For this episode of Here We Grow, I visited Castile, one of the most important organic wine-producing regions in Spain.
Returning to nature, understanding the signals from the land, respecting its cycles: that’s the philosophy of more and more Spanish wine producers committed to the environment.
Indeed, Spain has the highest number of organic vineyards in Europe.
This journey takes me to the Rueda, Ribera del Duero and Valdeorras appellations to discover how some fabulous organic wines are produced in these places.
My first stop is Ruede in Valladolid, home to the Menade Winery, one of more than a thousand organic wineries in Spain, the numbers of which have doubled in the last decade.
Richard Sanz and his brothers are sixth generation winemakers, but chose to start their own ‘sustainable’ wine-producing project from scratch.
Richard has a simple philosophy:
"We believe that the future is a return to basics.
"Our philosophy is to work with natural products as much as possible and to re-engage with the chain of biodiversity that we, as humankind, have broken.
"Our mission is to restart it”.
The brothers have built a farm including an insect hotel and a pollinator garden; they learnt their eco-friendly practices from the older generations of their family:
“Now we are planting seed pod vegetables that provide natural nitrogen to the soil and so there’s no need to fertilise them with chemical products”
To complement this, plant-based infusions, microalgae and whey are the sustainable methods of pest control that are used.
This low intervention approach is also present once the grapes have been picked - no yeast is added to the wine.
Peter Sisseck, a Danish winemaker who settled in Spain decades ago, has created one of the most outstanding wines in the country, the now-legendary Pingus. It's one of the greatest and most exciting wines according to the famous wine critic, Robert Parker.
The secret: biodynamic cultivation, a holistic and sustainable approach to wine-making using only natural materials and working in harmony with lunar cycles.
Perer says it‘s not only the work in the fields that's influenced by the Moon:
"Lunar and seasonal rhythms have a great influence on wine.
"In the racking as well as in the bottling, we try to respect as much as possible, the phases of the moon"
The cyclical approach doesn’t end there. Following fermentation and pressing, Peter says the grapes are dried and then used to make compost:
"The most important thing is that yeasts and bacteria from this fermentation will be in the compost.
"And when it’s taken into the vineyard, we then complete a cycle between winery and vineyard".
My next stop is in Valdeorras to meet Rafael Palacios.
He founded his winery here in 2004, attracted by its terroir and the white grape variety, Godello.
“There are hundred-year-old vines from Godello, grown in granite soils at an altitude of around 700 metres in the Bolo area, where a special microclimate is created.
"There are geoclimatic factors that make these wines so special".
"The so-called 500 fertiliser is basically cow manure, energised here and then pulverised in the vineyard to provide energy to regenerate the soil and reactivate it".
The higher the altitude, the longer it takes for the grapes to ripen.
The Godello aromas of apple, fresh fruit and wood will develop into fennel and minerals embodying the characteristics of this exceptional terroir.