Jancis Robinson writes that while preparing the seventh edition of the World Atlas of Wine, she and her co-author Hugh Johnson disagreed over the growing importance of organic wine. Johnson dismissed a proposed photo of a biodynamic preparation as of ‘marginal interest.’ Robinson sees it differently.
Organic and biodynamic viticulture is no longer a niche oddity. Each of the world’s three biggest wine producers – Spain, France and Italy – have 7-8% of the country’s vineyard cultivated organically, according to Waldin’s estimates. And these estimates exclude the many, many producers who claim to their customers and visitors that they farm organically without actually being certified. I sympathise with those who lose patience with the form-filling needed for official certification by one of the accredited bodies – no one hates officialdom and officiousness more than me. But I do think that only those who have been certified by an outside body should claim organic or biodyamic principles as part of their sales pitch.
For example, I deeply admire Alfred Tesseron of Château Pontet-Canet, the Pauillac classed growth. He set about conversion to organics at a time when it was ridiculed by most Bordeaux producers. He withstood the ignominy of losing certification when the challenges of the 2007 season pressed him into spraying and is now back to being certified as both organic and biodynamic. No one could be less beards-and-sandals than this member of the Bordeaux corkocracy but, boy, has the quality of his wines shot up.
She also discusses the rise of organic viniculture in the United States, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. But will Hugh ever be convinced?
Who knows? Perhaps by the time the eighth World Atlas of Wine is published, I’ll have persuaded my co-author to have nothing but horses in the vineyards.