repost: The future of wine is farming: Emily Harman at Terroir Tuscany

The origins of winemaking are to be found in Georgia where, from around 4000BC, the people of the Caucasus mountains discovered that grape juices turned into wine when left buried throughout the winter in a shallow pit. The huge clay vessels they built, kvevris (now UNESCO protected), sealed the grapes in and left them to ferment at ground temperature in an act of natural winemaking that many are now seeking to recreate.

“THE DESCRIPTION I ALWAYS COME BACK TO IS: “NOTHING ADDED, NOTHING TAKEN AWAY.”

Unless you live in one of our many global capitals where wine lists featuring natural wine have become evermore popular, you might still be wondering what natural wine is exactly. Emily Harman, a sommelier with extensive experience in some of the world’s best restaurants who now runs her own sommelier consultancy business, Vinalupa, told us why the natural wine movement was firstly so important, and secondly why it’s also an essential act of agriculture during our Terroir Tuscany culinary retreat hosted in partnership with Castello di Potentino.


“The description I always come back to is: “nothing added, nothing taken away.” Emily told us. “It’s simple: Grapes come from organic viticulture, fermentation arises through native yeasts, no new oak is used in the barrels, no additives are mixed in, and some sulphites can be added but not in huge levels.” Before you get hung up on the issue of sulphites, Emily is quick to point out that apples have higher naturally occurring levels of sulphites than what we would permit in natural winemaking.

“LEGALLY, THERE ARE OVER 60 DIFFERENT CHEMICALS OR ADDITIVES THAT MAY BE ADDED DURING THE WINEMAKING PROCESS.”

Time for the obvious question: Isn’t all wine natural? The short (and only) answer is no. Legally, there are over 60 different chemicals or additives that may be added during the wine making process. These include isinglass (fish guts!), calcium chloride (de-icer!), silicon dioxide, potassium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen and ascorbic acid! So there you have it, industrialised wine is a long way from natural.

You’re right to be disgusted. As recently as 1986, 20 people died in Italy from drinking wine with methanol in. But what led to such a uniquely natural process going so horribly wrong?

Emily took us on a quick tour of the wine world’s tumultuous history. First came the 1855 Bordeaux Classification which ranked France’s best Bordeaux wines in the eyes of international brokers, setting the foundations of what was to become one of wine’s most religious (and rigid) texts. Shortly afterwards, in 1870, “The Great French Wine Blight” saw small aphids (phylloxera) attack vines with a velocity and alacrity that almost killed off the winemaking industry altogether. And of course, by the time everything had recovered two rounds of world wars proved equally disastrous for many of the world’s vines which were destroyed either in battle, bombing, mass movement or more.

“SUSTAINABLE VITICULTURE AND THE GROWTH OF NATURAL WINE IS SAVING SOILS, VINES AND VINEYARDS ACROSS THE GLOBE, ALL PREVIOUSLY DEPLETED DUE TO DECADES OF INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS AND OVER MANIPULATION.”

To top it all off, in the 1970s, wine critics such as Robert Parker began to champion heavily adulterated “big” wines such as Bordeauxs, setting a new global trend for wine buying and drinking that left many producers scrambling to recreate the tastes people were going crazy for. Often ignoring their local terroir, many of these winemakers relayed on university-taught processes and schemes which allowed growers to manipulate soils and produce these bigger wines. French experts from the regions in question would often fly all over the world to teach winemakers how to grow a Bordeaux Pinot Noir in their own vineyards through chemically manipulated vines, despite a resistant local terroir.

So when did it all begin to change? Well in 1978 a French winemaker called Jules Chauvet presented his Beaujolais vintage despite it being a notoriously bad year for everyone else in the region due to rain and rot. Not only had he produced a good wine, the maverick revealed that he’d done so with organic viticulture, ripe grapes, clean work in the cellar, no additives and no sulphites. Suffice to say the winemaking community was stunned and the natural wine movement was birthed.

There are many myths about natural wines which put people off even trying them. The most common ones Emily hears are that they all have weird flavours and taste like cider; they’re all cloudy; they’re all low in alcohol; and that nothing ages well. “None of these are true” she says, laughing. “There’s a whole world of different wines out there and some might be better than others, but there’s no concrete “natural wine” look or taste or rule.”

Emily works to incorporate natural wines onto the lists of restaurants in London, Miami and Berlin, pointing at how sustainable viticulture and the growth of the industry is saving soils, vines and vineyards across the globe, all previously depleted due to decades of industrial chemicals and over manipulation.

“NATURAL WINE HAS REVITALISED REGIONS, BROKEN DOWN BORDERS AND CREATED A COMMUNITY.”

