Category Archives: Biodynamic Wine Making

Aug 08 2015

Biodynamic Winemaker named Winemaker of 2016 by James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion

Posted on August 08, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The uptake of organic and biodynamic winemaking practices is now a growing worldwide trend. Australian wine writer Max Allen recently reported that even in Marlborough, the epicentre for commercially grown sauvignon blanc, organic and biodynamic viticulture is being adopted on a large scale. (The Other Side of Marlborough by Max Allen, JancisRobinson, 3 August 2015).

The move away from chemically reliant farming strikes me as good news for both the consumer and the environment. Nigel Sowman, vineyard manager of Marlborough’s Dog Point, told Allen that organic conversion has been very important for improving quality and demand for his grapes.

Yangarra Estate wineryFor Yangarra, a 100 acre vineyard focussed exclusively on the varieties of the southern Rhone, a biodynamic approach has led to brighter fruit qualities in the wine, naturally lower alcohol levels and an overall impression of better ‘terroir’ or sense of place expression.

Fraser and Lane believe that improved vineyard health is another pleasing consequence of the rigours associated with acquiring and maintaining Biodynamic A certification. Because the use of industrially made chemicals is prohibited, promoting biologically rich soils and resilient vines are absolutely paramount for preventing and controlling disease.  More ethereal qualities, like positive energy and emotion emanating from the vineyard, are other fortunate by-products of a biodynamic approach according to the pair. (‘From the Earth’, Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale, SA by The Wine Idealist, 25 July 2014)

Happy vines make happy wine!

by Merrill Witt, Editor

Photo Credit: Yangarra Estate

 

 

Read the rest

Dec 12 2012

50 Wines to Try in 2013: No. 3 Chateau Pontet-Canet – A Brilliant Biodynamic Bordeaux

Posted on December 12, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

You wouldn’t normally think that Château Pontet-Canet, a fifth-growth chateaux in Bordeaux, would be one of the leading examples of what the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker describes as “profound evolution in quality” in Bordeaux over the past 30 years.

Since proprietor Alfred Tesseron took over the 200 acre Pauillac estate from his father in 1997, he has ushered in a series of innovations in both viticultural and winemaking practices that have led to a remarkable lift in the quality of his wines. Of the 2009 vintage, for example, Robert Parker remarked that it was “A wine of irrefutable purity, laser-like precision, colossal weight and richness, and sensational freshness, this is a tour de force in winemaking that is capable of lasting 50 or more years.”  (Wine Advocate #199 February 2012)

Granted, 2009 was a spectacular vintage, but Parker’s 100 point score was by no means a fluke. The wine has earned ratings of 93 or higher in both Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator tastings since 2000.

Château Pontet-Canet is a neighbour to plots owned by illustrious first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Latour. Tesseron told the Wine Spectator’s Jo Cooke that “Every morning…we wake up and say, ‘We are a fifth-growth surrounded by first-growths, so we have to do better.’ We want to get as close as we can to the quality of our neighbors.” (Climbing the Pyramid: Alfred Tesseron is raising quality at Bordeaux’s Pontet-Canet by Jo Cooke, Wine Spectator, 30 April 2008).

Tesseron has made significant investments in both the vineyards and the cellar to achieve his lofty goal. Pontet-Canet was one of the first Bordeaux estates to eschew the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Since 2007 both the vineyard and winery have been biodynamic.

At times the natural approach to vineyard management has presented … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Jasper Hill Vineyard: A Pioneer in Organic and Biodynamic Winemaking

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Jasper Hill Vineyard in Heathcote Victoria was one of the earliest Australian wineries to practice organic and then biodynamic agriculture. The vineyards, first planted in 1975 on unusually deep red-coloured gravelly loams derived from the rare, Cambrian age basaltic rock, have always been free of synthetic chemicals. All vines are own rooted (ie. not grafted onto non vinifera rootstocks), mulched with organic compost, never irrigated, hand-pruned and hand-harvested.

The two most renowned wines, the Georgia’s Paddock Heathcote Shiraz and the Emily’s Paddock Heathcote Shiraz/Cabernet Franc are named after Ron and Elva Laughton’s daughters. Today Ron works with Emily on the production of seven Jasper Hill wines from three individual vineyards. Total annual production is around 3,500 cases.

Ron, who in a former life worked at Kraft in food technology, is a passionate environmentalist. As he explained to Campbell Mattinson of The Wine Front ‘Chemical free farming is one way out of our climate dilemma and can help heal our planet, because living soils absorb more carbon. Making compost and applying it to our soils at the correct time can ultimately save our soils for future generations – so our backbreaking work of making many tonnes of compost every year is well worth it; keeping our soil alive and regenerating.’  (The Wine Front, 11 September 2010)

In my mind Mattinson’s review below of the Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz 2009 speaks clearly of the benefits of biodynamic winemaking. As I mentioned my previous post, The Return to the Terroir Tasting, the use of descriptors like fresh, pure, clean and precise are common in reviews of the best examples of biodynamic wines by our most respected wine critics.

