Wine Talk

Snooth User: Erica Landin

Organic wines - good or bad?

Original post by Erica Landin, Aug 29, 2012.

Hi all! I've recently posted three different lists of organic wines. Since I'm really interested in organic and biodynamic farming, I'd love to hear your tips on favorite wines in these categories. Is there anything you think I should taste? Also, it tends to be a topic on which people have strong opinions. What is yours? What do you think about when you hear "organic" in conjunction with wine?

(The picture is of one of the rare pre-phylloxera vines still alive and kicking in Europe - this one in Ribera del Duero at the Cillar de Silos property)

 

 

Replies

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Reply by Erica Landin, Sep 2, 2012.

Though I'm not a full-on believer in every aspect of biodynamics, I feel I'm going to have to do some defense-work here... Many biodynamic domains use tractors though indeed, passing up and down too much (often the case with the homeopathic-strength sprays) can compact the top soil. For that reason, the horses are a good idea. But again, not a necessity, and I'm sure there is more than one organic domain which uses horses as well.

Both organic and biodynamic farming improve the microbial life in the soil, but with biodynamics it is even more evident (in at least one study). The quality improvement seen in many vineyards when converting to biodynamics could be attributed to the amount of care and attention necessary in the vineyard. With organic viticulture, the practices can continue in a similar fashion to conventional farming, just replacing the agrochemicals with other sprays. To grow organic grapes you don't have to change things in the winery (new rules are applied from this month in Europe though). Biodynamics takes a more holistic view, where the entire vineyard and winery practice has to be in balance and preferably act as a single ecosystem.

To get certified biodynamic, you do not have to believe in every single part of the system. It's fine to ignore star positions and other esotherica. However, you should use the homeopathic sprays as part of your toolkit. Key for quality are cover crops, focus on soil health, and time spent in the vineyard. The processes like dynamizing water or burying cow horns at a specific time in the moon cycle seem a bit over the top for me personally. However, in regards to timing of certain activities, I guess that is similar to how our ancestors worked the land with their farmers

Biodynamic farming pre-dates organic farming movements by about 20 years. Organic farming is, in many parts of the world, no more expensive than conventional farming (ie Chile). In other areas, generally those affected heavily by mildew or other diseases, it averages about 30% more in cost per tonne of grapes. Biodynamic farming is pretty much always significantly more expensive as it leads to smaller crops and much more hands-on work. However, as the quality tends (no rule without exceptions) to be better, they can generally take this out on the price. In many countries including the US, organic grapes (and wine) give very limited or no price premiums. This is in spite of the certification being expensive. Which is probably why many vineyards go organic/biodynamic but don't get certified.

 

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Reply by Erica Landin, Sep 2, 2012.

Maybe I should add I have a MSc in Biology so I'm actually pretty critical of hocus pocus with no sound scientific base. However, I've tasted more excellent biodynamic wines than proportionally expected, and I know several smart, well educated and critically thinking wine growers who have gone over to biodynamics to be able to write it off as a hoax.

PS, in general, I go a bit weird when the full moon is on - why shouldn't the grapes be affected too? ;-)

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Reply by gregt, Sep 2, 2012.

Except that if the improvement in the vineyard has to do with the care and attention, it's not because of biodynamics, it's because of the care and attention.

As far as the entire vineyard and winery being part of a single ecosystem, that means you orient your barrels in a particular direction (those vibrations again) and you use local stones instead of bricks made a few kilometers away to construct your building, etc. And it soon becomes ludicrous because a few meters away are trucks rumbling by with logs that have been wrenched screaming out of the ground as trees were cut down and that surely has to interrupt the vibrations. Now recycling and allowing the water to clean itself by having a pond nearby and so on, I have no problem with any of that. But biodynamics is irrelevant to it all.

The fact that otherwise smart people may have gone over to biodynamics is nice, but kind of besides the point, no? Something doesn't become more or less true based on the number of people who believe it.

