Friday, November 13, 2009

To Certify, or not to Certify

I had a fascinating conversation with Mick Unti this morning. He called to respond to an email I'd sent him, asking about his viticultural practices - specifically, was the Grenache parcel the only vineyard he was farming biodynamically? Mick felt that the answer required more nuance than a short email reply.

To use the word "biodynamic" on a wine label in the USA requires certification by Demeter, the primary organization that monitors biodynamic farming here and around the world of wine. Demeter owns a trademark on the word "biodynamic" in the USA; so for a winery to use the word on their label without certification would be risking legal action. Getting certification, whether for biodynamic or more simply, organic, farming requires not just hard work, but hard cash. And for many winegrowers, it also means potentially giving up critical decision-making powers to outside forces. Winegrowers, being notably stubborn - I mean, you gotta be a bit crazy to want to work that hard! - often chafe at that last part; even if they have the cash on hand to pay for the distinction. Mick, for his part, isn't even sure yet that biodynamic viticulture is the end-all for Unti (he only started down the biodynamic road in 2005), though he is impressed with the results so far. Results, of course, are what I'm most interested in.

For me, the reality is that one day I tasted three wines from Unti Vineyards and all three knocked me out. That they are made without reliance on chemicals is clearly a bonus, but the most important thing to me is that these are delicious wines. If it is Mick Unti's choice not to join a club like Demeter, so be it. I can live with that as long as he keeps making great wine.


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