Powerful wine. Loud fruit flavours of blackberry and cranberry. These flavours have a lovely juiciness though, adding freshness to what is a rich, Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Ngeringa: A Wholistic Approach to Winemaking

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Adelaide Hills is developing a growing reputation for first-class chardonnay, and the Ngeringa Chardonnay, now in its 5th release, is one of the leading examples. Owned and operated by Erinn and Janet Klein, this small biodynamic winery, founded in 2001, is also member of the La Renaissance des Appellations (see The Return to Terroir Tasting, Cellarit Wine Blog, 21 March 2011)

The Ngeringa Vineyard is situated below the Mount Barker summit where the cool evening sea winds, which blow in from the southern sea over the mouth of the Murray, ensure a long growing season and help the grapes maintain their natural acidity.

The Kleins have a very wholistic approach to managing their nine hectare property, which also includes four hectares of olive groves, a substantial vegetable garden and paddocks. Guinea fowl, ducks and chooks patrol the vineyards during spring and summer to keep the insects under control, and in the winter a flock of sheep mow the grass. A herd of Scottish Highland cattle provide manure for the compost used in the biodynamic brews and preparations.

Despite enlisting the help of the animal kingdom, vineyard management is still a very hands-on affair. An imported tiny crawler tractor helps till the soil, but the vines, laid out in narrow rows, are trained and mainly cared for by hand.

In the winery is a new addition: an intriguing looking Nomblot concrete egg fermenter.  Built using Pythagoras’ Golden Mean, the egg shape encourages a flowing energy, practically keeping the lees more easily in suspension, and, esoterically, enhancing the vibrancy of the wine.

James Halliday awarded the 2008 Ngeringa Chardonnay 96 points: “Good colour, a very complex bouquet, with barrel ferment and intense cool-grown fruit in a grapefruit and white peach spectrum; has great length and thrust. Cellar to 2015.” (James … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Castagna: True Wines of Place and Passion

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

One of the really fun aspects of writing the Cellarit Wine blog is the opportunity to learn about various wine personalities. The wine industry tends to attract people with very interesting backgrounds and skill-sets. This is particularly true of winemakers. I’m often in awe of the best, as they seem to possess a myriad of skills and talents: farmer, artist-winemaker, visionary, marketer, advocate, environmentalist – the list goes on!

Julian Castagna of Castagna Vineyard is certainly one Australian winemaker who is all of these things and more. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that he’s destined to join the ranks of the legendary Australian winemakers who over the years have changed the face of the industry.

Castagna is a passionate advocate for biodynamic wines and was instrumental in organising the recent Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne, which brought together 61 of the best wineries in the world. A very special event that I hope will be repeated soon. (see The Return to the Terroir Tasting, Cellarit Wine Blog, 21 March 2011)

He is also a passionate about his view that the future and reputation of Australian wine rests primarily with the small and medium producers, and is not afraid to take on the governing Australian wine bodies for what he regards as their “big-company, South Australian-centric view of our industry producers,” especially when it comes to promoting Australian wine in international markets.

Most importantly, from a consumer point of view at least, Castagna is an exceptional winemaker. His Genesis Syrah recently won a place in the “Distinguished” category in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. Langton’s Andrew Caillard MW described this highly aromatic syrah, co-fermented with a small percentage of viognier, as “very much a wine of place.”

Castagna would appreciate Caillard’s description of the wine as … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

The Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a week when a tragic natural disaster in Japan was compounded by the fear of a potential man-made nuclear disaster, I think many of us were grateful for the opportunity to attend the Return to The Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne. Here was a group of biodynamic winemakers, passionate about the benefits of working with the land’s natural rhythms and bio-systems, delighting our senses with superb wines and stimulating discussion.

Organised by Castagna Vineyard’s Julian Castagna, the tasting brought together 61 wine producers from around the world and more than 340 wines! Almost all of these wineries are members of La Renaissance des Appellations, an invitation only group of biodynamic winemakers founded by Nicolas Joly of the famed Coulée de Serrant. Members are invited not only on the basis of their farming practices (three years of biodynamic farming across the whole property is the minimum criteria) but are also judged on the quality of their wine and their commitment to a shared philosophy that great wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.

In the catalogue accompanying the tasting, Australian wine critic Max Allen noted that “A rapidly growing number of the world’s best winegrowers, from Alsace to Australia, have enthusiastically adopted biodyanmics in their vineyards because they believe it helps them produce wines that express a more authentic, more beautiful sense of place in the glass.”

Indeed, some of the most celebrated wineries in the world are members of the group. To name but a few, they include Domaine Zind Humbrecht from Alsace, Araujo Estate from the Napa Valley, Compañía de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez from Spain and Cullen Wines from the Margaret River.

At the panel discussion I attended the audience had a chance to hear first-hand from the winemakers about what … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Terroir: What does it mean and how is best expressed?

