Artisan Wine Review
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Farming Practices

Organic Viticulture:
The basic theory in making wine from grapes grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides or weed killers is that those things might not only damage the soil, but it can be passed along the vines eventually ending up in our wineglasses.
According to the USDA, to have a wine certified organic it must be: "A wine made from organically grown grapes and without added sulfites"  
Unfortunately, it is difficult to make a wine that will keep well without supplementing the sulfites that the yeast involved produce naturally during fermentation.   This is certainly true of white wines, where fermentation occurs away from the grape skins.   Red wines are fermented with juice and skins together, thus providing not only the wine's color but tannins as well, which along with the sulfites act as natural wine preservatives.

Biodynamic Viticulture:
Almost 500 wine producers worldwide have embraced this somewhat arcane philosophy of grape farming.   At its core, this spiritual/ethical practice views the vineyard as an interconnected, living Eco-system where the bio-diversity of plants, animals, and flowers contribute to the overall health of the vines.
Here are a few of the soil preparations needed for Biodynamic certification:
  • A stag's bladder filled with Yarrow flowers
  • A bull's horn filled with cow manure
  • A farm animal's skull filled with oak bark
  • The intestine of a cow filled with Chamomile
Grape growers must bury each of these over the winter in their vineyards.   In the spring they are to be dug up and the contents of each added directly to the soil or mixed in the compost pile.  
Proponents claim that Biodynamic wines have noticeably stronger, cleaner, more vibrant tastes, as well as remaining drinkable longer.
Skeptics claim that those same positive qualities would have occurred if they had simply followed proven Organic farming methods without all the mysticism and increased holistic efforts used in the Biodynamic methodology.

Sustainable Viticulture:
The majority of small vineyards around the world fall into this category.   Whenever possible, an artisan farmer would prefer to not incur the financial expense of using chemicals to control weeds, pest, and disease.   They would much rather use less costly, natural farming methods and their own manual labor to maintain the health of the vines.  
However, in the rare event of some extreme weather or pest problem, those same farmers reserve the right to have the option of spraying their vines rather than being forced to do nothing and go bankrupt, just to make the tree huggers happy.

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