I’m not really one to search out “organic” wines. Like most people, though, I do have an interest in the provenance and quality of the food that my family consumes. The “Zero Food Miles”, “Paddock to Plate”, or “Grape to Glass” movements seem to be building up steam. It’s a no-brainer for consumers to expect that the raw materials from which their food is produced are of the best quality and have been handled in the most natural way. In line with these consumer expectations, we are seeing an increasing number of wine producers extending beyond conventional winemaking practices and adopting organic or even bio-dynamic production philosophies. But what does this mean, and does it actually make a difference?
Organic winemaking is fundamentally about keeping a natural balance in the vineyard and an eye on sustainability. Organic winemaking is far from being a new phenomenon. Wine has been made for thousands of years, and it’s only been in the last hundred years or so that synthetic or artificial farming chemicals such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides have been available for application in the vineyard. For a wine to be truly “organic”, the vineyard from which the grapes are grown must be certified by an appropriate authority to have zero use of artificial chemicals.
Biodynamic winemaking takes the Organic approach to the “next-level”. With biodynamics, the focus is on treating the earth and the vineyard as a living organism. There’s still the primary focus on the health and vitality of the soil and vineyard by using only natural vineyard management products but introduces next-level approaches with the application of “preparations” using composted manure, fermented herbs and natural minerals. Even more next-level is the alignment of the timing of grape growing and winemaking operations to cosmic rhythms, including the various lunar cycles. The first bit I can comprehend easy enough, the cosmic alignment bit might need to rattle around in my head a bit before comprehension kicks in.
Anyway, does all this make the wine taste better? David Paxton is the owner of Paxton Organic-Biodynamic Wines and says “Organic-biodynamic farming allows us to capture the natural beauty of the grapes, which you can taste in the clear and direct flavours of the wine.” Wines made with these practices should seemingly taste purer and provide more of a sense of place or terroir than conventionally made wines. That’s the theory anyway; I suggest that we should put this to our own taste tests.
In any case, perhaps the consumer’s focus on these wines should not be restricted to taste but that they are perhaps better for our bodies and our environment too.
Yass Valley Wine Columnist