David Paxton is one of Australia’s leading practical (as opposed to academic) viticulturists. He was the first mover in establishing vineyards high in the hills of the Upper Yarra Valley, drawing on the experience he had gained in the 1980s establishing vineyards on steep hillsides for Petaluma. He designed and supervised the establishment of two very large vineyards at Hoddles Creek that were acquired by Hardys (now Constellation) in 1995. Coldstream Hills had been a significant purchaser of grapes from the Hoddles Creek vineyards up to the sale of those vineyards to Hardys. At my request, he identified two properties, one with steep slopes, the other more gentle, thereafter developed (under Paxton’s guidance) as associated ventures with Coldstream Hills. In other words, we go back a long way.
He has always been known for his willingness to enter into spirited discussions with his associates, and could fairly be categorised as a no-bullshit grapegrower, his long term involvement stemming from his continuing ownership of Paxton Vineyards in McLaren Vale. He was not the first person I would have thought of as likely to become involved in biodynamic grapegrowing, but that is exactly what he has done with his own vineyards. Since 2005, they have been farmed using biodynamic practices, and are now certified by NASAA, the nation’s leading organic certifier.
The step from organic to biodynamic is akin to moving from a belief in the values of Christianity (or any other mainstream religion) to an outright belief in God and the life hereafter. Those who cannot make that last step in belief should never disparage those who do; after all, there is no downside. So it is, too, with the use of the arcane preparations devised by Rudolf Steiner, belief in the cosmic cycle and its impact on the way things grow, and so and and so forth. The viticultural principles that necessarily precede biodynamic certification are organic, and it is these I equate to the values of Christianity.
Incidentally, Paxton Vineyards is rated at 5 red stars in the forthcoming edition of the Wine Companion.