Friday, 19 November 2010

Badia a Coltibuono - or one thousand years of organic viniculture

Badia a Colbituono, the abbey of the good harvest, is one of the most famous producers of Chianti Classico and in addition possibly one of the oldest wine-growing estates in Tuscany. It was founded around 1100 by the monks of the Vallombrosa order close to Gaiole in Chianti. During Napoleon's rule, Badia a Coltibuono was secularized and governed to begin with by a French general.

In 1946, Michele Giuntini, a Florentine banker and the great grandfather of the current owners, the Stucchi-Prinetti family, took over Badia a Colbituono. It was his grandson Piero Stucchi-Prinetti and his wife Lorenza di Medici who realized what potential it had for winegrowing and agriculture, and they also recognized its economic importance, not only in itself but also for Tuscany. What other vintner has such valuable vines, which have been growing uninterruptedly in one's own vineyards for about a thousand years and have adapted perfectly to the conditions there? Based on the monks' written records, which were carried on afterwards, we know that no other vines have ever been planted there. It was easy to practice certified organic agriculture with these vines, since there are only sporadic cases of fungal diseases or pests.

As the first female president of the Consortium of Chianti Classico Producers (Chianti Storico), Emanuele Stucchi-Prinetti, along with her brothers Guido and Paolo, who run Badia a Colbituono together, set exemplary standards for biological viniculture in terms of sustainability, quality and tradition. Anyone wanting proof of this should visit Badia a Colbituono, book a cooking course there, attend a wine tasting session, eat at the restaurant or order the organic wine produced by Badia a Colbituono from us:

Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico Riserva

Chianti Classico Cultus Boni

Chianti Classico Sangioveto

Erich Hartl

Friday, 15 October 2010

Burnt Organic Grapes


No, this is not an offer, but an alarming piece of new for us.

Shortly before the start of the grape harvest, a forest fire threatened the Domaine de la Triballe and the vineyards in several forest clearings. Olivier Durand told us during our visit two years that he was well prepared to face this danger, since he had large water tanks and had cleared the area around the house and the wine cellar of trees and bushes. Since Olivier and Sabine Durand were attending a wine fair in Brussels at the time, it was their daughters, the fire department and the firefighting aircraft who were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the estate.

In spite of this, several vineyards closest to the forest were destroyed. In addition, some of the vines and grapes which were damaged by the smoke and the extinguishing agents cannot be used for wine production this year. After several harvests with low yields, this is one more financial setback for the family, whose only comfort is that it could have been worse.

We will try to support them in the coming years.

Erich Hartl


Thursday, 10 June 2010

Organic Wine from Genetically Modified Vines?


At the moment, producing organic wine from genetically modified vines or grapes is not permitted, nor is it desired, and is presumably in the long run unthinkable.

In the remote future, it might be possible to dispense with chemical fungicides in conventional viniculture, fungicides which can cause cancer or are suspected of causing cancer. Even copper sulfate, which acts externally and is used in organic winegrowing, is harmful to the soil and thus the ground water as well.

The Chinese researcher Yuejin Wang, who works at the Yanling Forestry University (source: New Scientist) discovered that a wild Chinese vine contains 6 times more resveratrol than conventional grapes. Resveratrol not only made headlines recently as the key to a long life with its anticarcinogenic and cardioprotective effects, it also protects many plants, vines as well, against dreaded fungus and mildew such as powdery mildew and downy mildew (Oidium and Peronospora). However the amounts present in most varietals are not sufficient to protect them permanently against fungus.

By isolating the Vitus pseudoreticulata gene, which is the reason for the high resveratrol content, in the wild grapevine, and by transferring this to "normal" grapevines (vitis vinifera), it might be possible in the future to plant genetically modified vines in conventional and in organic viniculture which initially seems to provide a lot of advantages: fewer chemicals in viniculture, less environmental pollution, a higher resveratrol content in red wine particularly which would increase the positive effects on health in every respect. However, the consequences of genetically modified agricultural production have not yet been studied as a whole.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Organic Wine Guidelines


Up to now, the European Union has failed to establish rules for producing organic wine. As a result, the term "organic wine" is tolerated but has not yet been defined by law. The reason for the delay in dealing with this in national and EU bodies could be the differing concerns of the wine-growing districts in Northern and Southern Europe, and the different goals of the market participants.

The consumers' wish to purchase organic wines which are not only tasty but also clean, residue-free, manipulated as little as possible, lightly sulfurized and not otherwise preserved or stabilized can as a rule be fulfilled more easily by the wine producers in Southern Europe, whose wines have more color, alcohol, tannins and resveratrol, which contribute to a longer shelf life. A further advantage is their climate, which is generally not as unsettled and is drier, meaning that the grapes are less affected by fungus and decay. They require a much lower sulfur content that do those of their neighbors to the north.

Due to the climatic influences, wines produced in Northern Europe have to contain more sulfur and have to be fined and stabilized additionally, according to experts. Consequently, they demand that a higher sulfur content be allowed in organic wine. There are however other contentious issues as well, such as mash heating for a better color, the use of selected yeasts and aroma yeasts as well as the use of further additives.

There is a third lobby, consisting of large import companies and bottling plants, whose goal is to purchase at the lowest price and the lowest level of quality. The producers of such wines may observe the winegrowing guidelines officially, but they can no longer consider the ethical, moral, social and qualitative aspects. These wines are for the most part transported in tank trucks to bottling plants in Northern Europe. The dubious quality of these wines is decreased additionally by the transport (frequent repumping, contact with air) and if financial risks are to avoided they can only be put on the market after additional sulfurization, stabilization and preservation.

Thus it is foreseeable that the outcome of the EU guidelines for organic wine will also be an unsatisfactory compromise. Anyone who is concerned about what pesticides are being used in the vineyard and what is being manipulated in the wine cellar will be determined to buy estate grown and bottled wine from good vintners and not wine bottled by anonymous merchants.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Only a test!

Erich Hartl

Sunday, 7 March 2010

You don't have to pay a fortune for good organic wines


as Donatello Jasci proves with his Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2008, which was awarded with a silver medal at the organic wine competition at the Biofach - Mundus Vini in Nurenberg 2010.

Erich Hartl


Monday, 18 January 2010

Why is wine expensive or cheap?

One reason is the amount of grapes harvested per vine or per hectare of land.

Example 1: Here are three photos which show the difference between a quality-oriented and a quantity-oriented vineyard.

This is one of only two Tinta de Toro grapes on a vine in the Nuntia Vini vineyard. The average yield is 0.8 to 1 kg per vine. One bottle of wine produced from this vine costs more than € 25.00. Is this too expensive?


The result is a naturally pure wine, to which nothing except for sulfite has been added, but from which nothing has been removed. It has a high mineral content, a lot of resveratrol, and other phenols which are antioxidant and anticarcinogenic. With its full, concentrated taste, it provides true enjoyment and stores well.

Example 2: Here you can see a part of the yield of an Ugni blanc vine in the west of France. The owner of this vine will probably harvest more than 20 kg. The wine produced from this should cost no more than € 1. However a bottle will cost about € 5.00. A good bargain?

These white grapes look beautiful, but the result is a thin, insignificant, completely neutral wine with a very low mineral content. Presumably the sugar content of the grapes is so low that sugar has to be added to the must before fermentation. In the language of wine, this process is called "chaptalization", and it is done so that the alcohol content of the wine after fermentation will be high enough for it to actually be called a wine. Since so many grapes on the vine are unlikely to be completely ripe, they have a lot of acid, which has to be removed from the wine using the suitable compounds, or rectified concentrated grape must is added to it in order to neutralize the acidic taste.