Shanyn Ward is a WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Diploma graduate and Okanagan sommelier. Image contributed

Wineology: Let’s talk organic wine

Check out Okanagan sommelier Shanyn Ward’s bi-weekly column

Organic, sustainable, bio-dynamic – What does it all mean?

In the last decade or so, the culinary world, as well as consumers, have really grasped on to the idea of “Farm to Table” in food preparation. Eating fresh and eating local is an idealism we embrace and actively seek out.

The idea is simple really – let’s grow what we eat in order to nourish ourselves and in the process create a sustainable method of farming that food.

Growing your own garden gives you first hand insight into how plants work, what they need to survive and in a surprising way, can teach you how versatile they can be with minimal input and just a little water. And at the end of the day, you have naturally-grown vegetables which have seen little to no chemical sprays, which you feel happy to put on the table for you and your family.

We have seen the same movement in the wine world to make a shift towards a more natural process of grape growing and wine making.

I am asked constantly by customers, “How do I know if a wine is organic?”

This can be tricky, as not all vineyards here in the valley choose to be certified organic. It can be a costly process to transition this way. And while many vineyards have been technically farming sustainably or organically for years, the idea of not being able to protect their vineyards against a possible sudden onslaught of rain or the introduction of a vineyard pest we have never seen before is too great a risk when considering going fully organic.

Fortunately, we have a climate here in the Okanagan that favors a vineyard regime of reduced spraying of herbicides and pesticides. It is dry enough that mildew is not as much of an issue and while vineyards pests and insects exist, they do so in an amount that is manageable.

Many vineyards and wineries have chosen to participate in the Environmental Farm Plan, which is a government run, voluntary assessment of an agricultural property. They assess factors such as air quality control, soil quality, water usage and storage, composting programs, building designs and more.

There are definitely some leaders in the valley of these practices and over the next few weeks of articles I will highlight some of them and their different grape growing and wine making programs.

You just might be surprised how many wineries are actually employing practices emphasizing sustainable and organic farming.

What I am loving this week:

Tinhorn Creek:

Last year I had the opportunity to spend a full day at Tinhorn Creek. I came away from that day with a much greater appreciation and respect for their brand.

In the vineyard, I was pleasantly surprised by the actions they take to contribute to a healthier way of farming and taking care of their land. For example, they use minimal pesticides and focus on planting cover crops that will attract beneficial insects to the vineyards.

The amphitheatre below their vineyard, which will not be planted, was built with the idea of working to re-introduce native species to that area.

Their viticulture team works closely with Land Conservation to achieve this goal. They have been recognized by Salmon Safe, which is a rigorous assessment ensuring safe run off of irrigation water and any pesticides used – they were the first winery to ever receive this certification. Since 2010, they have been able to reduce their water needs by 70 per cent, by installing drip irrigation.

One of my favorite wines that can be picked up at almost all liquor stores is their 2016 Chardonnay.

From a vintage that was more challenging in the form of disease pressure, vineyard steps were taken to ensure quality fruit was pulled from the vineyard. A portion of this wine is barrel fermented with native yeast and the rest in stainless steel. There is a lovely biscuit and cooked citrus aroma on the nose followed by honey and stone fruit with crisp acidity on the palate.

Cheers!

shanynward@gmail.com

To check out past Wineology columns, click here.

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