Organic wine has long been a subject of curiosity. They are celebrated by some wine makers as offering a truer reflection of the terroir and grapes, whilst other wine makers are costed–out of the opportunity to obtain organic certification because the assessment process is so expensive. Making organic wine requires serious effort and the terrifying prospect of losing hectares of vineyards due to disease and bad weather because their organic practices prohibit them from protecting their crops. For this reason, we always encourage our customers to look beyond the label and learn about the fascinating farming principles. Some wine makers are happy to forfeit the rubber stamp so long as consumers know they put the right efforts in – notably Domaine Richard Rottiers of Beaujolais and Domaine Rossignol-Trapet of Burgundy.
What does “organic wine” mean?
To keep the weeds and bugs at bay, organic farmers work with nature, rather than against it, by boosting their vineyard’s biodiversity. For example, they introduce cover crops to provide a habitat for beneficial insects that are the natural enemy of problem species, or have small sheep graze between the vine rows, eating the grass and weeds. In this way, the vineyard becomes a self-regulating, natural ecosystem, which is able to combat problems intrinsically and eliminates the need for artificial, and potentially toxic, chemicals. In addition, there are restrictions on winemaking, including the use of reduced levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) – the chemical guilty of the dreaded hangover!
Successful Organic Wine Makers
Domaine Parent, Burgundy, France – From one of the biggest personalities in Bugundy comes the expression of some of the finest terroirs. The formidable Anne Parent can trace her family back to making wine over 300 years and she continues to make fine, elegant, harmonious and yet powerful wines which are sold throughout the world. “We have orientated our winemaking and winegrowing towards an organic and biodynamic approach, for the respect of the soils, the environment, and everybody’s health. We are trying to win back the soil’s energy, so as to produce the most balanced grapes as possible. Balance is the key word in the vineyards, and in the cellars. We like wines with character and personality. Wines that are subtle, complex and sensual.”
Zuccardi, Mendoza, Argentina – Bodega Zuccardi is one of Argentina’s oldest, family-owned wineries. Don Alberto Zuccardi, a civil engineer by trade, planted vines in 1963 and pioneered an irrigation system dedicated to vineyards. Their wineries are located in the dry Mendoza region, an area which receives less than ten inches of rain annually. They use compost as a natural fertilizer: the remains from the winemaking and olive oil process. The family works with four objectives: innovation, respect for the environment, quality and contribution to the community that surrounds them. They have an organic viticulture philosophy; this means that they do not use synthetic chemicals and only apply substances allowed in organic regulations. For Zuccardi, their organic certification is much more than a marketing tool. “Agronomical farming is important not only because of the preservation of the environment but also for the quality of the products that we make”.