by Angiolino Maule, founder of VinNatur & owner-artisan of La Biancara
At VinNatur, we’re all about supporting each other, sharing ideas and developing communal projects that mean that we, as small producers, can combine our efforts and turn dreams into reality. It is precisely the sharing of knowledge and experiences that is the strength of our association. It helps each and every one of us better the quality of our own wines and overcome problems we’d have difficulty overcoming alone. This is particularly true with regards to the many new, young producers that join us each year. We’ve seen and done a lot in all our years so we try to help them so that they don’t make the same mistakes too!
Ever since VinNatur was founded in 2005, we have always tried to drive knowledge forwards through research and experimentation. We check each of our wines for pesticide residues as we believe that this is the only way to provide drinkers with a guarantee of the wine being chemical-free. For the last two years, we have also been collaborating on research projects with a couple of scientific institutes. It is all done in order to further current, accepted viticultural ‘wisdom’, particularly with regard to practices that are today, unfortunately, often taken as given. We are, for example, busy working with the Research Institute of Panzano in Chianti, with whom we are trying to find alternatives to the use of copper and sulphur in the vineyard. Our experiments focus on vegetable extracts, algae and clays that help the plants to strengthen their structure, and so become more resistant to disease. We’ve got about 20 cellars involved in the project around Italy who are all currently trialing these innovative products by distributing them over the leaves and grapes. This active experimentation means that we are collecting hard data that can be analysed to understand how effective the products are across different climates and soils.
We’re also conducting experiments that relate directly to the wine cellar. We are, for example, exploring the process of fermentation and particularly the bacteria that develop during the period of maturation and aging of wines. We are also analyzing spontaneous yeasts in order to understand which are the most appropriate techniques to showcase the original characteristics of each single terroir without the introduction of foreign elements or additives into the wine. This means, for example, that we are also working extremely hard to reduce, and hopefully eliminate altogether, the use of sulfur dioxide in wine. This means exploring how best to eliminate the major defects that sometimes emerge in the production of natural wine.
Overall, we’re pretty pleased with the direction we have taken, and we plan to publish a manual on the making of natural wine sometime towards the beginning of 2013. This will share a lot of what we have learned and discovered and is intended for all those young people out there who want to share our journey.
Natural wine is not about abandoning the vineyard or the cellar. It is not the easy way out. To be able to minimize intervention in the end, requires a real understanding of the process. It means accompanying your grapes and wine through all its phases, and constantly exploring new avenues by expanding your knowledge, tasting frequently, analyzing what you do and exploring advances in current thinking that emerge thanks to the dedicated work of researchers.
Our research is pure and safe, without any commercial objective. It is simply about furthering knowledge so that we, and others like us, might benefit. This is the reason why we chose to finance all of it with our own money rather than fundraise through agencies or other external organizations with their own agendas and specific ends.
It’s important not to forget that knowing what is in your glass is not only important for wine lovers, it is also for important for producers, many of whom find it very difficult to do otherwise. I love learning and, as they say, it is only as you learn that you realize how much more there is to learn – so no chance of it ever becoming tiresome or boring!
16 May 2012