Hello, bonjour, and welcome to your new Bonner Private Wines video. After looking last week at why vine growers have to use some chemicals to grow healthy grapes that are fit to make good wines, we essentially looked at the viticultural side of pesticides in the wine industry, the vineyard side of things we looked at.
As promised, today, we're going to be focusing on the true wine side of things, answering two important questions. If pesticides are spread in the vineyards, does it mean that there are some residues left in your wine? Plus, we'll look at how growers' efforts to reduce their impact on the environment actually result in making increasingly good wines. Wines of more authentic character. Let's go.
Are there pesticides left in my wine?
The short answer, I'm afraid, is yes. And I'm tempted to add, of course, but let's explain. As we discussed last week, pesticides are used in the fields, in the vineyards to spray vines and grapes. And nowadays, with modern techniques for analyzing everything in wine composition in particular, we can always detect even the smallest levels or traces of pesticide residues in your wine, even as low as it may be. And I'm not going to get into a deep level of details here.
Don't be scared. This is a very complex topic that can get very scientific and complicated very quickly. There are many factors at play. Three, mainly that I'm just going to brush on very quickly how much of one individual product is left in your wine, its concentration? How much of it is dangerous for your health as a concentration? It also, of course, depends how much you're going to be drinking and so on and so on.
Very, very complex. And of course, all of this varies depending on each wine and on each product, and there’s many thousands of wines and thousands of different products. So let's stay factual and simple. I don't want to paint neither a forgiving or idyllic picture of wine saying there's no pesticides in it, nor do I want to say there's a real big issue with it.
Let's say three things to stay factual and concise. Studies do show that there are pesticide residues in virtually every wine, at least in conventional viticulture. And we'll discuss organic in just a minute. But it is important to have in mind one particular aspect of wine, which is that it's not just a fruit juice, it does go through a whole winemaking process, fermentation, etc. To be synthetic, a big part of what the winemaking process does is stabilizing your wine. You can see it's very, very clear and bright and shiny. We want to clean it up if you wish. So when you pour it, it looks very clear, bright and shiny, just like this one. And it doesn't look hazy or cloudy. It's not by chance, right?
When you've just pressed grapes, the juice looks cloudy as there's a little bit of pulp, a little bit of skins and bits of grapes floating in it. Same thing when you ferment it. Obviously with yeast in suspension in it. Have you ever seen anything fermenting, a beer? It looks cloudy. However, at the end of the winemaking process, every wine is always decanted.
You leave it with sediment settled down to eliminate all of these small particles. Sometimes it's even filtered a little bit to clarify it, and there's several steps of clarification and sedimentation. What this does is that a lot of the pesticides, heavy metals and whatnot, the huge majority of those get eliminated through the settlement, the sedimentation, clarification, etc. Everything goes down into the lees and gets rejected. Some pesticides are even broken down by the fermentation process.
So overall, compared to, say, a fruit juice, wine is actually pretty clean in that regard because there's this whole point of clarifying it before selling it to you, making it stable and bright and clean. If you were to compare pesticide levels in wine compared to a fruit juice, I wouldn't be surprised if wine had a significant advantage, and exactly because of this.
And you've probably read on why labels or winery websites or wine specification sheets, the words organic or sustainable viticulture. This one actually says LIVE certified sustainable grapes. So what do those words mean? I want to be very clear about it and clarify this for you. So first, the base, the viticulture that uses standard agricultural practices with whatever chemicals that are allowed by regulations. This is called conventional viticulture, just normal.
One level up towards more environmentally friendly practices is called sustainable viticulture. Those are growers that submit themselves to a certification. They allow some independent body to look into what they do and what they spray, and they agree to comply to certain norms to go towards using less products overall. Those using sustainable viticulture simply work perhaps a little harder and a little smarter to use less products, but use them better. They generally get better advice from consultants as well that they hire to get this certification and maintain it. It's a bit of a quality control aimed at being more eco friendly, but they are allowed to use some conventional chemical products like everyone else, right?
