This month, we’re celebrating Organic September, an organic food and drink promotion across Britain. So what does “organic” mean when it comes to wine?
Like any other organic farming, organic viticulture follows strict rules about what you can and can’t put on the soil or the plants, or into the finished product: no synthetic herbicides or pesticides (though copper sulphate is allowed in the vineyard to combat the worst types of mould) and no bag fertiliser (just proper manure from real animals and/or compost).
Most organic farming also uses crop rotation to avoid a build-up of pests or diseases. But you can’t go digging vines up every year (the older the vine, the better the wine, on the whole), so cover crops are planted between the vine rows. Sometimes it’s one crop per vineyard, with a different crop each year supplying different nutrients, but some viticulturists plant a different cover crop between each row, to provide a range of attractions for “good” bugs and be able to plough a range of nutrients back into the soil at once. No sterile bare earth here!
What does organic winemaking mean in the glass? The amount of sulphur dioxide used in the wine-making (it’s a general “disinfectant” for wine and stops it oxidising) is much lower than for conventional wines, so organic wines are kinder to people with asthma, some forms of migraine, and other conditions exacerbated by sulphites. Some tasters reckon the fruit character is clearer, too, but the jury’s out on that: most people can’t tell the difference between organic and conventional wines if they’re served “blind”.
The important thing about organic wines is that they improve the soil and promote biodiversity. “Traditional” (i.e. 20th century) viticulture is notoriously bad for both. So by buying organic wine you’re doing the planet a favour, as well as yourself.
We stock wines from several winemakers who are already organic or who are going through the process of becoming certified, which takes three years. The wines from Moroder, Motta, PS Winery and Ribote are fully organic, while Bruno Giacometto, Carpini and Celli are converting.
They all share a desire to work with nature and produce wines that are the best, most natural expression of the soil and landscape they come from.
While the Indian summer holds, why not celebrate Organic September by trying our new Rosato from Motta, a blend of Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo, or toast the sunset with a glass of PS Winery’s Scapolé Spumante, made with Pecorino grapes? If you prefer your wine red, Ribote’s fabulous Barolo (Nebbiolo) or Moroder’s delicious Rosso Conero Zero (Montepulciano grapes and zero sulphite) would fit the bill superbly.