The 2011 Annual Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards are taking place in Halifax, the first time they’ve been held outside …
Wine au naturelBy Danny Hewitt | Jul 13, 2012
Tags: biodynamic, organic, sustainable, wine
How are vintners working to protect the environment while crafting world-class wines?
Do you feel confused and often a bit guilty about being bombarded with a constant barrage of “buy local,” “buy organic,” “support slow food” etc.? It’s all a little overwhelming for someone who grew up in the golden age of non-recyclable items.
Still, we all do our best to educate ourselves, and our children, on how fragile our environment is, and that everything we eat or drink in some shape or form comes from the earth.
The wine industry has not been immune to recent changes in our consumption patterns. Wineries leave a big footprint on the environment through everything from farming patterns to water usage. The wine industry is now on the leading edge of environmental change for the better. How can we, as wine purchasers, take part in this positive change? What do we look for in our wines to make healthy purchases?
Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment. Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
If you look at the label of your wine closely, there is a good chance you might see this fairly vague term written there. Some things that are important to make a winery sustainable are lower carbon emissions, lighter and recycled packaging, decreased water usage and maintaining the health of the soil. Some countries, like New Zealand, have put a framework of necessary qualifications for a winery to be declared “Sustainable.” But in most places, it’s an undefined term; a winery can declare itself sustainable without any third-party certification.
Characterized by the systematic arrangement of parts; organized; systematic, pertaining to, involving, or grown with fertilizers or pesticides of animal or vegetable origin, as distinguished from manufactured chemicals: organic farming
When the words “made with organic grapes” are printed on a wine bottle, it means that the grapes were grown without the use of toxic chemicals, and that the farmer uses renewable resources. Historically, wine drinkers have had a bias that organic wines don’t taste as good as others. If that was true once, it’s not any more. And what many people don’t know is that in many regions of the world (Burgundy for example), the grapes have always been grown organically. After all, chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers have only been around for a couple of generations.
Many farmers practice organic farming but you won’t see it on the label because the certification process takes three or more years and involves several visits by the certification organization.
If the label indicates “Organic Wine,” the winery has earned its own organic designation. An organic winery uses no unnatural or harsh chemicals in cleaning and no sulfites can be added to the wine as a preservative (most wines have naturally occurring sulfites of a lower level).
Nova Scotia has several vineyards that are organic, with the first and best known being L’Acadie Vineyards. To be certified in Nova Scotia a vineyard must have not used chemical fertilizers or pesticides for at least three years. L’Acadie is also the only certified Organic Winery, and to hold this distinction it must go through a yearly inspection process.
The practice of considering and managing a farm as a living organism.
Biodynamics takes organic and sustainable to the next level.
Biodynamic was the brainchild of early 20th-century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Essentially, biodynamic farming aims to make a farm a self-contained, life-sustaining ecosystem. A successful farm is a living community of plants, soil, animals, climate and water. All of these things are connected and must be kept in balance using nature’s own processes to maintain biodiversity.
I visited a biodynamic vineyard in Sonoma a few years ago. It was fascinating to see how grape growers added things like natural crop cover between rows and specific plants in the centre of the vineyard to attract bees and other good insects. The balance of predators and prey was carefully monitored with the addition of bat houses to assist in controlling plant-eating bugs. But the oddest sight was the explanation of the making of compost tea, which involves burying a cow’s horn filled with manure for the winter and from it making a liquid to spread over the vineyard in the spring. Biodynamic farmers even rely on the patterns of the moon and gravitational pull to influence decisions.
The above is an interesting peek into the future of grape growing and wine making, some of which is happening right here in Nova Scotia. My own recent experiences of tasting sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines have led me to the conclusion that they are just as good as any other wines and better for the world as a whole. Experiment with friends and let us know if you agree.
The under-$25 wine review
Barossa Valley Estate E-Minor Chardonnay 2006
Australia, $17.99, NSLC
At six years old, this wine is a rarity in the general list of the NSLC under $20. Past its prime, yet the fleshly, round characteristics are not unappealing, as most of today’s white wines are fresh and green. An earthiness and ripe tropical character. Perfect with scallops pan-fried in butter. 87/100
Bleasdale Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Australia, $24.99, NSLC
This wine has always been a favourite of mine but the price has inched up from $21 to close to $25 in recent years. Layers of balanced berry fruit and a minty chocolate undercurrent throughout. Soft lush tannins not typical of Cabernet, but silky good nonetheless. A great example of an Australian wine that doesn’t overpower but still is filled with flavour. I tried with grilled peppered pork loins from the Pork Shop in Denmark—simply delicious. 91/100