Biodynamic, Permaculture, Fukuoka!

Our ability to make natural wine depends on the soils we farm. If we’re talking about minimal intervention, it starts with the interventions we make as farmers first. This can start with what we aren’t doing in the vineyard: spraying synthetic pesticides, applying herbicide or chemical fertilizer — the minimum for organic viticulture. But it’s also worth thinking bigger. How much diversity of life are we allowing into our vine monocultures? If we’re seeding cover crop, are we selecting for local species? What does cultivating the microbiological life of the soils beneath our vines unlock beyond what we see aboveground? How much, or how little, can we get away with doing?

Class was on Monday, February 15th. These were the wines:

How it might look on a wine list
Meinklang, “Burgenland White”, Burgenland, Austria 2019

Who made it? The Michlits family, on a large mixed-use farm of over 2,000 hectares that includes pastures, an orchard, 73 hectares of vines, a cow herd, a brewery, etc. 
Out of what? Grüner veltliner, welschriesling, and muskat grown on sandy loam.
From where? The east side of Neusiedlersee, a giant, shallow lake surrounded by reeds and marsh where Austria and Hungary meet. 
Made how? Pressed, separate native yeast fermentations in temperature-controlled stainless steel, short aging in different tank, bottled without filtration and with 40ppm SO2. 

Farming? Certified biodynamic (Demeter) and organic (Ecocert); in their largest contiguous parcel of 10 hectares, they incorporated 27 “eco-islands” centered around a fruit tree (almond, plum, quince, or apple), elderberry bushes, and native grasses/thistle/nettles. Biodynamic preparations (plant teas made out of yarrow, chamomile, valerian, dandelion, or nettle, compost, cow horns, etc) are made on site or in conjunction with a local biodynamic work group rather than purchased from a supplier. They also keep cows (Angus & Aubrac), pigs (Mangalitsa), horses and chickens and grow a variety of grains (spelt, oats, rye, winter & summer barley, durum wheat, millet, buckwheat, emmer, einkorn, kamut) as well as keep an apple orchard.

How it might look on a wine list
Eric Texier, “Vieille Marsanne”, St. Julien en St. Alban, Rhône 2016

Who made it? Eric Texier (10ish hectares owned/leased, although he started out buying fruit.) He makes wine all over the Rhône but his aging cellar is in his home, in the Mâcon.
Out of what? Marsanne planted in 1930 on granite, where the northern Rhône becomes the south.
Made how? As best as I can see, whole-cluster (so skin contact but also some carbonic) in tinajas (clay vessels) made by Spanish master Juan Padilla, macerated for 4 months, pressed and moved to either old barrel, aged there for two years and bottled without sulfur or filtration.

Farming? Texier is inspired by the work of “do-nothing” pioneer Masanobu Fukuoka, does not add compost or fertilizer, moves the soil very rarely, and celebrates high yields when they come. He is certified organic (Ecocert) because there’s a lot of bullshit in the world. Interview I quoted from during class here.

How it might look on a wine list
Old World Winery, “Early Harvest Sparkling Abouriou”, Russian River Valley, California 2016

Who made it? Darek Trowbridge
Out of what? 4 acres of abouriou planted in the 1920s in Sherry Martinelli Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. (Only other example I can think of is Elian da Ros in the Côte de Marmandais.)
Made how? Maceration during fermentation, pressed & aged, juice from the previous vintage added at bottling to start second fermentation in bottle. 

Farming? Uncertified, uses certain biodynamic principles, no-till regenerative farming with deep compost spread over top to rebuild soils. Here’s a link to the segment of “Wine Vs. Climate Change” this January with Darek talking about his composting system (on the heels of some no-till conversation).

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