Not sure about biodynamic farming predating organic farming movements by 20 years.  Steiner was giving his lectures in the 1920s and they became the later basis for what's called biodynamics.  But for thousands of years prior, people had been doing organic farming because they had no alternative. The use of human waste in the rice paddies of Asia is one source of those wonderful influenza bugs that show up every so often. In European vineyards, people had only organic and recyclable materials to use.

Liebig, who is in a way one of the fathers of organic chemistry in the mid 1800s, identified some compounds and elements needed by plants. Those things were often as not produced from "organic" materials like bone meal and they were quite expensive. Consequently, although farmers would have liked to use them widely, their spread was somewhat constrained.

Meantime, Albert Howard had been sent to India to teach them about "modern" agricultural practices in 1905, but he noticed that some of their practices were better and he started writing papers about his findings. Eventually he was fired but he continued to write. He's considered the father of "organic" farming.  His wife traced the "movement" to 1931, when he published a book on waste products in agriculture, although he himself didn't like the word "organic".  So while organic practice greatly predates biodynamics, and in fact that was what Steiner was trying to get back to, as "movements" they came about roughly at the same time in the 1920s.

But really large scale use of fertilizer really only came about after WW2, when production of nitrogen-based compounds had ramped up for explosives that were no longer needed and nitrogen products could be shifted to other needs. More importantly however, they had become affordable - it was the time of cheap oil. And in fact, it allowed us to feed millions of people who would otherwise have starved, so fertilizers and pesticides were considered godsends.

That went on for a couple generations until the late 1950s and the 1960s when people like Rachel Carson and others started pointing out that maybe all the chemicals weren't an unmitigated good. But the problem was never chemicals per se, it was the assumption that a few chemicals were all that was necessary, as if things could all be done by hydroponics.

That chemical bath did enable one to produce fruit. Whether it was "good" and even more importantly, good tasting, fruit was another question. Fertilizer adds nutrients to the soil but won't improve the tilth of the soil and the latter is what enables the soil to store and drain water, to provide an anchor for the plant, and to provide a slow release of nutrients that the plant can take as it needs them, rather than when they're applied.

A forest grows with no human intervention - the leaves fall, they rot, and they get recycled by the worms and bugs in the dirt. To the degree that the farmer can reproduce that scenario, he creates a more "natural" environment. But that's common sense. No mystery and no vibrations needed. If someone converts from not caring to suddenly caring about the soil, their grapes are likely to be better.  But they can do it without biodynamics.

I guess I should add that I would have written the above even without a degree in Biology. It's really more about common sense!

Cheers!

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Reply by Erica Landin, Sep 2, 2012.

Nice Greg, I like you! :)

I don't really care where the stones come from, but I do like the striving for balance in the vineyard, general health of the plants, the soils, and the results. I don't particularly care for the focus on orienting barrels or other random practice (I do think Steiner was nuts), but there are a lot of people practicing biodynamics who place little value on those things. But you are right - there are a lot of intelligent people who are religious, so why not full-on biodynamicists...

The trees grow in the forest quite fine, no need for spraying with anything, but on the other hand we don't really care how much fruit they produce nor do we take it away every year. So, not entirely comparable, as you say, but trying to reproduce that balance is probably the ideal scenario. I agree with you that it is based on common sense and on creating a more natural environment. However, organic certification rules don't go very far toward this though some organic farmers do. It's the balance I'm after. It would be interesting to hear to which degree DRC follows the more esotheric of the biodynamics guidelines.

Until there is a better category I just don't want to write off 100% of biodynamics (or "natural" winemaking) just because the loudest proponents are the most nuts. There are some really great winemakers in that category and unless being derogatory to others, the practices of biodynamics really don't hurt anyone regardless of if we believe in it or not.

(so you have a biology background too? I'm always surprised at how many scientists, especially from medicine, end up in wine)

 

 

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Reply by Erica Landin, Sep 2, 2012.

