To preserve the distinct qualities of different wines, we keep them separate. That gives our winemakers more options to make blends that maximise the best qualities of each batch. We prefer to do this as late as possible in the process, for an obvious reason: You can always add separate wines together, but once blended, you cannot separate them again.
This basic winemaking principle of ours means that when organically grown grapes arrive in our winery, we can retain their integrity as organic wines without fundamentally changing our winemaking process.
We have to keep the organic stream separate from non-organic wines, but that happens as a matter of course. All grape, juice and wine vessels get thoroughly cleaned every time before we use it for a new batch. (How you do that is pretty simple, actually: you wash it until tests show that the wash water is pure. That shows that all traces of the previous content have been removed.)
So, in practice, most of what we have to do with organic wine is to make sure we keep it from getting mixed up with anything that was not organically grown.
Going organic does limit the tools at the winemaker’s disposal – reducing them by about three quarters. However, since we know this upfront, we adapt the decisions we make in the winery. For instance, we know we cannot use certain yeasts that contain a disallowed emulsifier, so we use others, often wild yeasts.
Because our range of potential fining agents is smaller, we can avoid wines becoming too tannic by limiting skin contact, for instance, rather than adjust tannin levels by fining. By choice, the fining agents we do use are not only organic, but also vegan, based on plant proteins rather than milk, eggs or isinglass.
When it comes to preservatives, we need to keep sulphur dioxide levels to below 100 parts per million for organic wines. Most of our red wines are below that level anyway, and our whites seldom exceed 120 parts per million. We simply make sure that we never exceed that threshold with organic wines.
Though it does require adjustments when we make organic wine, it is not substantially different from the way we usually work at Babich. Our winemakers prefer to use a light touch anyway, to let the natural qualities of our vineyards and grapes express themselves.
If grapes enter the winery as organic, it will remain organic all the way to your glass.