Earlier this year in London there were two wine fairs featuring Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines. One was Real and the other, Raw.
Both provided a great opportunity to taste idiosyncratic and characterful wines from all over the world, as well as meeting a number of wine producers – also idiosyncratic and characterful!
The Circle of Wine Writers organised a seminar at the Real Wine Fair, which ‘explored the viticulture and vinification of natural, organic and biodynamic wines’. It was fascinating to hear from each member of the panel how they viewed and worked with these disciplines.
One of them was Julian Castagna, who is a keen advocate of biodynamics at their winery situated at an altitude of 500 metres five-and-a-half kilometres outside the beautiful town of Beechworth in Northeast Victoria, in the foothills of the Australian Alps.
At the seminar he had this to say:
For the last five years biodynamics has been sold as the way to work. Yet if the terroir is wrong, it doesn’t matter how you work, you will only make ordinary wine. If you get biodynamics right it gives authenticity, allowing wines to speak of the land. But even back in 1924 Rudolf Steiner said the method sounded insane in our ‘modern world’ and that it would take 100 years to be understood.
The vine is very clever. For example if it wants minerals it sends acid down to its roots to dissolve minerals to eat! I don’t know if that works organically but it certainly does biodynamically. By only using the prescribed preparations and composts the PH of the Castagna vineyards has changed from 4 to 6.5. Biodynamic wines have a purity and brightness.
I don’t understand the term Natural Wines – organic and biodynamic are natural in any case. If a wine has no added sulphur then just say that it has no sulphur!
After the seminar I visited Julian’s table at the Fair, where I photographed him, and, of course tried his wines. Delicious and honest they are too! Here are a couple of tasting notes.
Castagna Ingénue 2010
Viognier. Oak aged. Mid gold. Creamy lemony blossom. Dry broad ripe, rich golden fruit. So expressive.
Castagna La Chiave 2009
100% Sangiovese In oak 18-22 months (as other cru reds) 20% in new oak until malolactic fermentation in spring. Mid ruby. Red cherries with hint of black fruit. Dry voluptuous tannins, great structure. Fine. Delicious!
Julian Castagna’s UK importers are Les Caves de Pyrene.
Castagna Winery, Beechcroft, Victoria, Australia