So, what do you think of GMO?

 

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Reply by zufrieden, Sep 2, 2012.

Now a GMO (genetically modified organism for those without the lingo) - there is another topic we'd like to see GregT tackle.  We'd also like to see if we can generate another GMO (or, genetically modified opinion) on the subject of wine.

But the more interesting thing is this whole discussion of Rudoph Steiner.  Things were awash in Anthroposophy, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and yes, even Madame Blavatsky when I was a nipper. Until this wonderful thread emerged from the River Lethe, I had thought all discussion of subjects such as these had more or less disappeared, but here they are - wrapped in the enigma of biodynamic farming.

I don't have much time tonight to remark at length, but suffice it to say that Steiner was a man of great intuitive powers who sought to justify his insights with a certain amount of well-meaning loose talk.  I have no doubt that he was perfectly sane. His Ph.D. thesis (which I have not read to any depth) was an attempt to reconcile certain presentiments of Kant with our intuitive grasp of empirical knowledge.  Such a reconciliation is a key to freedom, but whether Steiner found that key is a highly dubious point indeed.

Steiner - like some organic farmers - cannot accept their finite, less-than-absolute position in the world vis-a-vis the elusive greater truth that is supposedly "out there". So what do they do?  They construct a world based on some facts and a lot of imaginative filler connecting the not-so-obvious bits.

I could and would talk longer, but let's leave that for later. Suffice it to say that talking about early 20th Century gurus like Herr Steiner (who had run-ins with Hitler) and making it click loudly with wine appreciation is a wonderful thing.

Great discussion!

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Reply by Erica Landin, Sep 3, 2012.

Steiner is indeed an interesting topic and one which I don't master whatsoever. Suffice to say that you may have a point - he had great insight and a few good ideas but wrapped them in fluff which discredit the good in his base theory...

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Reply by Terence Pang, Sep 3, 2012.

This is a fantastic topic to be discussing, you have my thanks Erica for bringing it up.

Organic and biodynamic approaches will be an endless source of debate for both winemakers and wine lovers. I have to admit to scoff at the notion of biodynamicism initially because like you pointed out, there have yet to be any controlled scientific experiments to quantify the benefits. However, how could one accurately declare whether the final product is better or not? It would be easy to characterize vine growth, fruit development etc, but when it comes to the wine that is produced, whose palate should be the judge?

But then, I have been swayed after tasting through the wines of Pyramid Valley with winemaker Mike Weersing. Perhaps it was his more practical approach to biodynamicism, to not have the leaf/root/fruit calander dictate the day to day runnings of his vineyard, to his opinion that the cowhorn trick is basically natural fertilizer. (http://simplepalatesseriously.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/biodynamic-rieslings-of-pyramid-valley-a-dope-free-olympic-perfection-pursuit/)

Tasting through the wines produced from a patch that was slowly transitioning from commercial to fully biodynamic, while not forgetting vintage variations, they appeared to be getting more delicate and purer with each vintage. Was I biased by not tasting them blind, or after hearing the story behind the wines? Perhaps, probably.

In terms of popularizing organic or biodynamic wines further, maybe the romantic element of wine should be marketed, a natural product manufactured by nature. The only problem is that many smaller winemaking operations simply cannot afford the risk of not having a product to put out onto the market. Yeast populations can be really tricky to maintain, one bad spot and you've got a whole batch of wine worthy of the drain. I can declare as a certainty as I've had many a cell culture go into the bin.

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Reply by gregt, Sep 3, 2012.

So as far as GMOs go, what to say. People have been breeding for selected traits for centuries - even before Mendel clarified what it was they were looking for.

And they've been cloning for centuries too - every grape variety today is a clone, all the roses in my yard are clones, and most apples, pears, etc., are clones. So if they do it by random selection, the "traditional" way, or if they do it by taking a specific gene and moving it to someplace else, I guess I don't see much difference.  Adding the randomness only adds to the time.

