WINE

EARTH-FRIENDLY WINER­IES

Food & Drink - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By James Chatto

In honour of Earth Day, we cel­e­brate en­vi­ron­men­tally for­ward winer­ies in On­tario and around the world, cheer­ing on the clever ini­tia­tives of th­ese lead­ers in the field.

IN HONOUR OF EARTH DAY ON APRIL 22ND, WE SHINE A SPOT­LIGHT ON EN­VI­RON­MEN­TALLY FOR­WARD WINER­IES IN ON­TARIO AND AROUND THE WORLD, CHEER­ING ON THEIR CLEVER INI­TIA­TIVES AND CEL­E­BRAT­ING LEAD­ERS IN THE FIELD.

There’s more than one way to grow grapes in On­tario. At the far end of the scale are the farm­ers who will do what­ever it takes to bring in a bumper crop, boost­ing yields with chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers and pro­tect­ing their vines with sys­temic pes­ti­cides. At the other ex­treme is the hand­ful of pro­duc­ers who be­lieve or­ganic and bio­dy­namic farm­ing is the right way to go—bet­ter for the land, for the fruit and ul­ti­mately for the wine they make.

The vast ma­jor­ity of winer­ies, of course, are found some­where be­tween th­ese two poles. Most of them try to be as nat­u­ral as pos­si­ble, while re­serv­ing the right to use chem­i­cals in the sort of dire emer­gency that be­fell them last sum­mer, when a cold, wet Au­gust caused all sorts of mildew in the vine­yards. That isn’t an op­tion for cer­ti­fied or­ganic, bio­dy­namic grow­ers. They can use cop­per and sul­phur, but it washes away in the rain and has to be re-ap­plied. They also rely on the nat­u­ral checks and bal­ances within a healthy or­ganic ecosys­tem that help the vines pro­tect them­selves. And last sum­mer, in­ci­den­tally, they did fine.

So farm­ing grapes or­gan­i­cally means more hand­work re­quired in the vine­yard and lower yields—but both those fac­tors are al­ready par for the course for any­one aim­ing to make top-qual­ity wine. The many ben­e­fits in­clude an ab­sence of any trace of pes­ti­cide in the fin­ished wine, and a bet­ter chance of ex­press­ing a vine­yard’s true ter­roir when the soil isn’t laced with chem­i­cals. Plus, it seems, or­ganic wine tastes a tiny bit bet­ter—or so a re­cent Cal­i­for­nian study shows. An­a­lyz­ing blind-tasted com­pe­ti­tion re­sults, it de­ter­mined that or­ganic wines per­formed about half a per­cent­age point bet­ter than av­er­age—a very small but sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence. It could be be­cause pro­duc­ers who go to the trou­ble of farm­ing or­gan­i­cally also give their wines ex­tra tender lov­ing care in ev­ery depart­ment. But that would be another rea­son to buy them, wouldn’t it?

Let’s look a lit­tle more closely at what’s avail­able, start­ing with two of On­tario’s lead­ing or­ganic and bio­dy­namic grow­ers, then see­ing what the rest of the world has to of­fer.

ABOVE: Lambs work the vine­yard on Cono Sur’s or­ganic es­tate in the town of Chim­barongo, Chile.

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