Are we really getting closer to Nature?
You might think so from all the advertising of foods, drinks, diet supplements and tourism trumpeting “natural”.
Of all the products we regularly consume, wine is one of the most natural.
Just fermented grape juice really. You don’t even have to provide yeast … the skins carry enough of that. Just squash some grapes in a bucket, let them bubble away and there you have wine.
Fairly horrible stuff, if you don’t take proper steps to prevent spoilage.
Over many centuries man has improved on the ‘bunch in a bucket’ process to the point where every country with an amenably temperate climate will provide you with a choice of reliably enjoyable bottles of red, white and bubbly.
What we have learned over that time is that to construct really good wine you must start with good grapes, well grown in well-selected areas.
With the purpose of further improving these little spherical building blocks there is one movement growing around the world with a band of fierce adherents and some who are still sceptical.
We are talking biodynamics.
Some say it’s only a step up from organic agriculture, some say it is witchcraft but there is a lot more to it than that. It is not so easy to dismiss when you read a list of some 450 wine producers around the world who practice it. You’ll find many of the world’s most sought after names whose labels command respect and high prices. Domaine Leflaive and Domaine Leroy, Chapoutier, Coulee de Serrant and Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Felton Road and Millton from NZ and from Australia Castagna, Cullen, Ngeringa, Cobaw Ridge and Jasper Hill.
Many are now part of a global group called Return to Terroir founded by French winemaker Nicolas Joly with some 180 members. There are many stringent rules but the most obvious ones are bans on synthetic weedkillers and fertilisers and the use of only wild yeasts; using natural compounds to encourage, not cripple, the components and critters that keep the soil ‘alive’.
Their devotion to their craft guarantees that their wines truly express the best their vines can offer. Julian Castagna sums up the essence of these wines. ‘What they all have is this energy and life force. Even the wines I don’t particularly like exhibit those characters … vitality and life.”
TML enjoyed a recent burst of vivacity with a tasting from a lesser known biodynamic producer, Tour des Gendres, in Bergerac. Jancis Robinson MW says they are now producing ambitious wines to match some of Bordeaux’s smartest offerings. We tasted a modestly priced white (semillon, sauvignon, muscadelle) and a red (merlot, malbec) and certainly loved the clarity and zestiness of the aromas and the fruit in the mouth. Lively is the word. See more at www.discovervin.com.au
To judge biodynamics for yourself, the next big opportunity is the Return to Terroir at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival starting February 28th. It will showcase some 40 biodynamic producers from around the world.
Find out more at melbournefoodandwine.com.au