You are what you drink: Different Ways of making wine
There are many different processes of making wine, but before analyzing in detail each and every one of them – except commercial ones (or what we call the “technological process”) – we can see that the trend is to have none or just a minimum additional intervention compared to the natural process.
A worthy element to keep in mind is the use of sulphites: one of the many substances that we abundantly find in conventional wine. Sulphites have different functions, including being a preservative: a substance added to the wine so that it does not oxidize. However, it not only limits oxidation, but it also its alters the wine’s most healthy evolution.
For the most part, producers of natural, biodynamic or biological wine aim at producing wine without any type of preservative or sulphites. Every wine-maker, in their way, tries to maintain this philosophy of maximizing “purity”. Some producers try to limit their intervention to the minimum whereas others do not intervene at all. Producing wine without any type of chemical intervention has pros and cons especially from the quality point of view. The colour, the smell and the taste of these wines are completely different from conventional ones. This is due to the fact that wine continues to evolve and change even after bottling. Understanding and appreciating this type of wine, when we have in mind the aromas and the taste of conventional wine –chemically treated- means making a huge discovery for those who seek it.
The different ways of making wine
Conventional wine: is the type of wine that come from industrial or integrated agriculture. Usually, the grapes that are destined for these wines, come from huge fields, treated with treated with herbicides or pesticides, industrial fertilizers, copper, sulfur and other substances, without having a clearly regulated dosage. Overproduction causes the grapes to be harvested mechanically. In the cellar grapes, are treated for the preparation of wine with different vinification techniques, obtaining chemically a certain aromatic profile, color and flavor.
Conventional wine can contain small doses of tartaric acid, oenological tannins, enzymes, malic acid, arabic gum, colloidal silver, lactic bacteria, pepsin, pectin, potassium sorbitol, gelatin, casein, creatine, folic acid, nitric acid, urease, potassium Ferro cyanide, fish paste, sulphites up to about 200 mg / l.
Unfortunately, conventional wine producers are not obligated to inform consumers of everything that the wine contains in the label. Doing so would result in being more like a medical recipe than anything else.
If we start from a full-grown vine, grown without chemicals on the ground, using native yeasts from the same skins, with all of their own microorganisms naturally present; a wine never subjected to any process that alters its natural characteristics: it is not strictly necessary to use chemicals or SO2 in vinification. A wine made in this way and with a healthy grape will have its natural preservatives, which basically are: tannins, alcohol and acidity.
Biological wine: for a wine in Europe to be considered biological, it has to satisfy the law requirements imposed by the certification. Regulated at a community level, it is necessary to view all of the practices during the processes of production (from the harvesting to the canteen) and the respective certificate or official logo has to be put on the bottle.
In general, organic wine respects the natural rhythm of the vine and helps the ecosystem itself to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The regulations establish the techniques and the enological substances to use for the production of biological wine. These include the maximum content of sulphites, which is set at 100 mg per liter of red wine (150 mg / l for conventional wine) and 150 mg / l for white or rosé (200 mg / l for conventional wine), with a differential of 30 mg / l when the residual sugar content is greater than 2 g per liter.
The land where vines are cultivated must be nourished with organic fertilizers: in particular those of plant origin coming from the residues of the cultivation itself. For example, skins, seeds or vegetable residues in general. Synthetic fertilizers and copper and sulfur treatments are also acceptable in a fairly generous amount (6 kg / ha). At the same time, various types of “ecological” fertilizers are also allowed to prepare the soil. Plastic materials are not used and in some cases beekeeping is encouraged around vineyards to improve pollination.
As such, biological wine is considered a certification that imposes limitations for the use of chemical substances and industrial/ conventional agricultural practices. It has in fact, the intention of giving consumers a sort of guarantee of quality.
Naturally, every biodynamic or natural wine producer begins with this an ecological agriculture that is based on these limitations: with or without certification it is from the origin a biological product.
Biodynamic wine: wine deriving from biodynamic agriculture, which means that it is created through a process based on founder of anthroposophy Rudolf Steiner’s theories. The certification as well as the gaining of the brand belongs to the private group Démeter.
