I couldn't wait to get rid of my speech at the Ecosostenible Conference in the Penedes. I obsess about these things. I want to be perfect, to be funny, to have just the right touch of light and gravitas. In other words, until the presentation was over I was a basketcase. But I gave it. I said sustainable was meaningless and I didn't understand why the concept in wine even exists. I said other things, like I ragged on the attachment to Round Up, and the shame that an industry I'm close to cultivates the image of being close to nature while plumping up a wine with additives and process. I don't what else. I have to reread the speech, but at the Q&A a gentleman in the second row asked a question. He is writing a guide, he said... and why are the organic and biodynamic wines not as good as the conventional wines? I had no idea who he was. And I took the approach of I'd have to see what he was tasting and what his palate was like, I had the feeling he had a very different one than mine. I then went ahead and tried to explain terroir to him. Turns out.........he was Penin of the Penin Guide to Spanish Wine Who scripted that scene? There were some very excellent speakers during the few days. Such as Peter Hans Schmidt who has been researching biochar. His studies of how sprinkling the substance through the vineyard can impact water retention might have profound effect on lessening the dependence on irrigation. Then there was the stunningly slick presentation on Assessing Sustainability with Eco-Efficiency Analysis from one of the conference's sponsor's BASF, the company that brought us the new transgenic potato.
Mr. Mario Manaresi put forth his thesis that an apple out of season was more eco-minded than an apple in season. Ooof--the manipulation of carbon footprint for the companies greater good. He hit tremendously false notes with the audience as the hands shot up in attack, tempered with some politesse, as, after all, the company is a major EcoSostenible contributor.
Amongst other news was, well, it's not new, but another example of the way the EU seems intent on messing over the beauty of European wine. This time it's the definition of organic and the desire to eliminate a two-level certification, one for wine made from organic grapes and another for organic wine.
Enric Barta gave the report. All of the sudden I stopped emailing and started to take notes. The suited man next to me started to wiggle his jowls, angry but for a different reason. I raised my hand: "Do you mean that there really will no longer be a separate category for wines MADE with organic grapes?
My neighbor was outraged because his company could source organic grapes and get part of the market but did they want to invest in a whole other set of organic ingredients? This would be like having to have both a meat and a dairy sink. But what got me all on the edge of my seat was the allowance of any addition as long as the additive is 'organic.' So allowed in 'organic' wine would be" micro ox, reverse osmosis, and just about anything else including gum arabic and mega-purple. In other words, the new organic wine would be only organic by ingredient and not by soul. This seemed ultimately unfair and malicious. For once, I was on the side of big business. The guy next to me who works for one of the biggest commercial wineries in Spain almost blew his jugular out. The next day all was well for the moment as just like the rose folly of last year-the EU retreated. And the official comment from IFOAM was Commission withdraws draft proposals on organic wine EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Dacian Ciolos has today withdrawn the draft proposal to introduce rules for the production of organic wine. Organic wine was meant to be a new concept, as wine has so far been excluded from the EU organic regulation. Processed wine from organic grapes has been marketed as 'wine from grapes from organic cultivation'. The draft has been under discussion for several months within the Standing Committee on Organic Foodstuffs - and in a number of bilateral meetings - but it has not been possible to find a credible compromise which respects organic standards. Speaking this morning, Commissioner Ciolos stated: 'It is clear that conditions for such new rules are not right in a majority of member states. I am not willing to compromise on organic standards because it sends the wrong signal to consumers on the importance we attach to quality policy. Our hope would be that the industry and research can make progress, and the Commission can come back to these proposals in future.' Based on an independent study (Orwine), the draft proposals sought a number of changes, including: · A lower limit for sulphites than in conventional wine; · A smaller list of permitted additives and processing aids than in conventional wine; · Not permitting 5 oenological practices, and restricting the use of 3 others N.B. The rules for 'wine produced from organic grapes' continue to apply. With a great big sigh, I gave my presentation on how important sustainable wine was to the consumer, my message? What, are you joking? And with that, I went off to visit another entirely different world of beauty.