As you know, we take the write-ups for our clubs very seriously, but this year we are determined to level up even more. Each month we are adding an additional teaching point to the theme covering topics from grape growing, winemaking and even distribution. Our goal is to help you take your appreciation to another level by de-mystifying many of the terms and techniques that make wine such a great beverage. This month we tackle the subject of conventional farmings versus farming with a minimum of man-made inputs with two amazing examples.
The whole subject of conventional versus sustainable and more natural methods of farming techniques is far too large to cover entirely in this write up. Therefore, the focus for the features this month is on the impact that less conventional winemaking practices have on the quality of the wine. Ironically, studies show that most consumers believe that the purpose of organic farming is to produce “healthier” wines. However, if you ask almost all producers it is about the overall quality of the final product. To understand why, we need to go back 100 years and the evolution of the wine industry.
Prior to the world wars, almost all wine was farmed organically, as chemical fertilizers were not invented until 1903. After the devastation of WWII, many European producers began using chemical fertilizers, later incorporating fungicides and pesticides, to boost yields. Although hard to imagine now, until the early 1980s wine was not a luxury item so bottle prices were very low. Since most wines after the war were produced by negotiants and cooperatives who purchased the grapes, growers were paid for quantity, not quality. Simultaneously, the wine schools of the new world, particularly UC Davis and Roseworthy (in Australia) taught their students that production quantity and shelf stability were the goals of winemaking, not the overall character of the wine. All of this led to the overuse of many chemicals and a fundamental degradation of soil health. The best example of this is Burgundy in the 1980s, when many experts referred to the region as “dying vines on dead soils.” Thankfully, the rise of winemakers like Bize Leroy, Nicholas Joly and Olivier Humbrecht, among others, began trumpeting the call for a shift to organic and biodynamic farming to help correct a half century of “progress.”
Today, only an estimated 5% of the wines produced in the world are farmed using non-conventional practices; sustainable, organic or biodynamic. Based on our selections you may find this surprising, as almost all of our features fall into one of these low input categories. This is not a dogmatic decision we make, rather our focus on quality inevitably leads us to these wineries. This month you will experience two wines from innovative and non-conventional producers, each offering incredible quality and value within their categories.Download Full Club Write-up