This type of agriculture considers farms as complex organisms. It underlines the interrelations among soil, plants, and animals, treating them as a uniquely equilibrated system.
Just like in other forms of biological agriculture, the use of industrial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are prohibited, nonetheless the use of copper and sulfur can be used at very low doses (2 or 3 kg / ha) and especially in extreme cases.
Biodynamics differs from other types of organic farming in the use of plant and mineral preparations as compost and soil additives, as well as monitoring the crops with a lunar calendar. As a matter of fact, the appropriate day for pruning or planting other plants is based on lunar phases.
Nevertheless, this is how our ancestors always did it. Unfortunately, with the advent of agricultural industrialization, less and less farmers have been involved in these expensive and healthy practices for their plants.
Biodynamic wine may contain added sulphites ( some do not contain them at all and in others it is about 30 or 40mg / l. It is very rare to find one that exceeds 70mg / l) and can be filtered (since they are not essential requirements for parameters of biodynamics).
When we talk about biodynamic wine, we have to keep in mind that it is not only a type of wine, but it is also considered a way of life that brings together science, work and natural independence as it is strictly interconnected with the soil and everything that surrounds it. Also, there is an increasing trend that combines biodynamic techniques done on the field with natural vinification in canteens to reach the maximum quality and freedom possible.
Natural wine: also known as the “wine without any type of adjunct natural or chemical substance” which is obtained with the minimum possible intervention both in the cultivation process in the vines, as well as during the elaboration process in the canteen, arriving at its transformation as the final product: that is, from must to wine.
The definition of natural wine generates a lot of discussions: there is no “legal” or “academic” definition that we can use as “dogma”, but this is clearly not the main concern of winemakers. On the contrary, there is significant cohesion in the areas that defend the most radical ideology when it comes to cultivating grapes and processing wine. The “natural” label is the most used word by all those who expand internationally in this way of making wine, as it is the only way to differentiate it from industrial products.
Natural wine may or may not be certified by competent entities in each country of origin: what is clear is that these wines are made exclusively with grapes without filtration, without clarification, without stabilization and without the addition of any kind of chemical substance (before, during or after all processes). It is only obtained with a wise agricultural application and minimum human intervention in the land: for example, plowing as little as possible, harvesting grapes manually, sowing legumes – if necessary – to create healthy plant competition and bringing organic matter, etc.
A natural wine should fulfill these requirements: biological agricultural grapes, biodynamic or permaculture and hand-picking. Alcoholic fermentation is achieved without any type of commercial yeats and lactic fermentation without adding bacteria. Levels of sugar, acidity, colors or alcohol are never manually corrected or altered. It is not clarified and filtered aggressively or is not filtered at all under any circumstances. It is not stabilized using chemical or industrial oenological techniques. Micro-oxygenation or any other process that accelerates or simulates natural processes of transformation are never performed. No sulphites are added.
The majority of artisans who work in this domain, produce wine outside of any boundaries set by the certification; however, their wines are used by the best restaurants in the world for their high quality.
Betting on small producers and obtaining a rightful recognition!
It is important to note that those who are keen on biological agriculture, biodynamic or permaculture, they assume a lot risks intervening less as possible in the phases of vinification. This is because, not adding any preservatives means leaving it exposed to continuous evolutions and to achieve a final product whose characteristics change year after year. As a consequence, this is not easily accepted by the market. Also, if we think that a family’s whole economy may depend on just one grape harvest, this exposes the artisan to a high entrepreneurial risk.
Thus, this is a very hard and courageous decision to make, especially for those who decide to change their vinification processes, approaching for the first time this natural philosophy. For this reason, VellaTerra does not support any radicalization, but tries to understand and support each individual case and tries to approach the different realities of each winemaker.
In Vella Terra, we are used to meeting and studying their work without prejudice, keeping our parameters based on ethics and transparency.
Our wish is that every year, more and more farmers and winemakers have the courage to start this new production of free and spontaneous products who are extremely representative of their natural territory and respectful of their surrounding environment. However, quite a bit of work is to be done together with the city’s distributors and restaurants in order to open a new market and to promote this new philosophy of wine making which brings us so much pride and satisfaction!