The Dirt on Organic Wine
We know that drinking wine is widely considered good for your health, but how about good for the environment?
Stop by La Cabane a Vin, Hong Kong’s first natural wine shop on Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan to see what the fuss is all about. Only organic and biodynamic wines are on offer and every bottle carried is made from organically-grown grapes with little to no chemical additives. The wines come from small producers and are purchased directly from the winemakers – in France, Spain, Greece and Italy.
The premise behind organic wine is two-fold. One, the grapes for the wine must be organically grown and two, production of the wine itself must be organically managed. In an organic vineyard, grapes are grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides and other synthetic chemicals. In the cellar, organic wines are produced from organic grapes and without synthetic additives or processing agents. There are thousands of certified organic wineries and thousands more operating close to organically. Most producers will argue that while organics are good for the environment, their primary motivation in observing organic principles is to produce higher quality wine. Many highly respected growers have seen such superior quality in their organic vineyards that they now grow their fruit under an extreme form of organics known as biodynamics. Producers in New Zealand’s Central Otago wine region are so committed to organic production that they began discussions to commit their entire region to one hundred percent organic viticulture.
Organic viticulture is founded on the cornerstone that healthy soil produces high quality fruit. A key principal includes treating the soil as a living entity. Proud organic grape growers will shove a clump of soil under a visitor’s nose to smell its richness and to see that the soil is teeming with worms, grubs and other sub-soil vineyard workers that aerate, nourish and activate the soil. Organic vineyards are easy to spot as owners usually plant flora and fauna around their sites to promote biodiversity, which attracts beneficial pests that supplant the need for chemical solutions. When the vineyard balance cannot be fully controlled through these methods, then natural minerals or plant extracts are applied to the vines.
In the winery, then changes in organic versus traditional winemaking are less radical as most high quality winemakers already strive to be as non-interventionist as possible. Special attention is paid to minimizing the use of cultured yeasts and eradicating artificial processing agents used to clarify or stabilize wines. Most organic and biodynamic producers are passionate about their product and rank amongst the highest quality wines in the world. Many of France’s most well-known wines are organic, such as Domaine Romanée-Conti or even biodynamic, such as Bize-Leroy, Nicolas Joly, Chapoutier, Leflaive, Lafon, etc. Hundreds of wines on our Hong Kong shelves are quietly organic – including a sizeable array at three-sixty in the Landmark –but if you want to be a true wine purist, check out the natural wines on offer at La Cabane a Vin – or better still get comfy in the cosy in-shop lounge to sample the wines – and charcuterie they have on offer. www.au-naturel-wine.com