There exists much confusion around “natural farming and winemaking”, as it contains a vast quantity of possible interpretations as to how to proceed. As Jamie Goode questioned in a chapter of his book “Wine Science”: “naturalness in wine; how much manipulation is acceptable?”
Frequently the question arises as to which group is the most natural: those into organics, bio-dynamics, Fukuoka, macrobiotics, some “crazy” school…? In the end, all these people work with a certain philosophy and respect for the land. However none are absolutely pure or perfect. The quantity of naturalness will probably remain uncertifiable.
How far one wants to go is, to my opinion, a personal and philosophical issue, related to farmer and his or her environment.
Myself, I relate to the North-American Indian principle of trying not to disturb the land one walks on, whilst knowing this to be impossible, as with every footstep we damage the living world. I personally feel this approach brings me as close as possible to the essence of nature when cultivating land, maintaining myself as part of this whole.
Evidently this is a difficult to quantify approach in terms of rules and regulations…
I have always been a strong opponent of legislation concerning the “naturalness” of farming, given the difficulty of defining this matter. After having had long discussions and arguments with other winemakers, I have decided to have our entire estate controlled and verified to BIO-U.S. Certified Organic standards as this is so far the only legally accepted standard of “natural farming”. This procedure officially started in 2007 and so I now am fully “BIO” and “Certified Organic”.
The main reason for this “mental change” has been the fact that any person can declare he or she makes a natural product. But who checks and guarantees this? As I am getting older and I don’t want to waste anymore time in useless discussions as to how natural my products are, I now have an authority that verifies and guarantees our estate as well as handless part of the administrative agricultural hassle of the estate; and this part is becoming more and more serious and time consuming.
In the end I look at certifications this way: the control organization verifies and guarantees the legal standard of our operation and takes away from me a part of the administrative stress. Myself as the producer, I guarantee the absolute quality standard, philosophy and integrity of our products which evidently goes far beyond any legal standard.
Jan 9th, 2011