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.