Cow horns used for biodynamic fertilizers
Earth Day Thoughts From Tori Berdelle
Today, I saw an advertisement for 100% electric Nissan.
I could be cynical and say how the car really isn’t saving the earth because we are still using coal for power and not windmills. But since it is Earth Day this Sunday, April 22, I think I should stop being cynical and appreciate that people are trying to do their part to help save the environment and subsequently us. Was it just me or did the February and March weather in Chicago freak you out a bit?!
While working at Cream, I witness everyday the momentum towards a more natural world, where humans don’t overtake the land and sea but coexist with it. Winemakers and grape farmers all over the world are choosing to take a more natural approach to viticulture and viniculture. As an agricultural product, one would think this would be difficult to maintain…but let’s remind ourselves that humans have been farming without chemical fertilizers and pesticides for thousands of years (the population was smaller back then, but soil and nature are miraculous with endless possibilities). Treat the soil right and all other things will follow.
The time is now while the energy is abuzz. This isn’t a fad but a change in the way of life with the wine industry leading by example. If these winemakers can survive in this economy without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, then why can’t other agricultural product producers do the same? (Perhaps it is a whole different ballgame now that there are GMO seeds containing fertilizer and pesticide components–the battle is far from over!)
Thank you to those in our industry that show their appreciation for this earth everyday and not just when Earth Day comes around. You are an inspiration for us all.
Earth Day Thoughts From Shane Salois
The movement of natural wine (growing and making) is a burgeoning one. Defining what this movement or these wines are has been a hot topic; one of much debate. We at Cream welcome this fervor. This is when wine can become an interactive experience, rather than cause and effect; action/reaction. Boundaries are still being delineated; terroir vs. intervention discussed. It’s been nice to speak about something other than the price, ne c’est pas?
Andy and I have had some first hand experience of this phenomenon (and debate) recently on our trip to Europe, starting off at Domaine Les Faverelles, a Burgundy producer located in the unique terroir of Vezelay. The small 5 hectare estate has been farming organically since 1998. The Bringer family makes and grows both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and the nature of the Yonne is apparent in the high acid, low alcohol style where even in hot vintages like ’09 the wines are merely 12.5% in alcohol, retaining all of the freshness and delicacy that the appellation has to offer.
Also visited – Domaine de l’Octavin from Jura. They work on less than 5 hectares of vineyards in Arbois. Beginning in 2005 with just 50 hectoliters of wine farmed on about 2 hectares of vineyards they have bought small bits of property each year. They have also slowly changed their process throughout the years to a more and more natural production, and are now Demeter certified biodynamic. Since 2009 they also have made all of their wines completely without sulfur, fining, or filtration. Exceptional wines; pure and clean.
Not visited (yet), but certainly tasted were the wines of Frank Cornelissen which are truly singular wines from the slopes of Mt. Etna, showcasing the potential of Nerello Mascalese. He uses amphorae for maturation and feet for crushing, and he works without SO2 or any other treatments. These wines express the absolutely unique land of Mt. Etna in a way that no other wine has. You really have to taste the wines and watch the color and flavor evolve in your glass to understand them. The surface area of the estate is 12 hectares, of which 8.5 are vines in the classic freestanding alberello training system (aka Gobelet, or bush-vine). The remainder is olive, fruit and nut trees, and brush. In abandoning monoculture to avoid classic diseases, they have interplanted various local fruit varieties and keep bees to regain a complex ecosystem.
So this Earth day we celebrate those who celebrate it every day!
Earth Day Thoughts from Andy Pates
With the green movement and its many marketing machines screaming out of control, the topic of so-called natural wine has certainly been given more attention, debate and cynicism. As an importer, distributor and consumer of many of these wines I can tell you that my official position on the subject is that I have no official position. Cream would be better off starting a food, wine and music blog telling people that this band is cooler than that band. Or that people should only eat pork belly that has been weaned on white whiskey. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?
1. Naturally farmed grapes – organic, biodynamic, either certified, in conversion or practicing. Basically no chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, etc. are used in the vineyards. Biodynamics endeavor to create balanced micro ecosystems while channeling the earth and cosmic energy. I am not going to address “sustainable” at this time. I am not really sure what that means. My definition of sustainable is that if you purchase the wine, my lifestyle is sustained.
For me (and Jules from Pulp Fiction), natural wine, like life, is all about best intentions. At the heart of the natural wine movement are many good people. They care for the environment and what they put into the ground as well as their bodies. What many people don’t seem to get is that there is natural grape growing and natural wine making. And then there are both.
2. Naturally made wines – nothing added or taken away in the cellar. Native fermentation, no acidification or chaptalization (adding sugar), no filtration, minimal to zero sulfur used in winemaking or at bottling. I have been told often from many a vigneron that this is easier to do with grapes grown in a cooler climate that have a higher, “natural” acidity. But, health, balance and harmony of the fruit remains just as important.
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. All too often there is too much back patting, masturbation and smoke blowing about the winemaker and his craft. C’mon guys, don’t get high on your own supply. More often than not, many wines of this extreme or super natural genre can be volatile, out of balance, cloudy and conflicted. Also, don’t confuse winemaking with grape growing. There is a scary trend of natural winemakers who are more interested in showcasing their skill as a winemaker than authenticity, typicity and sense of place. These science experiments can almost get in the way of the soul of the wine or the sense of place or terroir. Similar to the way that namazake (unpasteurized sake) can sometimes cloud or veil the true essence of a fine ginjo sake.
3. Naturally made wines from naturally farmed grapes – now we’re talking! This is more rare. It is very difficult to have it both ways. The challenging paradox is that the cooler climate grapes are easier to make naturally, but more difficult to grow naturally because of more disease and pest pressure. Conversely, because of the absence of these pressures, warmer or dessert climates can be easier to grow wines naturally. However, they become more difficult to make naturally because of the lower natural acidity.
It should also be said that it is much easier to be natural and take on all those growing and production risks if your wife is a successful fashion designer in Paris and you work with 1.5 hectares of your trust fund on the weekends. But if your family owns 20 hectares and employs half of the village, you might be less likely to take risks in the vineyard and cellar. It is easy to point out fictional extremes, but you get the gist.
4. Natural wine Holy Grail – naturally made wines from naturally farmed grapes that taste good, are balanced and stable, distinct and represent variety and terroir. This is rare occurrence, but they do exist. And yes, many can be found in our portfolio. When wines like this are discovered, they should be revered, cherished and celebrated. Best way to do this is to drink it with as many friend and family as possible.
Here’s to drinking real wine made by nice people with those you love.
PS – The older I get, the more I enjoy fresh, low alcohol, high acid wines with texture and mineral. Is that minerality “terroir” or sulfur. That can be the topic for another time.
Cream supports many biodyamic, organic and sustainable wine producers who make absolutely delicious wines. In fact most of the new imports use those natural viticulture practices and some go a step further to engage in natural winemaking. Click for a list of these producers.