A glance at Argentinian ‘Green’ winemaking
Organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Why? How? What are the differences? We interviewed some of the main actors. Check the result!
Far from being a local trend, non-interventionist winemaking is already a reality around the world. More and more consumers ask for ‘green’ options at the time of choosing their wines, and wineries are responding to them.
However, as it can happen at an immature stage, there is a lot of confusion about each kind of wine, what certifications mean, how the wines are produced and so on. Natural, organic and biodynamic are three of the flags that can gather most of the doubts and questions, but vegan, NON-Gmo and Fair For Life are part of the glossary too.
We interviewed some of the main actors in Argentine ‘green’ viticulture to understand differences, trends, focus, obstacles and upcoming steps.
Francisco Bareiro organizes the most important Organic Wine Fair in Argentina. “Consumers are getting more interested, year after year. The green general wave that we are living, in addition to the new organic tiers from big wineries, encouraged them to get rid of the prejudice about traceability and age-ability of these wines”.
“Six years ago, when we held the first edition, it was a one-day event and there were 125 people only. In 2018, it lasted two days with more than 1000 people in all”, he remembers. About the growing trend, he explains that “when they consume organic products they know they are not only preserving the environment but also they are preserving their health because they are not eating agrochemicals”.
Organic VS Biodynamic VS Natural
Juan Pelizzatti is Chakana‘s current General Manager and founder, wines that are distributed in the US under “INKARRI” brand. After a trip around Europe some years ago, he came back to Mendoza and changed the winemaking philosophy from scratch.
We asked him to share with us, what is the difference between these three kinds (organic, biodynamic and natural) of wine that seems to be targeting the same (growing) audience.
Organic: “An organic wine is a wine that has a certification provided by an authorized third party (certifying entity). That means we comply with a list of rules which may vary in every country and that imply the respect to an agricultural system which avoids chemical synthesis products and genetic manipulation and that vitalizes the soils as the central focus of the agricultural activity”.
Biodynamic: “It is certified by Demeter which is the private organization for the anthroposophical movement, founded by Rudolf Steiner at the beginning of the twentieth century. The anthroposophical movement proposes holistic agriculture that follows the organic principles and adds a group of practices recommended by Steiner in 1924, oriented to observe the social aspects and the interrelations of the agriculture with the cosmos”, he kindly explains.
So there it is… biodynamic is organic, organic is not necessarily biodynamic. And what about natural wine?
Natural Wine: “A natural wine is a wine that proposes a production and distribution model for agricultural goods that promotes the subsistence of small producers that apply agro-ecological farming systems and minimize the manipulation of their products. There isn’t a protocol around these wines although this movement recovered craft elaboration practices that produce radically different wines from industrial wines”, says Juan. And he underlines: “Despite there are different levels of tolerance about the usage of chemical substances in each kind of viticulture (copper and sulfur in the vineyard and sulfur dioxide in the winery), I think it is important to say that this is only a part of the proposed protocol by certifications and that it doesn’t constitute the real value of these winemaking philosophies. Otherwise, we will be at risk of being easily imitated by the traditional industry, masking the real cultural and social intentions based on each movement”.
“Natural wines don’t actually exist in legal terms and that’s why consumers are so confused. There are producers who are making natural wines from regular grapes”. Alex Macipe from Krontiras Winery explains that natural wine is the true expression of a vineyard.
So, these points should clarify this big topic and its rules:
- Sulfur is the most common parameter to regulate:
- Conventional wines can’t exceed different maximums depending the country, but they go beyond 150 ppm (Parts per Million).
- Organic wines (globally, except the US) can’t exceed 100 ppm
- Wine with less than 40 ppm is considered “natural” in Europe.
- In the US, wines can be labelled as “Produced with organic grapes” if they have Organic homologated certificate. However, it can’t be considered Organic wine if it has more than than 10 ppm. Thus, it can avoid showing “CONTAIN SULFITES” in the label (National Organic Program).
But, are those certifications important?
Even though they all have a different point of view about them, they all agree that they are necessary to avoid forgers or tricksters.
Domaine Bousquet is another reference winery on non-interventionist viticulture. Their winemaker, Rodrigo Serrano Alou, explains: “In our case, we produce 100% certified organic wines. This is possible thanks to the work on the vineyard, that enables to express the terroir as it is without any kind of product synthesis to control plagues and weeds. Then the grapes are processed with the same philosophy, respecting the fruit, without additives”.
Traceability and quality
“Organic wine? You better drink it now! It will get bad soon…” Who did not hear a friend saying that? Even you! Well, it happens that this has a technical true part and a myth part. And if we talk about “quality”, an ocean of subjectiveness opens up.
“Quality is different for each consumer. Every person may have their own idea of what quality is. For me, it means a tasty wine that I can drink without any problem and that is not bad for my health. From my point of view, that makes the final quality of the product”, says Alex Macipe.
“For any wine, its history is very important. To get to know it, we need to trace the process. In our case, we have an exclusive department of traceability that allows us to get it to the maximum level, from the vineyard to the bottle”, explains Rodrigo Serrano Alou. “Organic wines are products of great quality since producers always work on prevention and details. We understand quality as the possibility of handling every process without losing attributes from the vineyard to the bottle, so we express in each glass of wine what Gualtallary has to offer”.
In terms of traceability, Juan Pelizzatti adds: “This kind of agriculture, due to its own requirements, implies precise and meticulous registry of the origin and procedures applied in the elaboration. This is why the reliability and the monitoring of details are stricter than in traditional viticulture”.
In terms of quality, he explains that “there are numerous studies that prove that, in general, organically certified wines have an inferior amount of toxic remains than regular products, so… it depends on what is quality to you”.
Consumers and Markets
“Nordic countries lead both in consumption and in retail options. In general, Europe is a strong market since its organic culture is firm and well developed. However, the US has recently flourished thanks to chains like Whole Foods and Yes Organic, among others. That is a piece of promising big news!”, says Ignacio Martinez Landa, Marketing Director of Domaine Bousquet.
Juan Pelizzatti explains: “The producing European countries, France and Italy mainly, have led the movement to cleaner, healthier and more original wines. This trend is moving rapidly to countries like the USA, UK, Germany, Japan and South Korea. In the case of the Asian countries, we need to consider that the people, because of ethnical origin, have a lower tolerance to the sulfur dioxide for genetic reasons, which generates even more interest in these products”.
“It is true that there is a perception about certain markets, especially in Argentina, that the organic, biodynamic or natural wines have inferior organoleptic characteristics compared to the regular ones. Currently, this perception has been changing quickly in the more wine-educated countries since most of the highly respected producers in the world of wine have converted their agriculture to some of these practices. From the technical perspective, there is no reason to say that a wine elaborated by biological methods do not reach the same quality as a traditional wine. In fact, there are more chances to make an authentic and original wine this way”, concludes Chakana’s General Manager.