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

On Wednesday, The Sydney Morning Herald/Age inaugural Good Wine Guide’s Winery of the Year was awarded to Henschke, the South Australian winery internationally renowned for its single vineyard Hill of Grace Shiraz. Henschke first produced Hill of Grace in 1958, and the wine is one of Australia’s earliest examples of a single-vineyard wine. Today Hill of Grace has distinguished company in the single-vineyard category. Two thirds of the 94 wines in the Good Food Wine Guide’s highest “three glass”  category are single-vineyard wines. (Singled out for greatness by Helen Pitt, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 2010)

Wine critic and Good Wine Guide author Nick Stock argues that “we need to be championing wines that have a strong sense of place – what the French call terroir.” The prevalence of so many single vineyard wines in the top ranking suggests that winemakers are moving in that direction, but what exactly does terroir mean and how is it best expressed?

Jay McInerney recently wrote a very interesting article about Nicolas Joly, the proprietor of Coulée de Serrant, which is a domain in the Anjou region of the Loire Valley making world-class Savenièrres. In 2000  Joly founded Return to Terroir and is a leading champion for biodynamic viticulture. (Mr. Joly’s Particularly Pure Terroir by Jay McInerney, The Wall Street Journal, 14 October 2010)

Joly is also a “fierce defender” of the French appellation contrôllée system, which came into being in the 1930s and codified years of regional practice based on the idea that wines should uniquely reflect their terroir or place of origin. Essentially, it restricts the planting of certain varieties to specific regions. The white grape Chenin Blanc, for example, is only planted in the Loire Valley where it is deemed best suited.

Australian winemakers face no such restrictions … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Weekend Wine Reading

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Some of the best winemakers in the world are now using biodynamic practices in their farming and winemaking. If you’re interested in learning a little bit more about the practice and its effect on the taste the wines, take a look at these two articles:

A Taste of Biodynamics by William Lyons, The Wall Street Journal, 28 July 2010 and Cultivating a Cult Cabernet: Bart and Daphne Araujo use hands-on techniques to craft wines with more subtlety than many Napa fruit bombs by Jay McInerney, The Wall Street Journal, 24 September 2010

As a follow-up to my blog post What Makes a Good Wine List?, I thought you may enjoy this article by Gregory Dal Piaz, Restaurant Wine Lists: 5 Tips for Ordering Like a Pro, Snooth, 27 September 2010.

Winedoctor by Chris Kissack is a a really excellent source of information about French wine, especially Bordeaux and the Loire Vallery. In yesterday’s post, Langton’s Updates Its Classification of Australian Wine, 30 September 2010, I briefly mentioned the 1855 Bordeaux Medoc Classification. Winedoctor has a very interesting article about the history of the Medoc Classification and a list of the chateaux in each of the 5 growths categories: Medoc 1855 Classification.

Hope you get to enjoy some great wine over this long weekend. I certainly intend to!  I’m leaving tomorrow for a week in Noosa, which incidentally has a lot of great restaurants and even a few that allow you to BYO! Back on the 11th! Have a great weekend.

Photo: Château Fonroque Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé.  Owner and winemaker Alan Moueix converted his vineyards in St Emilion to biodynamic in 2002.

Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

Support Cullen’s Fight to Protect Biodynamic Farming

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Aria’s Wine List, compiled by head sommelier Matthew Dunne, was awarded the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide 2009 Wine List of Year. The ‘Cellar Treasure’ page features 21 wines from producers who practice biodynamic farming methods. It includes wine from great producers in France, Spain and New Zealand.  Australian wineries featured are such notable names as Castagna, Howard Park, Lethbridge, Ngeringa, Hochkirch, Bindi, Domaine Lucci and Cullen.

Cullen Wines in the Margaret River, Western Australia, has been at the forefront in introducing organic and then biodynamic farming methods to its vineyards and winery. As the winery comments in its most recent newsletter, Grapevine Winter Edition 2010, since adopting biodynamic methods in 2003, “the quality of wines has increased through having greater liveliness, a better balance between the grape flavours, sugar, acid and tannin levels, and the advantage gained from an earlier ripening of the fruit. The wines now require no additives and benefit greatly from having a lower alcohol content than previously.”

Biodynamic viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system which thrives when the cycles of plant growth are aligned with the rhythms of the cosmos. It fosters the health and life of the soil and encourages the success of a diverse range of organisms including yeast and bacteria. Chemicals and additives are not permitted, so the fermentation of the wine depends entirely on the indigenous yeasts associated with the vineyards and winery.

A proposed plan to build a microbrewery on land that adjoins the Cullen vineyards is of great concern not only for Cullen’s but for one of Australia’s great wine growing regions.

The brewer’s yeasts used for fermenting beer have different characters and flavour properties than the wild and natural wine-making yeasts, but are able to grow in wine must. Cullen says that … Read the rest