, that was the first biodynamic wine I tasted from him, and the first biodynamic wine I‘ve tasted, in general. And I realized that an inspired and professional winemaker who knew what he was doing could create truly outstanding wines with the help of biodynamics.”

Among the “stars” of biodynamics, Ihor singles out, of course, Nicolas Joly, Loire’s pioneer of the biodynamic movement. He also believes that excellent biodynamic wines are produced in Tuscany and Alsace, and he is overly impressed by the transition of the winery producing the most expensive wines in the world, La Romanee-Conti, to biodynamic viticulture and winemaking. However, the biodynamic wines of M. Chapoutier remain to be iconic for Ihor Petrenko.


Inspired by these wines, Igor decided to set up biodynamic vineyards in two small plots near Kyiv, in the villages of Lisnyky and Bezradychy. Besides the biodynamic approach, these plots can boast a remarkable collection of grape varieties. In Lisnyky, mainly typical French, Austrian and German varieties are grown: two reds – Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, and whites – Grüner Veltliner, Müller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay.

In Bezradychy, the choice of vines is even more eclectic: reds – Pinot Noir and Saperavi, whites – Aligote, Gewürztraminer and the famous Ukrainian indigenous grape, Telti-Kuruk, which, until now, has been grown only in the south of Ukraine, in Odesa and Mykolaiv regions. This year “biologists” expect their first vintage of Telti-Kuruk grown in the north, near Kyiv. Currently, the total area of both vineyards does not exceed 3 hectares, but every year Biologist is expanding, planting new vines and looking for new plots. 

Ihor Petrenko considers his decision to produce not only organic and natural, but also biodynamic wines, to be a completely logical development: “First and foremost, biodynamics is all about autonomy and harmony, totally matching my vision and perception of the world. It’s a constant search for a healthy balance in the relationship between humans, plants and animals coexisting in the same space, as well as immune protection and maintaining the biodiversity of each plot. I felt that this would be a very interesting path in viticulture and winemaking. So far, I have never regretted choosing it.”


Ihor Petrenko’s background education in biodynamic agriculture comes from the AgroCare Ukrainian Center for Applied Biodynamics. Vitaly Vorontsov, the Center’s leading expert, advises Petrenko on cultivation, production of biodynamic preparations and other issues. But biodynamics is a lot more than the set of rules for viticulture and vinification. “I’m aware of the fact that my current understanding of biodynamics is not complete. There is a long way of learning ahead of me. There are a lot of spiritual and philosophical issues that I have to study, to get a better understanding of the method and its true deep meaning. I read Rudolf Steiner’s works, and it’s never easy, but, step by step, I am moving forward,” – says the winemaker.

Ihor considers the lack of local biodynamic winemaking expertise to be the biggest challenge at the moment: “I spoke with several European biodynamic winemakers, they shared their experience with me, but those were, mostly, some basic things: the calendar, the list and recipes of preparations, nothing more. I still feel the need for a profound understanding of the biodynamic processes and professional consultations.”

Now it’s time to say a few words about the Pershotvir wines. “This is our first biodynamic vintage, 2022, and the first release of biodynamic wines by Biologist winery. The vines are still very young, these wines are not perfect and need some improvement, but I see a lot of potential in them. We took a risk and made this series of wines completely sulfur-free, so I give all our customers advice on how to store them properly.”

There are currently three dry wines in Biologist’s biodynamic series: Pershotvir Sparkling Biodynamics, a blend of three varieties – Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner and Müller-Thurgau, methode ancestral; Pershotvir Rose Biodynamics – skin contact, a blend of Traminer, Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner, Müller-Thurgau and Riesling; Pershotvir Red Biodynamics — a blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. These wines are bright and rich in aroma and taste, with a lot of character, despite the relatively young age of the vines, and also very “clean” despite the absence of sulfites and the usage of indigenous yeast.


So what’s next? Ihor Petrenko is certain that he and the Biologist Winery team will continue to improve their skills in biodynamics, aspiring for perfection: “There will be new releases, new wines, we will be able to study their development, experiment and create something new. Last year we applied for an international certificate of organic production, and our application has been approved, so in less than a year we will be able to place the green leaf on our label. Right now we are in the process of completing our application for the Demeter certificate. Due to ongoing russian military aggression in Ukraine, unfortunately, Demeter experts will not be able to visit our winery in the near future, so the certification will be only on paper for now, but the most important thing is that we are already entering the so-called “transition period”. Still, obtaining international certificates is not an overriding goal for us. Our biodynamic vineyards must gain strength and maturity. Currently, the volume of production of biodynamic wines in our winery is small, only 2-3 thousand bottles per year. We are planting approximately 8-10 thousand vines per hectare and we are increasing our “land bank”, so the production volume will increase too. Biodynamics winemaking is not an easy path, and I am often asked if it’s worth the effort. Is it, really? I think it is, at least I am extremely fascinated by the process. I was wondering if we’d be able to do it. In my opinion, we are. To be continued.”

Photos: courtesy of Biologist Winery