Under the surface of the soil lies the basis for strong and resistant vines, healthy grapes and great wines. What happens in the soil manifests itself in the vineyards and finds its final expression in the wine. The interaction of all the influencing factors is highly complex; however, a healthy eco-system is easily recognizable as soon as you see one: a busy activity above the soil, a multitude of bees, butterflies, birds and plant-life are all visible proofs of a functioning and healthy vineyard.
Active plant life obviously does not reduce itself to an aesthetic dimension. Biodiversity provides
- higher resilience of the vine against parasites and pathogens
- an intense interaction of billions of microbes in the soil
- better resistance against negative environmental influences (water scarcity or the opposite, too much precipitation)
- higher life-expectancy of the vines (old vines are very often the basis for more complex and terroir-specific wines)
- deeper rootedness and hence a more lively fauna, a higher protection against erosion and a more diverse nutritional supply
To improve soil structure it is decisive that there is a permanent replenishment of organic material through a multitude of plants in the vineyards. This results in an autonomous build-up of humus, a better retention of water and nutrients and a better adsorption capability of toxic substances in the soil. Additionally potential vermin is inhibited and hampered through a lot of natural competition.
Organic winemaking is a way of life. Besides it also has immediate effects on the quality of the vines which you realize best when you have worked conventionally before. In the late 1990s and early 2000s we had for instance huge problems with botrytis which decreased noticeably since our conversion to organic cultivation. Other impacts might not have been so obvious but they all contribute to the quality of the end-product.
Chemical fertilizers were already banned by my parents, followed by pesticides. In the meantime also fungicides and herbicides vanished from the vineyard. The additional effort is immense but so is the satisfaction. By working closely and intensely with every single vine I am able to react on all its needs.
Most of the work is done manually. This takes a lot of time and energy but it is the only possibly way to break the monoculture of the vineyard and to boost soil and plant activity. Not a single vineyard is irrigated although the vines are in permanent competition with winter vetches, lucernes, clover and other plants which cover the vineyard soils. To get water and nutrients, the vines roots are descending deeply into the rocks. Sugar and ripeness levels usually find an early balance which allows me to harvest a few weeks earlier than I did in former, non-organic times. The results are quite low alcohol numbers.
In a nutshell: the decision to work organic was essential in the developing of high-quality, complex and terroir-based wines. Since 2010 I am certified organic.
Wine was, is and always will a cultural product. Without winemakers nothing goes. From pruning to harvesting we permanently make decisions. In the cellar this process is continued but with – and that is important – as little intervention as possible. Modern cellar technique does not contradict this idea. To the contrary. With my modern winepress I can simulate traditional techniques and manufacture my grapes as gently as possible and as slow as necessary; which means that a single pressing-process might take a whole night. This leads to a subtle leaching of aromas and tannins which give the wines a delicate and gripping structure. Additionally I stir up the lees (Battonage) over the first few months. To mature the wines I use either steel tanks, oak or acacia barrels.