In search of ‘pure’ wine

The difference between organic wine and wine made from organically cultivated grapes is that the latter is allowed to contain additives including sulfites, assumed to be essential for the preservation of the wine. To be certified as organic wine however, there must be no added sulfites, although apparently wine without sulfites should not be equated with an organic wine, since it is quite possible to make a sulfite-free wine with conventional (non-organic) grapes. In Greece, there has not yet been agreement among producers regarding the abolition of sulfites. According to winemaker Costas Haniotis, who cultivates organically grown grapes in Elati, near Mt Parnassus, an attempt to reach an agreement on the specifications met with opposition from most organic vintners. Haniotis says that to be truly organic, wine should have none of the additives which help preserve it. «The problem is that there is no agreement among organic producers regarding these additives. Once there was an attempt to have specifications established for organic wine, but most of the producers opposed it,» he told Kathimerini English Edition. «The question is how to take the risk of not using the additives. You could end up with vinegar,» he said. Vintners at the Oenorama exhibition that begins today at the MEC Exhibition Center (see below) will have an opportunity to find out more about organic grapes and wine at an event on Sunday afternoon when several experts will be debating the issue. Vintner Dimitris Georgas will be one of the speakers: «In many other countries, like Italy, which started much later than Greece by the way, standards (for organic wine) have been set like those in France and the US. Our idea is to familiarize winemakers with the impact of substances which, although permitted by the General Chemical State Laboratory, are not good to use in wine. We are not talking only about sulfites; there are about 300 of these substances. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is trying to introduce European standards for organic wines and these will be presented on Sunday.» Georgas and his colleague Thomas Livas will be talking about «how easy and also how hard» it is for winemakers to actually put the principles into practice. «We will be providing information that doesn’t really exist in Greece. Many oenologists claim you can’t have organic wine – yes, it’s very difficult, very painful and you need to take certain precautions – first you have to have certified grapes, then everything else comes afterward.» Another problem is how to inspect the content. Georgas likens it to the doping of athletes. «Inspectors check for the presence of substances A, B or C, but there are others that are not being looked for. The ministry (of Agricultural Development and Food) is moving on this so we should have some standards quite soon.» For Haniotis, the whole issue of organic preparations needs examining. «The most serious risks to organic farming are the accredited organic preparations,» he said in a commentary in Kathimerini magazine ECO. «A large number of very expensive substances have flooded the market, creating real traps for unwary farmers. For example, in place of the ordinary Bordeaux mixture (containing just 1 percent copper sulfate), a preparation with a 37.5 percent solution is permitted. Until last year, there was a ban on the use of natural propolis, which is widely advertised for its beneficial properties and which would reduce the use of copper sulfate. Why was it banned and why was advertising it permitted? «I do not advocate protecting crops with prayers, but the reasonable use of simple farming practices, combined with natural fertilizers and plant protection preparations. We are at risk of using more preparations on organic crops than on the conventionally grown, the difference being that they are accredited and classified as organic. «Plants are self-sufficient. The goal of every organic farmer must be to attempt to use the soil, water, air and light on his land with the least possible and most natural forms of intervention.» Events – DIO’s activities to date on organic winemaking (Spyros Sgouros, president, general director of DIO). – ORGWINE program, situation in Europe with regard to organic wine (Alessandro Triandafyllidis, Italy, vice president of IFOAM’s EU group). – Recent applications of organic winemaking in Greece (Pavlos Argyropoulos, oenologist). – Organic wine and difficulties in practice (Thomas Livas, Dimitris Georgas, winemakers). Free entry. March 30, 3-6 p.m., MEC Paeania Exhibition Center, Hall 3. Oenorama Wine Fair, March 28-30. (Page 6)