NEWS

The art of organic wine

A wine which is made from organically grown grapes but contains many chemical additives is definitely not high-quality wine. Similarly, a completely pure wine is not necessarily high-quality wine. Recently, the DIO organic foods certification organization has published the standards for organic winemaking, prompting considerable debate. Conventional method Careful readers of labels will have noticed that wine is not labeled organic but wine from organically grown grapes, when the wine has been made with conventional methods. Now DIO has specified upper limits for chemicals added during winemaking, which must be adhered to if the wine is to merit the organic label. DIO divided the limits into two lists, the first containing those which the winemaker must comply with, and the second, those which are simple recommendations. In particular, the level of sulfur dioxide, used to ensure that wine does not oxidize, must not exceed 60-120 mg/l, according to the type of wine. In conventional winemaking, the level is as high as 240 mg/l in sweet wines. Many producers say that using entirely organic methods harms the commercial value of a wine, because when a vineyard has a bad year, the effect on the product is immediate. Quality is not stable. Wine is like a raw material. If the vineyard does not produce a good crop one year, the wine will be of lower quality. But this can be used in marketing. Every year the wine is different, says Pavlos Argyropoulos, director of oenology and production at the Evangelos Tsantalis winery. Argyropoulos says that less sulfur dioxide is being used, even in conventionally produced wine. Compared with the sulfur dioxide used 20 years ago, the amount has gone done by 50 to 100 percent. But it requires technology and better knowledge of production processes. Santorini wine producer Paris Sigalas insists on the quality of the raw material: The work is mainly done in the vineyard. Once you have to intervene to save things, some of the quality has already been lost. But when it comes to sulfur levels, he expresses reservations: We try to keep within the limits in any case. Good wines need hours of attention and less intervention. But to reduce the level further needs research. We shouldn’t think in terms of homemade wine, because there is a lot of competition. It is not enough for a wine to be organic; it has to be high quality. Winemaker-oenologist Thomas Ligas, who has applied the methods taught by Professor Zironi at the University of Udine to reduce sulfur dioxide levels, comments: Sulfur dioxide is used to combat the oxygen that oxidizes wine. With this method, we try to reduce the oxidation potential of the raw material. The wines we made using 48 mg/l of sulfur dioxide were less vulnerable to oxidation. Vineyards Producer Dimitris Georgas has been trying to reduce the levels of chemical additives used in winemaking. He claims it is feasible but requires care and attention from the vineyard to bottling. Of course the wine is unprotected without additives; you don’t have the security you get with additives. They need regular oenological tests; you have to change the production line so as to avoid losing quality. Wine is a living organism and you have to treat it accordingly. But if you have good raw material, it isn’t difficult. Wine from organically grown grapes ferments better because the yeasts have not been destroyed by pesticides. The removal of former Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos, one of the most controversial due to the dispute with the Church over the removal of the mention of religion from state identity cards, was only to be expected, as was that of Miltiades Papaioannou, the former labor minister.