Terms such as ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’ have become much more more widespread recently, but do you really understand what they mean? As a part of our Drink Less But Better season, here is a brief overview of what goes into your wine. Many of the cheaper wines you may stumble across will be made from grapes grown on an industrial scale. The chemicals they use to enable a disease free and high yield crop find their way into the soil, ending up not only in neighbouring vineyards and water supplies but also in the grapes and ultimately your body. Not ideal! Sustainable farming aims to reduce this manmade footprint, maintaining a natural balance that safeguards the health of the vines.
Organic vineyards are managed without chemicals where possible – if they are used it is in much smaller doses. Grasses and flowers are planted in between vine rows to prevent soil erosion and encourage wildlife diversity, attracting insects and animals that prevent pests and encouraging a healthy population of micro-organisms in the soil. It is expensive to become certified, so many producers follow the principals of organic farming without ever being officially organic. This can be referred to by the term Lutte raisonnée (‘the reasoned struggle’).
Biodynamic farming takes organic farming to the next level and is adhered to by some of the most famous names in the wine world. In Burgundy alone, some renowned proponents are Domaine Leflaive and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, as well as our exclusive producer Domaine Decelle-Villa. The vineyard is treated as part of a wider ecosystem considering everything from soil health to the movements of the moon and stars. Horses are used to plough the soil and vineyard work is done by hand rather than machine. Each calendar day is categorised into one of four elements (root, flower, fruit, leaf) based on lunar and astrological movements. This is a good day for growing, and it also happens to be the best day for wine tasting…. Special (and some say quite odd..) preparations such as oak bark fermented in the skull of a domestic animal and flower heads of yarrow fermented in a stag’s bladder are used; in these cases added to compost. Although it is scientifically unproven, blind tastings have demonstrated that biodynamic grapes can produce better wines. I will leave it up to you to decide, but surely the extra mile that these dedicated growers go to for their vines translates into a better glass of wine at the end?
At Perfect Cellar we believe you can taste the difference in the glass when the wine has been cared for in vineyard. For a perfect example of wines made using these sustainable methods, try our range of wines by Domaine Decelle-Villa. They demonstrate admirably how the qualities and character of each vineyard can shine through when they are treated with care and attention. Like it or not, organic and biodynamic farming has helped to increase crop quality and secure the health of the land for future generations, and for that it should be applauded.