Urlar is a Gaelic word meaning “The Earth”, a fitting brand for fifth-generation Scottish farmer Angus Thomson and his wife Davina.
The topic of wine is never very far from my conversations, as people from all walks of life love to talk about it.
Organic grape growers and winemakers are upset at the abuse of the words “organic” and “biodynamic” in relation to wine. They are concerned that wine producers are using these descriptions as a tool to sell wine in a market that is increasingly congested and favouring sustainably produced wines over the more conventional.
Only seven wineries worldwide have declared themselves carbon-neutral, according to the website Mother Nature Network (or mnn.com). It lists Backsberg (South Africa), Cono Sur (Chile), Cullen (Western Australia), Grove Mill (New Zealand), Parducci (California), Taylors (South Australia) and Tinhorn Creek (British Columbia), but it seems they’ve missed at least Temple Bruer (South Australia) and Yealands Estate (New Zealand).
Organic and biodynamic viticulture are growing movements throughout the world. It might be tempting to dismiss them as trendy, and ask “Why has it suddenly become so important to grow vines this way?” For the first 25 years that I was interested in wine, it was barely mentioned. What’s changed?
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock out west of Oodnadatta, you would have picked up on the fact that natural and ethical winemaking are the buzz wine trends of the moment. Grow your grapes organically, biodynamically or at least with minimal inputs, and in an environmentally responsible manner. Then add little or nothing to the juice during winemaking (maybe some sulfur to protect it from gross oxidation), and take nothing away (no fining or filtration).
One of the most memorable quotes in Andrew Jefford’s fine book, “The New France”, is this, attributed to the godfather of biodynamic viticulture, Nicolas Joly: “Before being good, a wine should be true.” I’m sorry Mr Joly, but that’s where you part company with me – and, I suspect, Andrew Guard too. Guard brings in some of the most interesting French wines you’re likely to find in this town. He has made ‘natural’ wines something of a specialty, which is very a la mode, but he is keen to make it known this doesn’t mean he likes faulty or badly-made wines.