A glass of wine is enjoyable for us, but the cultivation of the fruits can be quite harmful to the environment. Because of the high demand of wines, grapes are heavily sprayed with pesticides and synthetic fertilizer which destroy the soil of nutrition and pollute the air.

Organic food is produced by farmers who go without using most conventional pesticides. This is to improve environmental quality for future generations.

Here, Wayne Ahrens, Proprietor of organic wine company Small Fry Wines speaks about Small Fry and what we need to know about organics and how vineyards can support care of the environment.

“Our focus is on sustainable production and the importance of the family based farming unit, both of which place long term production at least equally or above short term profit margins. Our industry has seen dramatic corporatisation over the last 25 years which has proven to be largely unsuccessful. The corporates now seem bent on unloading their assets to managed investment capital as they have been unable to convince the market that their products are worthwhile.

In many ways wine is a unique product in that some consumers are prepared to pay an unusually high premium for perceived quality, as people take more notice of the quality rather than the quantity of food that they eat we hope to see a similar pattern in other foodstuffs. It is no less affordable and far healthier to eat a smaller amount of high quality, nutritional and satisfying food than to eat a large amount of low quality, highly processed, fat and sugar laden food. It is important that we work to try to break down the barriers to people making informed decisions about how much and what they put in their bodies.

As farmers and activists we hope to make good quality sustainably produced food and wine available to our customers at an affordable price.” – Wayne Ahrens, Proprietor

Why is it important to choose organic wine?
Supporting organic producers seems like such a no-brainer for me that I wonder why organic produce isn’t a far greater section of the supermarket shelves. We can certainly see the growth and we all hope it will reach some sort of tipping point soon. Some commentators are predicting that organic production will become the new normal or conventional and that chemical and unsustainable farming will be marginalised. It is hard for me to see that when there is so much money and political influence brought to bear by the big corporates. Wine has the potential to take a leading position in this change because it is one product where consumers are prepared to pay extra for improved quality, in some cases a great deal extra compared with say potatoes. Anyway the reason you should drink organic wine and eat organic food are twofold: better for your body, better for the planet.

How do organic wines taste as compared to conventional wines?
I think that the flavour of organic wine, as with well-made conventional wines, reflect the quality of the grapes used. The flavours themselves do not differ but the purity and intensity of flavor is better with better sites and vineyard management. Organic producers tend to be better managers but the real improvement is that the organically produced wines use sustainable farming techniques.

What is the difference between organic and biodynamic wine?
Biodynamic growing, in addition to all of the rules of organic production, uses the principles of Rudolf Steiner. We apply preparations to the vineyards and also use the Astro Calendar to time activities in the vineyard and cellar.

What is certified organic?
For consumers it is a 3rd party confirmation that the claims of the producer are indeed valid. For me it is a necessary process for producers who wish to use words like organic and biodynamic.
It is not uncommon for producers to claim (particularly) biodynamic practices but to refuse to certify. I think at best this undermines the whole movement, at worst it is illegal and fraudulent. Consumers have a right to ask in these circumstances.

At the store, what do we look for if we want to make sure we are getting the best wine?
Firstly shop at small independent wine shops; I can’t stress enough the importance of going to somewhere you will have a genuine choice rather than the big chains where a plethora of “choice” is churned out of remarkably few companies with rather large tanks. Once there ask the people behind the counter to recommend wines that fit your taste, farming preference, price bracket, dinner selection etc. Good wine stores are owned and staffed by wine tragics, they will have tasted every wine in the store and probably 50 more for each one that made it onto the shelves, they know what you want even if you don’t know it yet.

Since imported grapes are among the most pesticide-laden produce, what alternatives are there?
This is easy – food miles are important too, so the best way is to support your local industry. Here in Australia we don’t have the cultural heritage of Italy or Spain so we don’t have the fully developed food and wine matching that exists there, but we are coming along very quickly so ….. Get in there and match local wine with local food and start creating your own traditions. We love shopping at our local Barossa Farmers Market then using that produce to cook dishes that match with our own or our friends wine.
Biodynamic farming techniques utilize the vineyard’s natural resources to cultivate the highest quality grapes possible without the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, growth stimulants or GMOs. A vineyard that is certified Biodynamic meets and typically exceeds the standards and regulations for organic certified farming.

This piece originally appeared at eyeseeonline.com. A further interview can be read at eyeseeonline.com/5-minutes-with-an-eco-friendly-winemaker

Wayne is appearing at Barossa HQ on August 29. Sign up and enjoy a live online wine tasting with Wayne at barossahq.com.

Contact Wayne at: www.smallfrywines.com.au