James Lluch taste tests his wine
Organic is trendy. It is also worth a fortune. Add the word ‘organic’ to the beginning of practically any food or drink item and health conscious consumers will dig deep into their pockets; practically to the knees. Wine is no exception.
Worldwide, sales of organic wines are rising. In fact, the market grew steadily throughout the late Nineties and will continue to grow by approximately 17 percent a year up to 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association.
Within the EU, wines cannot legally be described as organic. Rather, due to the essential addition of sulphur in the wine-making process (as a preserving agent), they may only be referred to as ‘made from organically grown grapes’. This can be a misleading definition, according to Johnson Scutt, a wine buyer for a US company who travels Europe scouting wines.
“The problem with this label is that it only refers to what happens during the production of the grapes. Though it is generally indicative of good organic practice, this is not always the case. This label can be used regardless of what happens during the rest of the wine-making process, organic or otherwise, which is something consumers should be aware of.”
Semantics aside, one producer who strongly believes in the principles of organic wine making is Jaume Lluch of Sol de Brugas, an organic winery near Barcelona in the Alt Penèdes. Lluch produces organic cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah from his 15 hectares of vines, and exports his wines throughout Europe. “I am a producer who feels and lives nature, and I want to transmit this feeling through my wines,” said Lluch.
Organic wine production is all about avoiding artificial manipulation of the process. From the soil in which the vines are grown to the time of bottling, all efforts are directed at maintaining a process that is as natural as possible. “Organic and traditional wine making differ in a number of areas,” said Lluch. “The soil of the vineyard can only be fertilised using organic matter and minerals. During the growth cycle of the vines we never use pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers as a preventative control against insects and mildew. Rather we use natural methods like they did in the old days such as preparations of copper, lime and sulphur powder.”
These old-fashioned principles follow the grapes into the winery. No additional yeast is added during the fermentation process, relying instead on the grapes’ natural yeast production. While this slows the rate of conversion considerably, speed is not the priority. “We don’t want to rush the process,” said Lluch, whose ‘joven’ wines spend a minimum of three years in tanks. “By avoiding forced filtration, we obtain the maximum expression of flavours and a high content of poliphenols [antioxidants], tannins and other healthy components.”
While health benefits are important, a wine’s taste profile is generally the ultimate decision maker for most consumers. Whether organic winemaking actually produces results which are noticeably better than conventional practices is debatable, but Lluch believes the answer lies beyond the simple taste test.
“I don’t think that organic wines necessarily taste any better than conventional wines, but what is clear is that organic wines are healthier. This makes them better!”
Sol de Brugas
Tel: 93 898 8183
MERLOT 2003: Cherry coloured, bursting with fruit in the nose, full of ripe tannins and accents of plum and pepper.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003: Very deep red in colour with aromas of blackcurrants, excellent harmony between alcohol and tannins. A rich and focused wine.
SYRAH 2003: Brilliant cherry-red colour mixed with violet, soft body, nose and mouth recall the fruit of Mediterranean woods.