Sustainable Wine: A Guide
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Biodynamic, organic, low-intervention – with so many terms surrounding sustainable wine, it can be a difficult world to navigate. To find out more, C&TH went to a sustainable wine tasting hosted by Berry Bros. & Rudd along with three producers. Read on to discover what we learnt.
“Provenance and sustainability are no longer just fashionable topics, but at the forefront of almost everyone’s mind,” says Mark Pardoe, Wine Director at Berry Bros. & Rudd. “The good news for wine lovers is that the most interesting wines are often those made by winemakers who work naturally and with minimal intervention.”
The Language of Sustainable Winemaking
From Berry Bros. & Rudd
Organic: The focus here is mainly on the vineyard, improving soil health and avoiding man-made/industrial elements – using compost rather than fertiliser, and not spraying vines with fungicides or herbicides. Producers can use sulphur and copper – as these are naturally occurring elements – to protect vines from disease.
Biodynamic: This is the school of Rudolf Steiner (who is also behind the eponymous education system). The key is that a vineyard should be its own self-regulating ecosystem. Producers have to treat vineyards with biodynamic “preparations” at certain points in the year, and farming is done in accordance with the biodynamic calendar, which reflects the lunar cycle.
Sustainable: Not strictly regulated, sustainable practices look beyond the winery and vineyard, aiming to reduce the impact of today’s actions on the farmers of tomorrow – by, for example, having a responsible approach to water and electricity usage, protecting biodiversity, as well as having a long-term view when it comes to vineyard and soil health.
Natural: Very fashionable, “natural” is a diaphanous term that isn’t legally defined, and can be bandied around at will. Those using the term are often – but not always – producers operating on the fringe of what’s possible, making wine with minimum intervention – think minimal technology in the vineyard and winery, native yeasts for ferments, neutral oak and little-to-no added sulphur.
Low intervention: This is not dissimilar to “natural”, in that it is not legally defined, however many more producers favours “low” or “minimal intervention” over “natural” feeling that it is a more accurate reflection of how they work – reducing the influence of man in the winemaking process, but not removing it entirely.
Sustainable Wine Producers
A pioneer in biodynamic wine growing, Champagne Fleury began its conversion to biodynamic wines in the 70s thanks to owner Jean-Pierre Fleury. A nature lover and follower of alternative medicine, Jean-Pierre converted their 15-hectare holding to biodynamics in 1989, and became the first Champagne producer to do so. They are now the largest biodynamic producer in the Champagne region. Because they’ve been biodynamic for so long, the vines have gained maturity under the natural inclinations of this rigorous regime. Based in Cote des Bars, Champagne Fleury are known for their excellent Pinot Noir.
Created by Tim and Judy Finn back in the late 1970s, Neudorf is a quality wine producer based in the sunny viticultural region of Nelson in New Zealand. They are one of the few vineyards in the country who don’t irrigate, and two of their blocks are run organically: the Home Block, and Rosie’s Block, named after their daughter who joined them in the business after two years working in the London wine trade. Neudorf winery is non-interventionalist, using wild yeasts and letting the mood of each vintage speak for itself. “You move quite quickly to create an industry that can last, you’ve got to adapt as you go,” says Rosie.
It was while working at South African vineyard as a summer job that Eva Fricke fell in love with the world of winemaking. She went on to study viticulture and oenology in Geisenheim and work at several vineyard around the world, including Castello di Verduno in Piedmont and Pepper Tree in Australia’s Hunter Valley. After graduating, she soon returned to the Rheingau to work as J.B. Becker’s assistant manager, and went on to produce her first vintage in 2006. Nowadays she grows only Riesling on the steep slopes of Lorch in the Rheingau, producing wines that perfectly exhibit the mineralogy of the slate and quartzite soils. Eva is committed to sustainable farming, and embraces organic and biodynamic winemaking.
Other sustainable wines available at Berry Bros. & Rudd include:
- 2017 Dog Point, Sauvignon Blanc
- 2016 Mullineux, Syrah
- 2013 El Terroir, Domaines Lupier
- 2018 Recanati, Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2014 Ch.Fleur Haut Gaussens
For their full collection visit bbr.com