As winemakers rely on the soil, weather, and other natural elements to produce their wines, it should come as no surprise that many have turned to eco-friendly and sustainable practices to reduce their environmental impact. Last month we spoke about eco-warriors in the vineyard.
Yet, while a lot of what it takes to make a wine organic, biodynamic or natural takes place in the vineyard, there is a lot of hands-on effort that needs to be given attention to within the cellar. Here are some examples of things to take note of:
Wild Yeast Fermentation
The role of yeast in winemaking is the most important element that distinguishes wine from grape juice. In the absence of oxygen, yeast converts the sugars of wine grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation. Yeasts are all around us and they collect on wine grapes in the vineyard.
So, if you were to pick grapes and leave them in a bucket, they would likely start to ferment. This is no doubt how wine first came to be. So wild yeast fermentation means that the winemakers make wine from fresh grape juice and does not add any yeast, but rather allows the wine to ferment naturally from the ‘wild’ yeast that was naturally present on the grapes already.
If you’re a vegan, you’ll want a wine that is Vegan-Friendly. This means that animal products are not used to produce the wine at any stage. Some vegetarian producers use albumen (egg white) or casein (a milk by-product) for clarifying or reducing sediment, but vegan-friendly wines use a clay-type product for clarification. This is used in the final filtration stage of winemaking and is worth noting if you’re wanting to go for more sustainable options.
Restraint is Best Practice
When it comes to biodynamic wine, no artificial additives in the farming process is a practice that continues in the cellar. Biodynamic winemakers will follow a non-intervention approach to make the wine, rather guiding the winemaking process to display the individuality. So, you won’t find commercially cultivated yeast or bacteria, acid adjustments or fermentation aids and so on in the wine.
It also means that the wine can contain no added sulfites, which are often added to preserve wine. While sulfites appear naturally in many fermented foods and are added as preservatives to kill bacteria, winemakers often add sulfites to prevent oxidation that would spoil wines. 100% organic wine does not have added sulfites, though they may have occurred naturally.
Reduce and Re-Use
Another valuable eco-friendly approach is to try and re-use as much as possible during the winemaking process. For example, rather than rely on state-of-the-art technology for an eco-friendly winemaking facility, some wineries reuse historic, reclaimed materials in their wineries. Recycling these materials not only helped save the environment but also preserved history.
Meanwhile, other wineries, such as De Toren, turn to nature for help in the cellar. The name De Toren comes from ‘the tower’ on the estate which enables them to use gravity rather than pumps to process their grapes thanks to 100% gravity facilitated elevator that moves the grapes up and down. Other wineries are eco-friendly through the way they generate electricity, with many adopting the use of solar power in winemaking.