Is your wine really organic?

IMG_3962-1When the distributor says, “Yes, it’s organic. The vineyard doesn’t spray,” do you say, “Thank you very much,” and order a few cases? If you do you might be inadvertently being sold a furphy. Whether you’re a restaurateur or lover of wine, here’s the lowdown on how to make sure it’s what it says it is.

There is a lot more to being organic than just eliminating harmful sprays. To be sure you are really buying organic you should look for a certification logo such as Australian Certified Organic. If a winemaker just uses organic grapes, they shouldn’t call the wine organic. To be truly certified organic the whole process, from seed to bottling, needs to comply with the Australian Certified Organic Standard rulebook.

This ensures not only the grape growing but also the processing and winemaking complies with strict organic standards. It takes three years for a farmer to gain organic status. Upon application for certification their property is tested and they need to write a management plan describing how they will farm organically – this includes details about how they will manage pests, diseases and weeds. In their second year they are ‘in-conversion’ and at the end of the third year, providing they pass audits, they are certified organic.

Organic farmers strive to build naturally healthy soils, which result in healthier and more resilient plants and animals that don’t require chemical controls. As David Lowe from Lowe Wines says, “To make wine organically and to grow grapes organically they have to be superior in the first place – they have to be able to resist change and manage their own battles; they have to manage pathogens. The ecosystem has to be stronger.”

Health benefits don’t cost more

Many winemakers will tell you that organic grapes make the best wine, which is the motivation behind many vineyards using organic practices.

Added to that, the difference in price point between organic and conventional wine isn’t significant. Organic wines are one of the few organic commodities that don’t attract a premium, mostly because wine prices are based on quality.

Kalleske wines

By Tim Marshall

The Kalleske family has been growing grapes at Greenock in South Australia’s Barossa Valley since 1853. Building on the experience of the previous six generations of grape growing, seventh generation family members and brothers Troy and Tony Kalleske established the Kalleske winery on the family estate and released their first wine using the Kalleske label in 2004.

The vineyard is managed by their parents, John and Lorraine, and a third brother Kym. John has over 50 years’ experience as a grape grower. Almost 50 hectares of vineyard is planted to low-yielding certified organic and biodynamic shiraz, grenache, cabernet sauvignon, mataro, durif, petit verdot, tempranillo, zinfandel, semillon, chenin blanc and viognier grapes.

All Kalleske wines are made from their estate-grown grapes and vinified with minimalist organic winemaking techniques. Many of the 12 Kalleske-label wines have received excellent reviews and awards and Kalleske has quickly gained a reputation for top-quality handcrafted wines.

The Kalleskes export to 25 destinations. Tony says, “Many markets are price conscious and also region and variety are keys to consumer preference. “Our domestic sales account for about 65–70 per cent of our production but it is important for us to be in the main overseas markets and establish a global brand presence. People tend to go organic with food choices before wine; however, once people go down the track of eating organic food then they are more inclined to choose other organic products too, including wine. “Being organic is another selling point for many of our customers and it can be the deciding factor if all other things such as quality and regional preference are equal – as why wouldn’t you then buy organic?”

Asked why the Kalleske label does not emphasise its organic and biodynamic certification and Tony says, “Foremost it needs to be the quality of the wine that sells itself and a good strong brand is imperative.

“Slowly but surely being organic/biodynamic is becoming more important to some consumers as they become more aware of the impact on the environment that their consumption choices make. Some customers definitely like to support products that are environmentally friendly and some sommeliers and restaurants get right behind organic wines, so being organic then becomes a key point to be able to supply them and then becomes one of our key selling points.”