When considering which wines we wanted to carry we decided to focus on small producers using low intervention and sustainable methods. Happily most of wines we found to fit this profile are organic, biodynamic (sometimes both!) or are low intervention/ natural wines. Here’s a quick explanation of what that means:
- Organic wines are, in essence, wines made from organic grapes. These are grapes that have been grown without the use of artificial or synthetic chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides. Organic farmers work with nature by boosting their vineyard’s biodiversity. For example, they introduce cover crops to provide a habitat for beneficial insects, have sheep graze between the vine rows eating the grass and weeds. Use of natural fertilisers only, such as green manure or compost. In this way, the vineyard becomes a self-regulating, natural ecosystem, which is able to combat problems intrinsically. This process continues in the winery with the use of natural yeasts, minimal fining, filtering & sulphite use.
- Biodynamic wines represent a method of farming based around a specific astronomic calendar. Each day coincides with one of the elements of earth, fire, air and water. Days are organised by fruit days (preferable for grape harvesting), root days (pruning), leaf days (watering) and flower days, where the vineyard should be untouched. If you’ve seen “biodynamic” and “organic” grouped together, there’s a reason for that. Biodynamic wines employ organic practices, as they avoid pesticides and depend on compost, rather than chemical fertilizer. The majority of these wines are, therefore, also organic in practice.
- As for natural wines the commonly agreed definition of low-intervention or natural wine is one that is fermented spontaneously with native yeast. These wines are largely un-manipulated and contain only trace amounts of added sulphites. Can a natural wine be certified organic? If the grape growing adheres to organic standards, then yes. Can they also be biodynamic? So long as the winemaker employs the biodynamic requirements like the calendar and composting, they can be that, too. Because it’s more rigorous to have a wine labeled organic than natural, many winemakers prefer to skip this regulatory distinction altogether.
The wines these vigneron’s produce are closer in style and substance as wines have been throughout the ages. Conventional winemakers can use a range of additives, including yeast nutrients, selected yeasts, acid or alkaline to effect the acidity, microbial inhibitors and sterilisers to protect their wines. They can also filter their wines to remove unwanted microbes. Natural, biodynamic & organic winemakers, however, have a much smaller toolbox. They must rely solely on their understanding of winemaking and grapes. Decisions made in the vineyard and in the winery have a significant impact on the finished product. The use of natural yeasts and a small amount of of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the winemaking process may appear simpler than conventional winemaking because it doesn’t involve the types of products and technologies that conventionally made wines often do, but the opposite is true. Crafting wine without these safety nets means that these winemakers must possess even more expertise and execute their work even more precisely to avoid flaws in their wines. There’s very little margin for error. But all this hard work pays off with exceptional wines that express their terroir like no other.
We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!