For decades the production of wine has harnessed science and technology to manage risk in the vineyards and in the cellar. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers have made it possible to harvest grapes year-in year-out, even under the most challenging conditions. Selected yeasts and temperature control in the cellar provide predictable results. Wines can be corrected for acidity, sugar added to increase final alcohol levels (standard practice in France since the late 1920s). Techniques such as micro-oxidation and reverse osmosis can provide more flattering results. Clarification, heavy filtering and the addition of sulphites make the finished product more durable and stable.
“Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.” IFOAM – Organics International
By replacing chemical intervention with organic substitutes in the vineyard, managing pest populations by planting companion plants attractive to predators and minimal manipulation in the cellar, organic wines should be free of pesticide and chemical residues.
Biodynamism = Organic viticulture taken to the extreme, ruled by the lunar calendar – man, moon and earth in perfect harmony. It was the first of the organic agriculture movements. Based on a series of lectures given by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner to a group of German farmers in 1924 in which he proposed a holistic, spiritual approach to farming, emphasising the interconnectedness of the universe with soil, plants and animals.
It’s a self-sustaining, self-nourishing system, in which decisions are synchronised with the Lunar Calendar.
Steiner’s teachings can be traced back through Nicolas Culpeper, the English herbalist, to Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th Century nun, composer and Christian mystic.
Gnarly German guru, Maria Thun (who died in 2012) and her son Matthias have been publishing the annual calendar in which, depending on the position of the moon and planets, the lunar month is divided into four types of days. Fruit, Flower, Leaf and Root. Biodynamism captures the imagination with its strange-sounding rituals, such as dynamising rainwater or burying cow horns filled with cow dung in the vineyards, and its widespread use of Yarrow, Nettle, Dandelion and parts of animals. Camomile and Yarrow are used to make infusions to spray in the vineyard in homeopathic concentrations. How can such small concentrations have any effect? The growers, often sceptical at first, say they definitely work.
While some suggest that Biodynamism resembles hocus-pocus, alchemy or geomancy, it can boast the most stringent certification and long-established certification body, Demeter – founded in 1928.
NATURAL WINE (including ORANGE WINE)
A return to vine-growing and winemaking how it was hundreds of years ago? Minimal intervention; nothing put in other than the grapes, no adjustment or manipulation. A “freaky wine” trend out on the edge or will its influence be felt in the mainstream?
Orange Wine can be seen as a sub-section of Natural Wine. Most white wine is made by pressing the grapes, separating the juice from the skins, then allowing the juice to ferment. Orange wine is made from white grapes with extended skin contact. The colour can be a by-product of the skin pigments and some oxidation. A long uninterrupted history in Georgia, followed in the last two decades by some growers in Friuli Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and catching on with certain growers in France, Germany and elsewhere.
While there are multiple groupings of Natural Wine growers and vocal protagonists, as yet there is not a recognised certification system or formal legal entity.