Finally making sense between the 5 different kinds of wine farming.
« There are thousands of wines that can take over our minds. Don’t think all ecstasies are the same! » — Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi.
Wine is part of our lives, it’s our faithful companion celebrating with us our failures, joy, successes or just our everyday lives…
What makes wine different from any other drink is that it’s a part of the land in a bottle when you think about it.
Wine comes from nature with the help of mankind.
We all have our own way of seeing the world based on our perceptions that have been shaped by our own culture and experience through life and as a consequence of it we create our lives from this perceptive.
Wine is a product of that philosophy.
What I mean by that is that there are different approaches to making wine that impact its quality tremendously but also who and what we are supporting in our purchases.
Making wine starts in the vineyard. If you have good healthy grapes, it will be easier to make good wine.
Here are five different approaches practised today by wine farmers.
After world war 2, the industrial revolution took over; farmers started to use chemicals in the vineyard to control pests and diseases at an increasingly steady rate. It’s only decades later (in the 70s) that we realized how profoundly damaging this kind of farming was for the biodiversity, life in the soil and around. Moreover, farmers exposed to it started to develop some serious illnesses.
Yet, this is still nowadays, the most widely used farming practice by wineries worldwide!
Look for the guy dressed up like an astronaut when spraying chemicals on its vines and you will understand what I mean. If you believe that there are no residues of any of these toxic products in your glass of wine, I can tell you that you’re mistaken.
As unbelievable as it is, there is no way of knowing, when you buy a bottle of wine if the grapes used received chemical treatment unless it is certified organic or biodynamic.
A tip when choosing wine:
Look for smaller estates instead of the biggest names. You will get more chance of having fewer pesticides residues in your glass of wine. Why? Smaller wineries usually hand harvest and have a closer relationship with their vines.
2-Integrated and sustainable farming
I chose to put these two practices together because they kind of work together.
Integrated Pest Management or « reasoned fight » is an attempt to use chemicals only when it is absolutely necessary.
In other words, the farmer will spray pesticides on its vines when there is a threat of losing the crop depending on the climate, cyclic plagues of bugs, fungi, and any other plant pests…
Sustainable viticulture, to quote the United Nations definition is « the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.»
How can I know?
In France, this practice is supported by the Terra Vitis organisation. So you can find, sometimes, this kind of logo on the back label of a bottle.
New Zealand is a great example of sustainable viticulture in action. Here is their logo.
Another way to know is to ask questions to the winemaker itself or to look on their winery website.
The viticulturist is not using any artificial chemical products like pesticides in the vineyard, just Sulphur, and copper. These are natural products to protect and preserve the vine to grow well.
Each production area has its own rules. For example, in Europe, it is forbidden to call your wine “organic.” You have to write on the label “wine made from organic grapes,” which is the truth by the way.
In the US, a wine named “organic” cannot contain added sulfites. Sulfites help with stabilizing and preserving wine, so many wineries add them before bottling, selling, and shipping their wines worldwide.
Organic certification is complex and is hard to obtain (paperwork and expensive). Some wineries have it technically but don’t have the certification because of this.
This kind of viticulture went from 2% to over 5% between 2007 and 2013 globally. So, as you can see, contrary to what we could think, it is still very small.
Europe has 90% of the global organic vineyard, with Spain, France, and Italy together having 75% of the global organic vineyard. Austria’s position as the world’s wine-growing nation with the highest proportion of organic vineyards. The data I’m sharing with you doesn’t include the wineries that work organically but are not certified. Yet, I don’t think that the number will change a lot.
Tips when choosing wine:
Many organisms deliver organic certification, some more serious than others. To my point of view, it doesn’t matter so much, what is important is that it states that the winery made an effort toward a greener and more conscious way of managing their vineyard.
Also, bear in mind that many use organic certification as a marketing tool; they don’t mean it so much. They use it because it sells. This is why it’s so important to get to know what is the winegrower’s philosophy.
USDA Organic, AB Agriculture Biologique, Ecocert, Demeter Organic are organisms who provides this kind of certification.
“At its core, Biodynamics is an energy management system.” — Mike Benzinger, Benzinger Family Vineyards.
This process comes from a spiritual and practical philosophy called anthroposophy, created by Rudolph Steiner at the beginning of the 20th century.
“Anthroposophy, the “science of spirit” — Rudolph Steiner
For this Swiss philosopher, this concept includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual nature.
In other words, biodynamic agriculture looks at the vineyard and winery as an interconnected living system. Essentially, biodynamics is a holistic view of agriculture.
In practice, winemakers that are using these principles have to prepare different potions and apply them during all the process of making wine, from grape to bottle, following a specific timing dictated by the lunar calendar.
“Healing the planet through agriculture”. — Demeter.
When it comes to choosing wine:
The grapes used to produce a biodynamic wine have to come from a vineyard certified biodynamic. Biodynamic certification is controlled internationally by the Demeter Association.
In Europe, Biodyvin certifies about 100 European wineries. Look for that logo at the back of the bottle.
« Wines that tasted fresh, bright, sometimes exotic, sometimes traditional, sometimes fascinatingly weird.» — Jane Parkinson.
This is the new trend, growing everywhere in the world.
Or, should I say, this is the oldest way of making wine! Our dear ancestors were making this kind of wine.
With natural wines, it’s like we’re going back to our roots!
Basically, natural wine is wine made most naturally.
Fewer additives are added this way. Some producers don’t use them at all.
There is no certification yet, which means that you can find any kind of wine in this segment. Some are absolutely delicious, standing above the crowd. Others, to me, don’t taste wine at all and are full of « defaults». For example, they can have a smell of a horse stable, some people like it. Why not?
How can you know that wine is natural?
It is normally written on the text that you can find on the back label. These kinds of wines can’t usually be kept for a long time because of the almost non-existent presence of preservative agents such as sulfites.
Marcel Lapierre in France, was one of the pioneers of this movement if you’re curious about trying out!
If you think like me, you may be wondering why on earth are we asking people who humbly work in the vineyard as it should be — naturally — to involve themselves in complicated and costly procedures in order to certify their hard work and good intention? Working this way is, of course, more difficult and implicates more hours spent in the vineyard.
On the other hand, agriculturists are using widely pesticides on their field without thinking or caring about the consequences of it in the soils, their crops, and therefore the people who will consume it. What matter for them is to make more fruits in order to make more wine and in thus more money.
These growers are not asked for any certification.
Do you think it’s normal?
It should be the other way around don’t you think?
To me, it makes common sense that using chemicals in farming damage profoundly the environment and ourselves in the process. It relates to the whole agriculture system that is driving the world today.
I strongly believe that our choices in our purchases can change the industry. After all, we’re the consumers of their goods, right?
The choices that we’re making when buying wine impact our health and sense of pleasure but also the people who produced it and in thus our planet.
Some great questions to ask yourself when buying wine in-store or at a restaurant:
What is the producer’s philosophy? How do they work?
Am I supporting people who work with passion and respect of nature? Or producers who have no care for the environment and the only purpose is to make money and produce more for the sake of money?
“In wine, there’s truth.” ― PinPliny the Elder, Natural History