“Going Organic” Just Got Easier

Dozens and dozens of winegrape growers and winemakers have embraced “organic winegrowing” over the past 30 years or so.

That’s good for the world of wine, and it’s good for the world in general.

But what does “organic winegrowing” really entail? For most of those three decades, it has meant different things to different people. Some farmers may embrace one set of earth-friendly practices, while others may opt for other practices.

Obviously, any practices or procedures that benefit the health of Mother Earth represent positive developments, but what has been missing is a standardized approach to pest control, disease control, canopy management, irrigation and all the other things that go into growing winegrapes without harming the environment.

The importance of standardized procedures had not been apparent to me until this past weekend when I was watching a documentary on the American health care system. On that program, one doctor spoke of widely varying procedures used by two hospitals in the same community for one specific type of surgery.

Noted the doctor, and I’m paraphrasing: “If a single procedure is being performed in two very different ways, there’s got to be something about one of the procedures—or perhaps both—that could be improved.”

For him, the lack of standardization was a big red flag.

The same logic could be applied to winegrape growing, and organic winegrape growing in particular. It makes sense that the spectrum of acceptable practices would be fairly narrow.

Yet history has shown that most education about organic practices in the vineyard has been experienced through hands-on experience or word-of-mouth—one neighbor helping another, or a grower depending on a supplier for information and guidance.

Now, that’s about to change with the publication of the Organic Winegrowing Manual—a single, wide-ranging volume that taps and organizes the knowledge of 15 experts in the field. It’s being called the most comprehensive work since “General Viticulture”…the most recent edition of which was published in 1974.

Some have said that standardization stifles creativity. In the world of wine, that may be true, to some degree, in the cellar, when winemakers are assembling their cuvees. But in the vineyard, standardization—particularly as it applies to organic winegrape growing—can only be a good thing.

After all, without healthy vines producing perfectly ripened grapes, there’s no degree of creativity in the cellar that could produce an enjoyable wine.

Wines & Vines reported on the new “Organic Winegrowing Manual,” and you can read the full article here.

Tomorrow: A look at sustainable winegrowing in a place about as far away from the United States as you could get.

Posted in Wine and the Environment
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