And what else has the natural winemaking gifted the industry? So much! The platform is rife with experimentation producing new styles and flavours constantly. Major wineries have started to play around with their products and orange wine (a direct result of the natural wine industry - made when the skins of white grapes are left in contact with the juice) has even been spotted on supermarket shelves in recent years. These new tastes have re-engaged consumers as well, making wine more fun and resulting in renewed interest in tastings and fairs.

Most important though, as Emily points out, is the way the movement has “revitalised regions, broken down borders and created a community.” It’s an international community focused on wine as an act of agriculture, and it’s making our wine-drinking futures a lot more sustainable. Make ours a glass of orange...

credit: terroirtalk

https://terroirtalk.org/stories-2/2019/2/14/the-future-of-wine-is-farming-an-insight-into-the-natural-wine-movement-with-emily-harman?mc_cid=c62028e91f&mc_eid=5c0ba8628e

julia boening
VINEYARD JOAO M BARBOSA - PORTUGAL
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The history of our family company, João M. Barbosa, is recent compared to other Portuguese wine companies, but we have many years of experience in the sector. Fruit of this experience is a project with a “sui generis” concept, which promises to surprise wine lovers.  They will discover a new wine, and share a whole new wine experience – new grape varieties, new blends, presented in a unique form, and an image conceived around the blue rose, symbol of the company, and the visual illusion images in the new labels.

“Obvious” and “easy” have no place in our company, where all the members of the family collaborate with total dedication to produce the best and most unique wine from our land, both in the Alentejo and the Tejo (regions). Two modern wineries created to produce authentic and distinct wines.

FIRST, THE FAMILY. WINE IS A FAMILY INHERITANCE AND THE BASIS FOR ANY ENTERPRISE. FOR US, IT IS THE CAUSE AND THE CONSEQUENCE. FAMILY IS FUNDAMENTAL BECAUSE IT GIVES US THE STABILITY THAT WE NEED TO DEDICATE ALL OUR EFFORTS TO THE BUSINESS, AND DO OUR BEST IN EVERYTHING. THE FAMILY IS THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF EVERYTHING WE DO.
— JOAO

As a young boy João Teodósio Matos Barbosa would accompany his grandfather, founder of Caves Dom Teodósio, when he oversaw the work in the vineyards. From this experience he developed a passion for wine and a desire to become part of the family project. Working for Caves Dom Teodósio he acquired ample knowledge about wine-making and the wine sector, and he grew along with the company as it became a Portuguese story of success and a brand of reference in the national wine making scene.

In 1997 João founded his own family business, and began growing organic, integrated grape crops, creating signature wines where he could express himself and let the terroir of the two new regions he had chosen express themselves also.

Both regions, Tejo and Alto Alentejo, have their own wineries and brands: Ninfa in the Tejo region (Porta de Teira winery in Rio Maior), and Lapa dos Gaivões in the Alto Alentejo (Valle de Junco winery in Esperança, Portalegre). Unique and authentic signature wines are made in both properties. The quality is assured by the fact that each wine of given harvest is bottle all in one go.

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AS A COMPANY WE ARE CONCERNED WITH THE WELL-BEING OF (LOCAL) FLORA AND FAUNA, AND BELIEVE IN USING ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY PRACTICES. BY ALLYING THE LATEST AND  MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TECHNIQUES, WHENEVER WE PLANT NEW VINEYARDS WE HAVE THE FOLLOWING CONSIDERATIONS
— JOAO

We speak with previous owners or with local people who know the land well, like elderly neighbors, to determine whether the soil is good, if it has good drainage, what was grown there previously (usually vineyards).

We then do a soil analysis, and if necessary, make corrections of nutrients and organic matter.

Through the soil analyses we determine which grape variety and rootstock (for grafting) are most suited to the terrain and the climate for the production of top quality wines.

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In the first season, after the grape vines are planted, posts and wires are put in place to train the vines. In year two, after pruning and leaving two buds, we tie the trunk to the first wire. In year three we “open the arms” (cordon training) to train the shoots along the first wire bilaterally. Only after year four do we harvest the first grapes, thus creating the ideal conditions for the upward growth and root formation of the vines, and providing the best conditions to produce grapes for many years to come.

From the time they are planted, the vines are treated with natural products so that our wines are considered of integrated and organic production.

The harvest is the culmination of a year’s work. The entire harvest is done manually by family, friends, partners, and some hired help who come every year – all of them people we trust and who have become, above everything, friends.

The grapes for our red, white, rosé and sparkling wines are put into small 12 kg bins. The harvest usually extends for over a month and a half, allowing enough time to establish the right picking cadence for each variety according to its perfect ripeness.

After the grapes are picked, they are placed in a low temperature environment so that their taste and aromas are passed on to the wine. Then they are placed in mechanical or foot treading tanks  (“lagares”), or in a balseiro tank, thus obtaining great quality musts.

After alcoholic fermentation, the wines are piped through gravity to vats. The best grapes are left to age in oak barrels that come from the best cooperies in the world.

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