In the same way, if they propagate something by grafting, rooting, or starting it in a petri dish, I don't see much difference.

Trans-species?

That's a little different. I suppose we could come up with rules and say if it can't happen in nature, then it shouldn't happen.  So crossing 2 apples is OK, or some plums, but crossing a tomato and an ant, or a cat and a fish, well, maybe not so good.  It's not like biodynamics because we're not pointing to something and saying "ooh ooh we don't understand," instead we're saying "we don't really know what's going to happen when this gets released but let's be crazy.  Let's do it anyway."

And then of course, you come up with something like this and you just wonder what the hell:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3FvqZB2Wmg

Terrance - good to see you back. You nailed it when you said market the "romantic" aspect of it, but marketing is different entirely from the actual wine. Still I do agree with you about the marketing, and that's exactly what people do when they call wine "a natural product manufactured by nature". That's yet another term that people bandy about - "natural" and it's one that causes a real rift in the wine community. There is a whole cadre of true believers who claim to know what they mean when they use the term and by the way, they're quite inclined to side with the biodymaniacs as well. People like to think something about wine is natural, but nothing at all about wine is natural, and that's another flaw in Steiner's position.

Here's what happens:

You cut down the trees and other vegetation that may have been growing in the area for centuries and you kill all the bears and wolves that were hanging around. Then on your cleared land, you stick vines into the ground. Not seeds mind you, vine cuttings. From vines that may have arisen from spontaneous mutations, but that have now been cloned for hundreds of generations.

Crap. They die.

Somebody introduced a bug from overseas. So you get some rootstock from overseas and you graft all of your vines onto that rootstock, something that in a million years would never occur in nature.  Now you have plants from two continents glued to each other. That's so natural it's almost supernatural. Then you plant them in tidy rows. Back in the day, you might just let them self-regulate and grow them as bush vines, but not today - those are very hard to manage. So you grow them in rows oriented north-south, east-west, or whatever direction you feel is going to capture the sunlight you want and you trim them back every year.

Then your local government passes some laws about how much weight you can get from those vines so you pull off bunches or de-classify some grapes because while identical to all the others, they're not allowed. That rule incidentally, is not because of any political dealmaking. Hell no.

Then you measure your sugar content and acidity and at some point you pick those grapes. You throw out the imperfect ones and decide whether you want to start carbonic maceration or crush them and let them macerate on the skins or whatever. And you regulate the temp while the maceration is going on, after which you let them start fermenting. You can add some yeast that your uncle found useful for his grapes or you can loudly trumpet the fact that you use only "native" yeasts although you have no idea what strains they may be or whether they just showed up that week.

You make decisions about pumping over, temperature control, and whatever else you need to decide. And when you bottle, you may add a little sulfur if you're biodynamic/natural/organic, or you may not, but whatever decision you make, you trumpet loudly as the correct decision.

There is nothing whatsoever natural about winemaking, at any step.

And the fatal flaw in Steiner's thinking is that somehow a vineyard is out of balance if it has lots of mildew, pests, or whatever. Like those things don't belong.  I don't think those "pests" think of themselves as being out of place.  It's our desire for our preferred order of things that makes them out of place, but which is more natural and in tune with the environment - the fungus and bugs that show up naturally in the environment that suits them or our desire to create preparations, whether from oil or plants or animals, that we can spread on that environment to get rid of the things that naturally show up?  Yeah, nettles are more "natural" than petroleum chemicals but when's the last time anybody saw a bunch of nettles hop into a blender and then after being pulverized, spread themselves around?

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Reply by Erica Landin, Sep 3, 2012.

