Started the New Year off on a Health Kick? Want to know what Organic, Biodynamic and Preservative Fr
Living a lifestyle whereby you consciously choose what you put in your mouth, whether that is spray free or organic produce, free range animal products, vegetarian or vegan foods (and any variation in between) does not mean you have to forego the luxury of wine.
I have had the great pleasure of tasting many organic, biodynamic and preservative free wines from around the world and routinely choose them over any other wines. I have spent much time in certified organic or biodynamic vineyards both working and learning through three continents and I have a bursting passion to share my experience with others. After a hiatus of a couple of years, I started hosting organic winetastings again last year, and the feedback has been overwhelming.
Our little beachside village's climate and soil conditions do not support winegrape growing, but both the local Agnes Water Tavern and Bottleshop bring these delights from around the world to our doorstep.
Wine's production origins can be dated back to 7,000 BC in China, 6,000 BC in Georgia and 5,000 BC in Iran. A fully equipped winery has been dated to 4,100 BC in the caves of Armenia. Seeds, vines, fermentation vats, a wine press and jars and cups were found at the site. More history of wine can be found HERE.
Wine has been associated with gods, religious ceremony and medicine throughout this history. Consumption of wine occurs throughout the world and recent research suggests the health benefits of a glass or two of wine with dinner.
From my experience as Assistant Winemaker in a Certified Organic Vineyard and Winery, most people are not aware that the terms 'organic' and 'biodynamic' are used to describe the method of growing the grapes in the vineyard, and the winemaking process. In the vineyard, wines labelled 'Organically Grown' must meet the Australian Organic Standard, which is a full farm certification process over 3 years with annual audits and a focus on soil health and natural fertilisers and integrated pest management systems.
Within the winemaking process, preservatives are limited as an addition to the wine, and current Australian standards are capped at 120ppm, half of the cap for all other wines (being 240ppm). The term 'preservative free' relates to no additional sulphur being added during the winemaking process. Wine can naturally contain a low level of sulphur, this term purely applies to artificial additions. If you have ever been on the dance floor with a person who suffers from a sulphur sensitivity (not quite classed medically as an allergy), you will know that their Peter Garrett-esque dance moves are a by-product of their bodies trying to metabolise this toxic substance to them and to never ever doubt a person who says they have a sulphur sensitivity.
Organic and biodynamic wines are often lumped into the same category as 'natural wines', and although they are, their farming methods require a lot more dedication and knowledge to grow grapes of quality. On the other hand, natural wines make no reference to the way the grapes are grown, and are purely an indication of the winemaking process, using traditional winemaking knowledge and skills, and little or no additives.
In 2011 I had the good fortune to attend a vertical tasting of WA's Cullen Wines signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Diana Madeline. The wine is labelled biodynamic and the vineyards are biodiverse, the soil is teeming with life and the flavour of the grapes is extraordinary. Whilst heavily pregnant in 2013, I travelled to NZ and met with Kaye, the then owner of Vynfields Organic/Biodynamic Winery in Martinborough and was impressed by their fruit orchard, kitchen garden, vineyard ground cover and their production and use of compost under vine. I was looking at soil microbiology and large scale compost making in vineyards to bring back to Australia what I had learned. In 2015 I ventured to Napa and toured the Benziger Family Vineyard in Glen Ellen in Sonoma Valley. Olive trees are grown amongst grape vines and the central part of the vineyard houses a beneficial insect garden - an insectory swarming with life.
These vineyards are remarkably different to conventionally grown vineyards and their holistic approach to increasing biodiversity is obvious, but so too is the quality of the wine, with the wines commanding a very good price to reflect this. In my opinion, those that take the time and effort to convert their vineyards from conventionally grown to organic or biodynamic usually do so for more rounded reasons than marketing potential. If you get the opportunity to taste these wines, or visit the wineries, grasp it!
Here's to a happy and prosperous wine filled New Year 2018!
Sonia Ghiggioli, Barefoot FarmHer