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MORE ABOUT ORGANIC & PRESERVATIVE FREE WINEMAKING

 
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MORE ABOUT ORGANIC & PRESERVATIVE FREE WINEMAKING

 

Organic integrity, from the vineyard to the winery.

Producers of wine made from organically grown grapes must be able to provide an ‘audit trail’ irrefutably linking the finished wine to organically grown grapes.

Wine made from organic grapes must then be made strictly to a strict set of winemaking procedures complying with ‘Australian Food Standards Code Section P4’.

The whole process is tracked and certified as “organic” by an accredited testing and compliance organisation - in our case NASAA. 

Ultimately, the quality and characteristics of the organically grown grapes determines quality of the wine. However, there are many factors that influence both grape quality and the wine making process. 

Simply described, the grape contains sugar, most of which is converted to alcohol during fermentation. The balance provides flavour, sweetness and balance. The grape also contains tannin and a range of compounds in the skin that determine colour, taste and smell.

Many of these are an interaction between variety and the way the plant is grown.

Like traditional winemakers, organic artisans have specific requirements for sugar content (Baumé), acid level, damage to berries and other characteristics of the grapes they accept or reject. 

Our growers are well aware of the heightened requirements of our winemakers, which are mostly more stringent for organic and preservative free wines, where quality of the fruit is considered and certain marker characteristics is paramount. 

As with traditional wine, premium organic wines are made from ‘low-yielding’ vines. Small berries with a high proportion of skins, which may be produced more in unirrigated or lightly irrigated vineyards, as is the case with high quality wine production for Organic Hill. 

Harvesting.

If the grapes are machine harvested, the harvester must be thoroughly cleaned with pristine water prior to operation. The grapes must be harvested in a manner that prevents contamination with undesirable metals, plastics, chemicals or dust.

The time of day grapes are harvested will ultimately influence the quality of the wine. White wine grapes are often harvested in the cool of the night to prevent oxidation while red wine grapes may be naturally allowed to warm up a little to allow full flavour development.

Once harvested the fruit must be quickly transported to the winery in clean, ‘uncontaminated’ containers. 

Winemaking.

Organic winemakers are unable to use the full range of materials available for conventional winemaking, so attention to hygiene and careful handling in the winery is paramount.

However, the actual organic winemaking techniques are much the same as those used for conventional winemaking.

At the winery, the grapes must be crushed without delay to prevent spoilage. Destemming and crushing equipment must be made of inert material, preferably stainless steel. 

Inert equipment must also be used to drain and press the grapes. The crusher must be ‘clean washed’ before processing an organic batch and the process often includes natural Pectolytic enzymes. Chilling and settling in the conventional manner is then used to clarify the pressed ‘juice’.

It should be noted that small quantities of sulphur dioxide is acceptable as a preserving and antioxidation agent but free sulphur dioxide must not exceed 30 mg/L, and total sulphur dioxide must not exceed 125 mg/L (virtually imperceptible in the finished wine). Ascorbic acid may also be used as an antioxidant. 

Yeast for fermentation may be obtained from commercial sources however, Organic Hill winemakers prefer the wild yeast naturally present on the grapes. Larger populations of yeast are likely to be present on organically grown grapes than on grapes sprayed for pest and disease control. 

To comply with ‘Vegan’ credentials, following fermentation Organic Hill wines ‘fined’ to clear and stabilise proteins, without the use of any animal, egg or milk products commonly used during conventional processes. 

Built to purpose stainless steel tanks and inert gases are used to prevent contact with air at all stages of organic winemaking.

And all handling and bottling equipment and procedures are designed and executed to eliminate contamination or modification of the wine. Additionally, Organic Hill winemakers are required to keep detailed records of all winemaking activities, transfers and additions, and details of storage vessels used. 

Bottling and Compliance

Our winery and bottling facilities have been inspected and certified by NASAA before any of our organic wines have been processed. During that time the winery facility used for making organic wine cannot be used for conventional wine production, in any circumstances.

Organic wines must also be stored separately to other wines, a mandate we strictly adhere to. 

Inspections are regularly conducted on-site when organic wine is bottled. This adds to the cost of certification making organic wine more expensive to produce but is critical to the integrity on the 'organic' brand. 

Our winemakers must also be prepared to submit to subsequent inspections to ensure compliance with regulations and provide samples of wine for analysis as required. 

Finally, if a wine is labelled as ‘Certified Organic’, it must have been produced under approved conditions specified by the certifying body referred to on the label (in our case NASAA).

This verifies that the organisation concerned has inspected the vineyard and winery and certified the wines as 100% Organic.

If the winemaking process itself is not certified then the wine can be legally labelled only as ‘made from organically grown grapes’ – thankfully not the case with fully compliant Organic Hill wines.

Additionally, the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation conducts regular audits to ensure that wine branded ‘Certified Organic’ meets these standards and is true to label.

Preservative Free Winemaking

 Sulphites have been used as a preservative in winemaking since Roman times. However, like a growing band of more ‘natural’ winemakers, we at Organic Hill have been bucking the ‘preservative’ convention since our inception, by making wines with no added SO2 or preservatives at all. Zero, Zippo, Zilch!  

No Preservative 220 (Sulphur Dioxide) and no Preservative 224 (Potassium Metabisulphate), none of the dodgy chemicals well known as common allergens causing unpleasant side effects for many wine lovers.

As well as the issues with sulphites as allergens, our winemakers argue that the preservatives actually mute the vibrant flavours of fruit in fermentation, and that by not adding sulphites these characters can shine through naturally. As we believe the rich, juicy fruit and aroma our PF Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon attest. 

At Organic Hill we have developed careful preservative free techniques and winery practices that allow us to make wines of great purity and freshness, while still displaying the premium characteristics of traditional quality wines.

We have also very deliberately researched and worked with varieties that are optimal for sulphur-free winemaking (also rejecting other allergens like fish nuts and milk products), with inherent ‘tannins’ that act as their own natural preservative, while fortifying the natural flavours and aromas.

Creating a truly premium range of Organic and Preservative Free wines.