Uncovering a new secret
What’s better than enjoying a glass of wine over dinner with friends? We explore and share our favourite options for making this occasional indulgence as clean, healthy and aligned with our everyday health values as possible.
Less powerful hangovers, no synthetic chemicals, and kinder to the environment – no wonder organic wine is picking up! We talk to Mark Cassar and get a better understanding of the ancient traditional Qvevri organic winemaking method.
Mark started planting, growing and harvesting organic grapes in his fields in Siggiewi around 10 years ago when he embarked on this project − Methode Qvevri, a project which finished in 2014 after five laborious years.
What are the Qvevri?
The Qvevri, a winemaking technique which has been added to the Unesco World Heritage list, are increasingly being used by producers across the world who prefer a minimal intervention or natural approach to their winemaking.
The Qvevris are handmade raw terracotta pots buried in deep holes with earth and sand packed in tightly all around in the vineyard or nearby. While they come in many sizes the grape juice is pressed and fermented and remains in contact with the grape skins, from just a few days up to several months.
Wine that is produced in a Qvevri will have a very distinct taste compared to wine that is produced in a wooden barrel: wood fire kiln imparts an oak flavour to Qvevri wines. “Qvevri are porous and so closer in style to old barrels than stainless steel: because they are buried underground, surrounded by a constant temperature on all sides allowing for slow, gradual fermentation and relatively stable storage conditions,” explains Mark.
A growing demand for organic As we do for much of the food we consume, many of us look for naturally produced wines to drink. Perhaps we feel that it is healthier to enjoy wines that were made with organically farmed grapes and produced by natural methods without added chemicals. After all, what we put into our bodies matters.
Today, more and more consumers are looking for organic wines. Consumer demand has inspired many more wine producers to move from conventional grape farming practices to more sustainable ones. And once grape growers begin to engage in sustainable farming, they very often appreciate the changes and continue to convert their vineyards to become fully organic.
As Mark says, he is devoted to organic farming methods because he believes that they are good not only for humans, but also for the environment. Protecting the soils in which he farms is a long-term vision aimed at safeguarding our future food and wine supplies.
Farming wine grapes organically
More interesting perhaps is the concept of growing grapes organically. As for other agricultural crops, organic wine grape farming focuses on natural and noninterventionist practices. Chemical herbicides and pesticides are forbidden, the use of renewable resources is practiced and the conservation and health of the soil remain priorities.
Many wine producers who farm organically employ natural methods for vineyard management, including planting beneficial cover crops and practicing chemical-free pest control. Indeed, endeavouring to farm wine grape vineyards organically is a laborious and time-consuming venture. Conventional farming is most often easier and faster and can result in higher-yielding vineyards.
Better for the Earth - and the bottle
With recent shortages, the need for alternative energy is a necessity and the vintners are realizing that the sun not only ripens their grapes, but it provides power to their wineries as well. Mark explains how he has embraced the revolution in solar power and explored technologies in thermal and battery energy storage; he installed solar panels at his winery with power generated from the sun being used both in vineyard practices and in the winery itself.
“I plainly believe in doing the right thing for the earth,” says Mark. Producers who have experience with both a vineyard that