Friday, February 01, 2008

Green Issues

These days we are asked with increasing frequency whether any of our wines are either organic or biodynamic. I thought it was about time therefore, that I post some sort of statement that explains our approach to these 'green issues'.
As I have written many times before, we live in a very green part of Spain and have more than our fair share of rainfall. We are officially categorised as having an Atlantic Maritime climate, which means quite simply that our weather is damp and humid. Despite all the precautions that we take there is not a single vintage that goes by where we do not have to intervene at some point, and therefore we cannot honestly say that our wine is completely biodynamic. I would actually go so far as to say that it would almost be impossible to produce a genuinely biodynamic wine in the Rias Baixas denomination, and any producer who claims that he does should perhaps be treated with some suspicion!

As a reference for all our customers Angela has compiled a list of the practices that we follow in order to keep our AlbariƱo as 'ecologically friendly' as possible. You will see that most of the procedures that we apply in our vineyards are preventive, to avoid disease and consequently minimise the use of chemical treatments.

1). Soil management: We do not use herbicides - we use the traditional system of ploughing the soil 2 or 3 times a year, especially when the vines are dormant (doing this in summer can damage the roots of the vines)

2). We have natural grass cover between the vines that is cut manually. In this way we can also use the natural organic material (mulch) to help replenish the soil.

3). We use natural worm humus, especially when planting new vines.

4). We use sheep and horse “manure” to add nutrients to the soil when required.

5). Plagues and Diseases: Mainly preventive strategies are used, such green pruning and thinning the canopy to avoid excessive humidity under the pergolas. This of course allows a better circulation of air and thus helps to prevent fungus attacks.

Sometimes these attacks cannot be prevented and so we are obliged to use some products (all approved in ecological viticulture), such as:
a). Copper in different combinations in the case of mildew attacks.
b). Soluble and powdered sulphur for the control of excoriosis and oidium.
c). Anti-botrytis (following insect attack or hail damage) when fungus may enter and create rot.

6). To reduce the possible spread of fungus spores in the following harvest we collect and burn all the vine cuttings after pruning.

7). We use pheromone traps that cause sexual confusion to control the polilla de la uva (grape moth) or lobesia botrana. In the case of an attack we treat with bacillus thuringiensis (which is a biological treatment)

8). Harvest : manual collection of grapes to avoid damaged bunches and premature oxidation.

This is also perhaps the time to mention that our AlbariƱo is suitable for vegetarians as we do not use any meat derived products during handling or vinification.

In addition to these vineyard practices there are also routines that we follow in the wine cellar, relating to other environmental issues that I will write about in future posts.

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