There is nothing "natural" about my life either, but if I take systemic antibiotics every time I have a cold (which, by the way, is a virus and not really affected by antibiotics, which kill bacteria), my whole immune system goes out of whack. My good intestinal bacteria get knocked out and I have very little resistance to other strains. I'd say striving for balance in the vineyard is more about that - about getting the soils and plants healthy so they can resist more. Cover crops, natural predators, natural yeasts alive and kicking on the vines. It's not what it would have been if man had not intervened, but it is a better, more natural balance than conventional farming post WWII.

By the way, if your uncle found some yeasts which you have propagated, they would still not fall under the general rules for "natural" winemaking. I like natural yeast because of the complexity of it, and because it is as far away from the abomination of aromatic or functional yeasts as one can get. I swear I pick out those flavors blind, they bother me just like added acidity.

I need to spend more time in vineyards with vineyards under biodynamic conversion. Since I don't understand the point entirely, I'd like to see what changes. Organics gives better, healthier soils than conventional, but what does biodynamics give that they don't have with organic? I'm not going to write it off based on my take on what should and should not work - science is not..ahem...a perfect science. ;-)

 

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Reply by Terence Pang, Sep 3, 2012.

Greg, great post as always. But I do think your argument takes the term 'natural' too far when I see the situation as requiring it to be used in a more moderate regard (which the majority of consumers might not actually care about).

Yes, to graft onto rootstocks is unnatural. To limit the amount of fruit per vine is unnatural. To have laws dictating planting density is unnatural. If the climate and weather says the vine is going to produce X amount of fruit, then let it be so. To use clones is unnatural. And by extension of that line of logic, then commercial farming of livestock and fish are just as unnatural (actually, I think few would argue against that).

You did say that 'There is nothing whatsoever natural about winemaking, at any step.' but I would have to disagree. The fermentation of the sugars into alcohol is very much a natural process. However, I would agree that to use commercial yeasts and to control fermentation temperatures is not natural. Doesn't mean I wouldn't support those practices because it means that the winemaker will be able to have some control over the time required to obtain a wine ready for sale to raise funds for the next vintage.

I guess my point is that we would get nowhere if the framework of this discussion is as such. It would be more constructive to have a limited discussion of wines made through minimal intervention, such as the use of wild yeasts, organic and not commercial fertilizers. The definition of 'natural' encompasses a spectrum of which you'll find many supporters for the different segments.

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Reply by gregt, Sep 4, 2012.

Of course Terrance, and I'd greatly prefer "organic" to non-organic as a general rule. It's just that things aren't either-or, they're far more nuanced, as you point out.

But on the idea of "native" yeasts, that's something worth looking at.  Unless someone plates the yeast, how do they know what the yeast is and whether indeed it's "native"?  It could easily be a feral yeast that blew in from the winery next door, or a yeast that you carried in somehow. To propagate a strain of yeast, in the same way that one propagates a varietal clone, just doesn't seem wrong.  To be sure, yeasts are propagated like other things - often for a particular characteristic, like the ability to ferment higher-alcohol wines, etc. 

Perhaps people are against those because we don't any longer experiment with new grapes - nobody is going to replace Cab Sauv with something newly developed, even though it may be far superior in many respects, whereas with yeast, that's not true. Thus, there may be a yeast that grandpa didn't know and that seems wrong. But as a former baker, I know you can kind of tell what yeast is showing up - you end up with one or a few "house"yeasts, wherever they came from, and some are very nice while some are just no good and they die off or just don't provide enough "oomph".

In any case, it's a good conversation.

Cheers all.

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Reply by Terence Pang, Sep 4, 2012.

I was just trying to locate the article cited in this report (http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/september/organic.html). It was a meta-analysis of more than 200+ studies examining nutritional levels in organic vs. spray-treated produce and reported no significant difference. But I can't locate it on Pubmed nor on the Annals of Internal Medicine website itself. Will try at work tomorrow.

