Wine-Making and Chinese Medicine

As an acupuncturist, I find myself explaining the concepts of Chinese medicine through the use of metaphors.  I often compare the health of our bodies to that a farmer’s field.  To be in the best health possible, we need nourishment in the form of good food, hydration, adequate sleep, and clean air to breathe.  Similarly, in order to be healthy and productive, the field needs sunshine, the right amount of moisture, nutrients, and rest.  It seems that French winemakers are also embracing the concept of a healthy and well-cared for field.

Chinese medicine in making wineA small group of French winemakers are engaging in what they call biodynamic agriculture, which is more than just growing organically.  In addition to not using pesticides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers, they take into account geomancy—the movement of the moon and stars—in timing their harvests, and apply preventive treatments to the land, much in the tradition of Chinese medicine.

My goal as a practitioner is to work with patients to nourish and heal, as well as to develop preventive strategies to keep them healthy.  My tools are acupuncture, Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, and rest, to name a few.  Similarly, the goal of these biodynamic farmers is to nourish their soil.  Through the use of insects, microorganisms, constructive use of weeds, and worms to aerate the soil, these biodynamic growers have cultivated the optimal soil for growing fine grapes and making excellent wines.

In Chinese medicine, each person has their own individual health makeup, which is the result of a combination of genetics, body constitution, and lifestyle.  In wine making, there is a similar concept, which is that of “terroir”, in which the character of the soil, the climate, and the region all play a role in the flavor of a particular wine.  Like we humans, no two wines are alike, including wine grown at the same vineyard in a different year.

While I may prescribe a Chinese herbal formula for a patient, French winemaker Bernard Duseigneur does the same for his fields.  He gathers the weeds from around his vines, boils them up like a tea, and sprays the mixture back on his vineyard.  Maybe prescribing an herbal formula for your vines isn’t so crazy after all!

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