The SW Summary: On the profitability of organic farming, zero-zero wine, climate change and the vineyard, smoke taint to spirits, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Organic’s bright future

Writing for SevenFifty Daily, Pam Strayer discusses how the most commonly cited barriers to organic farming – namely increased costs and lower yields – no longer seem to be so high. In fact, organic farming can be just as, if not more, financially profitable as conventional farming.

The organic practices, materials, tools, and know-how available today enable growers to farm organically at no greater cost compared to conventional, producing similar levels of yield. Whilst factors such as “site, climate, terroir, and experience of grower” all remain significant, Strayer points out the competitive advantage of organic farming. As summarised by Robert Eden of Château Maris in Languedoc, “these greener farming systems offer an attractive package of benefits: higher grape and wine quality, vineyard longevity, and customer loyalty.”

Read more here.

Zero-zero wine: “Nothing added and nothing taken away”

In The San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley explores the new subcategory of hardliners emerging in the Californian natural wine movement: the ‘zero-zero winemakers.’ They take natural wine’s “minimalist-intervention philosophy” to the extreme, by not adding anything at all to the grapes in the fermentation process. This leaves the wine greatly exposed to bacterial flaws. Mobley takes a balanced approach in her discussion on the contentious topic of unsulfured wine. She concludes by quoting winemaker Rosalind Reynolds of Emme Wines who says, “The thing that’s important is not whether you added sulfur. The thing is being honest about what you did and then letting people decide what to drink for themselves.” Read the article here.

The new, hotter reality for California wineries

Writing for Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone draws attention to the drastic impact of climate change and what it means for California wineries. The staple Winkler Index, developed in the 1940s at the University of California, “uses regional climate conditions to determine the best places to grow a wide range of wine grapes.” The Index is now being updated for the first time in over 75 years to reflect the new reality of a warmer planet and “increasing pressures from heat and drought.” Read more here.

A Greek tragedy

Tragic wildfires have surged throughout the Mediterranean, with temperatures reaching up to 48C (118F). Writing for wine-searcher, Kathleen Willcox regrettably notes how the Greek wine industry, which was “finally making inroads into the wider world after centuries of slumber,” is under great threat. However, on a more optimistic note, she wonders whether Greece can “help [save] the rest of the wine world from the effects of climate change.” Willcox points out how Greek grape varieties exhibit “high levels of endurance under critical climatic conditions” and experimental plantings are already underway across vineyards in California. Read more here.

From smoke taint to spirits

Australian winery Simon Tolley Wines suffered extensive wildfire damage in 2019. The winery dedicated all of its smoke tainted grapes to a research project exploring the use of smoke damaged grapes in spirits production. Writing for Decanter, Chris Mercer shares how the project is  “part of a larger investigation” exploring the impact of climate change on Australian brandy production, led by University of Adelaide PhD candidate Hugh Holds. Currently maturing at the University’s winery, the first spirits “will be ready for sampling in early 2022.” Tolley hopes to “assist other smoke-affected growers in the future and give them more options with the rejected wine fruit.”

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.