Greg, I not exactly sure how the endogenous yeast solution is made up, but it is something along the line of a collect bucket placed into the vineyard for 1-2 days, then brought back into the shed for proliferation. You are right in that the cells could have blown in from the neighbours, or brought in under someone's shoe. But in most cases, there would be so few cells that it would be unlikely to out compete the native yeasts, and conditions would have to be very coincidentally perfect for foreign yeasts to thrive under the 'native' conditions. And speaking to a couple of biodynamic producers, while admitting to subtle variations barring major differences in climate conditions, they reckon that the population is dynamically stable.

I'm a useless baker, so I gave up feeding yeasts in the fridge rather early. Have a friend who has kept their family's yeast culture going for 10 years!

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Reply by Erica Landin, Sep 4, 2012.

Interesting discussion! I find cultured "native yeast" is one thing - it can be kept and propagated. Of course there is a safety to that, but it is not the same as wild yeast. With wild yeast you get a much wider variety of strains, and even if there is the risk of stuck fermentation there is still the potential of a more complex wine.

The slower fermentation might also have another advantage - no added yeast and yeast foods means there is less material left for something like brettanomyces to start chewing on. I know many people like a "medicinal" touch of brett in their wines but it's not my thing. Though a proponent of "natural" wines, I do wish them to be clean, and that means no or very little brett. Of course you don't have to add yeast foods just because you add yeast, but I find as far as convictions go, wild yeasts don't go philosophically well with yeast food.

I'm not 100% against added yeast, I understand there are challenges in the winery, but I do like the idea (and possibly character - though who knows what we actually taste of what we think we taste) of wild yeast when possible.

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Reply by gregt, Sep 4, 2012.

 

Well, if you're making bread, sometimes there really is a difference in what you get "naturally" vs what you get from the store, and I'd imagine that the same holds true for wine. I've tried to keep various yeasts going when they act the way I want them to and provide great flavor, but I'm kind of lazy about it and sooner or later I can't revive them. Don't do much baking in the summer, so that's when they die. But out of curiosity, I've set aside some flour/water in different locations - in my house and in other places where I've stayed in different states, figuring that I'll get something different and if it starts bubbling, sometimes it's completely different.  Had one growing that made everything smell like Parmesan cheese, which is nice if you're making pizza but just didn't work otherwise. You can trade on-line - people have yeasts from Russia, Austria, Germany, France, etc., that they swap.

They usually go along quite well and eventually they start tasting the same. I never plated any but I think that what happens is the local stuff kind of takes over, and the local stuff might be some commercial strain you've used once. Supposedly the various places that make San Francisco sourdough bread have to keep getting refreshed batches from SF.

And of course, different strains work at different times - the yeast that starts a fermentation in wine is usually not the one to finish it. As the alcohol level increases, it starts killing off some of the more tender yeasts.

In baking, there's a kind of symbiotic relationship with bacteria and you're really looking for a good pairing because it's the bacteria that gives you the great flavor - it's one reason long slow fermentations are better. With wine, I'm kind of curious. I'll buy that a group of different strains can in toto produce something greater than any of them individually. 

But I guess if I liked them, I'd try to keep them going, no? And then I'd be inoculating, but somehow it doesn't seem less "natural". 

As far as I know, in California, Paul Draper has used "native" yeasts since founding Ridge in the 1960s, although he's not dogmatic about it:

"But just because you used natural yeast and didn’t filter your wine, there is no guarantee that you’re going to make a better wine - it may be lousy. One the other hand, you may get a really lovely wine from someone who has used an inoculated fermentation, has watched his wines and maybe even sterile filtered the wine."

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Reply by Terence Pang, Sep 4, 2012.

Erica, I think that to culture native yeast would be counter to the 'natural' movement because you would then have selected a specific strain, and in doing so, would not really be capturing the climatic/weather variations which would alter the proportion population of yeasts. Also, to do a selective culture would be a singular strain of yeast (if more, what proportion would you use?). The intention of working with wild yeasts is that there are multiple strains that exist in balance with each other in the vineyard.

