The Languedoc is one of the fast growing areas for organic viticulture in France, so it seems highly appropriate to review the most recent addition to the growing literature on organic viticulture. Britt and Per Karlsson are Swedish journalists who are based in Paris; the Swedish version of their book won ‘Best Wine book for Professionals 2012' in Sweden, and last year it was published in English.
They say in the foreword ‘This book is not meant as an argument for organic (or biodynamic or natural wine production). Instead we explain what all these concepts mean.’ And that is exactly what they do, and very useful it is too, written in a down to earth manner, with a very straightforward approach. You may think that sounds rather dry but the text is beautifully lightened by some evocative photographs, including picturesque views of vineyards covered in wild flowers.
The contents page provides a succinct resumé. Farming Today covers the principal types of farming; there is a history of the development of organic viticulture and a survey as to how wide spread it is now – the Languedoc has 16,462 hectares, and that is growing. They look at disease and pest control by natural means, and explain the steps a wine grower has to take to become organic. And once I read the chapter on Biodynamic Wine Production, I understood the different preparations for the first time. Work in the cellar is also considered, as well as additives and there is a useful chapter on labelling. Natural wines are not ignored, nor is sustainable wine growing. And the book concludes with an overview of some of the environmental issues such as carbon dioxide emissions and packaging, and finally a couple of appendices of recommended wine growers. There are other names that I could add in the Languedoc.
As Per and Britt say: ‘At the end of the day it is still the individual growers who decide what sort of wine they want to make’. And they do not say which type of viticulture, organic, biodynamic, natural or sustainable is better. ‘It is down to the wine growers themselves to convince us’. And some of Britt and Per’s observations are convincing – and objective. You cannot but notice that they are very level headed and unemotional about what can be a very emotive subject.
Like so many wine books, it is not necessarily a book to sit down and read in one go. However, it makes a very useful reference, providing a comprehensive overview. I certainly felt that at the end of it I understood rather more about the subject than a few hours earlier. .
Biodynamic, Organic and Natural winemaking
Britt and Per Karlsson
Floris Books – www.florisbooks.co.uk