Fortunately for me, I have worked for almost a decade now in various popular and well regarded restaurants across Sydney, which has allowed me the unbearable task of having to taste a lot of different both natural and conventional wines. My thoughts on the taste, texture and aroma of natural wines has done a 180 compared to 5 years earlier. I find these wines to be exciting, vibrant, fresh, thought and emotion provoking, which in my opinion is very different to that of some of the more conventional styles of wine.
These wines tell a story. As my knowledge of wine has grown, I have come to appreciate more and more the story these wines tell of the earth they have grown from. The nuances of taste and aroma in natural wines convey a truthful and unadulterated story, which I think sometimes conventional wines seem to lack. I think that this story also can be attributed the winemakers themselves, who very often are very interesting, exciting and inspiring people. Their attitudes, beliefs and sometimes madness are all in full display in these wines. Just take Nicolas Joly as an example.
The more I have read in to the labeling of wine debate in Australia, I have come to better understand one of the biggest issues with conventional winemaking practices. That is the widespread use of chemical sprays and additives used in the growing of vineyards and also in the final adjustments of wine. This I think has detrimental effects on both our own health, but also on the health of the earth, which for the most part I believe we really take for granted. I have said it before, but the conventional side of winemaking practices is unsustainable and need to be put under the microscope more by the general public as we hold the power in making a change.
This is merely a personal opinion and I am not saying through this piece that either conventional or natural wine is better than the other. There are shining examples on both categories, and equally some truly terrible ones.
This is why I love natural wine.
Our society today is becoming increasingly conscious of the footprint we create through our consumption. Whether its the free range organic eggs instead of eggs from battery farms, or making sure that the steak we eat comes from free roaming, pasture fed, happy cows. We are now looking more and more at our wines to offer these same values. The Australian organic market report stated that organic grape production had gone up 120% between 2011 and 2014.
Organic wine is produced by using organic grapes. This means no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides have been used in the growing of these grapes. An organic grower takes a much more ecological approach to the maintenance and growing of their vineyards. This ecological mindset replaces that of a conventional one, in the sense that if a problem, lets say say a pest infestation occurs, that instead of nuking them with a powerful chemical, they will look to what can be done to naturally prevent and stop this infestation. This might be identifying a natural predator for said pest infestation. These practices lend themselves to creating a much more natural eco system for a vineyard or any crop for that matter to grow in.
Biodynamic wine is based on principles that were developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner in the 1920’s. Steiner said that biodynamic farming is a “holistic understanding of agricultural processes”. These processes and approach sees the vineyard as a part of the wider galaxy or solar system. Vineyards and crops are planted and tendered to in accordance with universal forces, like lunar calendars and moon phases. Astrology plays a big part in the decisions made in biodynamics. Fertilisers also adopt this holistic, almost ritualistic approach too. Preparation 500 is a common fertiliser used, the cow poo is put inside of a cow horn and then buried for months, before finally being applied to vineyards.
Its very interesting stuff.
Check out the following links if you want to know a bit more organics and biodynamics.