Organic Wine Making
for the Health of Your Wine
There are many aspects of organic wine making. Let’s define organic first: organic means of or relating to foodstuff grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or hormones. After World War II, the key to almost everything was in modernization. For most of the wineries this meant using pesticides, herbicides, and the effort to train vines on straight wires to facilitate machine picking.
Yes, in the beginning it was wonderful and everything seemed to be better. People were very happy with the new efforts and the way that things were going. The vineyards had fewer problems with molds and pests and productivity was high. But somehow, somewhere along the way the soil became ill and depleted of the things it needed and soon the wine growers needed to use more and more chemicals to get the same effect.
That was when wineries began to rethink things and go back to organic wine making, growing and taking care of their vineyards organically. But the question that everyone seemed to have at that point was, “how do you grow grapes without chemicals?”
There are many things you can do to implement in your vineyard planting, growing and maintaining to keep it healthy and organic wine making.
Here are just a few:
Leaf Removal - This is the act of physically pulling leaves off the vines. This is used to avoid powder mildew.
Cover crops-These are planting another crop that will attract away from your vines the problem it is having. For instance Queen Anne’s lace, if planted with your grapes will attract several predator bugs, all of which eat among the bugs attracted, thus keeping these bugs off of the vines. Others such as wheat, barley, oats, clover, beans are planted between the rows of vines to improve soil qualities, attract pests
Cover crops also keep the vines from growing to quickly and many bugs are attracted to quick growing and stressed out plants. Keep them steady and slow growing and you will have less bugs and healthier plants.
Encourage Birds- some birds are good at eating bugs, like barn swallows and bluebirds
Raise Chickens- they will eat the worms
Raise Pigs- pigs are great at eating your weeds and not harming the grape plants
Raise Sheep- Sheep will eat weeds and fertilize for you
Put up Fences- A good sturdy fence will keep deer out
Use of Bio-dynamics- this is the theory that growing in tuned with seasons will help your vineyard
Diversity of crop- Diversity of your grape crop will help to grow healthy grapes
Crop rotation- This will keep your soil healthy
Animal Pathways- Well known animal paths to your grape fields can be grown with things the animals might not like thorn bushes
As you can see there are many things you can do to encourage organic wine making. It all starts at the beginning of the planting and the preparation of the ground. You need to listen to the seasons and try to be in league with your land and plant. Know your problem areas and what you will need to stay ahead of them. Organic growing and Biodynamics is an old tradition that mixes the science of farming with good old common sense.