We think there should be a category of certification in winemakers for “Wines made by people that give a damn”. If there was, almost all of the wines we stock would be categorised thus. We would like this figure to be 100% and are always working towards that, but it is impossible to verify the provenance of every bottle.
So, certification exists for Organic and Biodynamic wines (see the article about these and Natural wines elsewhere on the site). But not every winemaker wants to be certified, and here are some of the reasons why:
Some winemakers do not like the idea of somebody in a white coat with a clipboard telling them how to do their jobs, particularly when it will change very little about how they grow their grapes and make their wine. Especially when they have to pay for the privilege.
If your neighbour is not organic, it is very difficult for you to be. The wind is the problem. It is highly unlikely that any sprays used by your neighbour would adversely affect your end product (and systemic fertilizers are irrelevant here), but the occasional drift onto your vines would very likely mean that you would fail to meet the guidelines.
A Spanish winemaker once told me that he did not not want to be part of what he saw as a flawed system. He would have met the criteria for both Organic and Biodynamic certification, but did not want to be involved.
One very highly respected Australian winemaker told us that under no circumstances would they consider seeking certification as organic, even though they believe they would comfortably meet the criteria, and could well afford the cost. This is because they want to reserve the right to intervene should adverse weather conditions mean the crop was at risk and could only be saved by non-organic intervention. It hadn’t happened, and is unlikely to, but they don’t want to be restricted in any response that might be needed in the future. Also, they feel it is much worse to have your certification withdrawn than never to have had it in the first place.
Our ‘Winemakers That Give a Damn’ use organic sprays, no chemical herbicides, pesticides or systemic fertilizers – they care for the land and use sustainable farming methods. And, after they’ve done all that, they are good at making wine with the grapes. After all, just because you can grow grapes organically it doesn’t mean you’re a good winemaker.
It’s when the two are combined – good practices in the vineyard and good winemaking in the winery – that you can taste the difference.