Another level up is organic viticulture and there it gets really more restrictive. Here, no synthetic chemical product is to be used in the vineyards. Just like when you buy any organic food. Some products are used, like copper or sulfur, but no complex molecules developed by chemical companies and industries. Those chemicals, when they're very complex case, can stay sometimes in the wine for longer, and their long term effects are often hard to evaluate. None of those complex products are to be used for an organic wine.
And there is another level up even higher than you may have heard about. That is called biodynamic viticulture, biodynamics, the principle of biodynamics. All organic. It is organic viticulture, but it's more than that. It's using agricultural practices that obey its own set of rules and its own products. They spray some “horn manure” preparations, as they call it. Herb preparations mixed with water made from plants like chamomile or nettle.
They use the cycles of the moon to guide what they do as well. It is a little bit obscure and esoteric, but it's proven to be very efficient. And many top producers use those principle. Many extremely reputable wineries, especially in Europe, use the biodynamics principle. They do so with great results that are somewhat proven by experience. Even though we don't really understand how it works scientifically, it seems to bring out more life, more health in the vineyards, more happiness perhaps into the vines, as they would say, and more importantly, more characterful wines, more typical, more genuine, authentic wines.
It's very surprising, but it's all happening right now. It's almost like the more eco-friendly you are with making your wine, somewhat, the better wines you can make.
The ‘side effect’ of eco-friendly practices in wine
And I will happily admit, perhaps this is getting a little unscientific, let's say subjective here. But many wine commentators, critics and journalists would actually agree. And I think it's important to highlight this trend so you're aware of it, even though you will find some people to disagree and argue with what I'm about to say. More and more wine producers go towards more eco-friendly practices, with sustainable viticulture, organic, biodynamic certifications and methods as we've just discussed. What many find is that these practices, somewhat as a side effect of being more respectful of the environment, they actually result in wines becoming more characterful. These vineyards that have more weeds, more flowers that are surrounded by messy edges and untidy bushes, they actually tend to be fruits that have more complex flavors somehow.
Is it because the vines have to struggle more with the competition from the weeds and everything else? Is it because they are a little less protected, the vines, from the pests because there's less chemicals sprayed onto them? Is it because all of those flowers, those plants, those herbs infuse some flavors into the grapes and into the wine? Is it because the yields or the amount of grapes one produces without pesticides or irrigation is lower? No one actually really knows for sure. It's probably a combination of all of this.
The addition of small little things make that more natural vineyards somewhat often allow to produce wines that many find more interesting. I guess you could say that when a grower cares for what it makes its land and its vines, they're generally also aimed at making a wine that is a little bit different from everyone else's, using all local grape varieties, for example, using natural yeast to ferment the wine straight from the vineyards.
Then that ferment naturally, rather than buying bags of prepared yeast that everyone can buy the exact same bag. When more people do that, you end up with more variety in the world of wine, more authenticity in many wines than when everyone just applies the same recipe everywhere on earth. This is this trend the wine industry is going through right now from the globalization and Parkerization of the taste of wine aimed at pleasing the palate of a handful of wine critics and magazines, which was the focus for many years in the early 2000s in particular. Many wine growers are now more focused on making a wine that they love and that their customers love that you love. It's probably almost impossible to establish scientifically the clear correlation between eco-friendly practices and more characterful authentic wines, but many seem to observe it. And when you think about it, it actually seems pretty normal, quite logical when you look at it in a certain way, and many seem to observe it practically, perhaps also subjectively, yes, but subjectivity objectively does matter in wine.
On those wise words I'll leave it here for today. Thanks for watching. Keep looking for and buying better wines, perhaps more eco friendly wines as well if they're good. We're happy that we can help you with that at the Bonner Private Wine Club. See you soon in the wonderful world of wine, take care. Cheers.