I'm not sure I'd concur with the slower fermentation = less material for brett. I think the risk of brett infection is more closely associated with the cleanliness of the winery. I have low tolerance of brett in wine with the exception of Clape cornas and older Beaucastels (yes, an unexplained bias).

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Reply by napagirl68, Sep 5, 2012.

So, obviously, I am not farming grapes for wine production.  But I am a very avid, successful gardener.... mostly ornamentals, as I entertain a lot, but also herbs and veggies too. 

I'm sure I am not knowledgeable about all aspects of "biodynamic"/organic farming, I do believe in some practices, and have seen the results in my own personal garden.  Maybe some of this applies to grapes, and maybe not.  Again, I site Susan Sokol-Blosser's experience I read about in her book.  Going organic, at that time, was NOT a workable option for them, although she tried.  I can only wonder and guess why some winegrowers do it with a level of ease, and others struggle and lose fruit.  Perhaps it has to do with the area....   Sokol Blosser was a pioneer in the Oregon wine movement, so perhaps vines were not accustomed to that area at that early time?  I don't know.

But what I have learned (via many mistakes along with successes) with flower and veg gardening is:

- my first and foremost planting advice is to plant what is native to the area.  If not possible, plant what will historically do best in your area's conditions.  Nothing invites disease/pests more than WRONG CONDITIONS (water/climate/soil) for plants.  Stress weakens the reserves of the plants and naturally occuring disease organisms take root.  Kinda like the human body. 

- try to kill pests and you will kill your ecosystem.  Natural predators of pests work well (again, when plants are not in unfavorable conditions and already suffering).  These natural predators must also be in a favorable climate/region for them as well.  Kill the natural predators with pesticide, and yes, you may well kill the offending pests, but the ecosystem becomes disrupted, and plants may begin exhibiting signs of disease.  I have personally seen this happen at one point in my own garden.  I relented to the spraying of "safe" pesticides via a pest control company.  I did trust their product as far as animal/human safety.  It controlled my problem, but the next season, I had the BIGGEST whitefly/aphid/moth population ever.

- Don't forget soil as a huge lever.  You can even have your soil analyzed, in some cases, by the local cooperative extension.  I have seen certain plants literally DIE in short order due to soil.  And even worse, those that live do not perform or flourish, and are often disease stricken (which then invites pests).  I also believe there are those areas that cannot support a variety of plants due to soil quality. Choices may be very limited for plants, and that is not what us gardeners want to hear. When dealing with potting soil, research and be picky... miracle grow potting soil is one of the worst, IMO.  Join local gardening websites and do research.

I do believe this can be done successfully, but one would have to literally become a slave to their land in a sense... planting only what will grow successfully.  I once planted a slew of Daikon for the sole purpose of breaking up my nasty clay soil.  I read about it in Organic Gardening mag, and guess what?  IT WORKED.  In my front courtyard, I have the most rich, fertile soil where I started with something like half dried cement. 

So yes, I believe in this.  With regard to grape growers doing this successfully, I think part of it may be sheer luck... planting the right vines in the right soil, with all the right temp/water conditions.  Then organic might be a breeze.  For others fighting inherent conditions, it may be more challenging.  I'm sure the big hitter wineries that are doing this well have spent $$$, and used highly regarded consultants for their areas.

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Reply by napagirl68, Sep 5, 2012.
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Reply by napagirl68, Sep 5, 2012.

double post.. deleted content, but did not let me delete actual posting. 

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Reply by Erica Landin, Sep 5, 2012.

Thanks Napagirl, nice account. Seems to be what people say.

Terrance - yes, indeed, pretty much all members of the "natural" movement would be against innoculating, even with native yeast, but I have heard accounts of it. The thoughts on Brett and yeast food were related to some research cited by Jamie Goode which made sense to me.

I'm heading to Rhone on Saturday to do a harvest with a biodynamic vineyard, will see what I can pick up there :)



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