Cava recently set a staggering precedence in wine-growing laws, by setting a deadline for producers utilizing specific classification levels to grow their grapes organically. This law takes effect in 2025 and specifically relates to the cava classificationsCavas Reserva, Gran Reserva, and Cavas de Paraje Calificado.
This movement has caused a positive reception from proponents of organic agriculture but has stirred up some negativity from producers that believe that organics are too restrictive. One of the biggest concerns with organic viticulture is the heavy use of copper to combat fungus in the vineyard. With the overuse of copper, the metal starts to build up in the soil eventually leading to an inhospitable environment for growing. The European Union has already addressed this issue with the overuse of copper (considering grape growing is the biggest user of copper) by limiting the legal amount that winegrowers are allowed to apply to their vineyards. Additionally, there are other organic options for antifungals that are organic. Some of these options are still at a point that is proving their usability through trials, but ultimately there is more than one answer to solving this problem.
All things considered the list of pros to enforcing organic winemaking seems to outweigh the list of cons (which are mainly affecting a business’ bottom line). Some of the major benefits of organics are specifically addressing the negatives of conventional agricultural techniques. The biggest benefits of moving into organics and enforcing it are the removal of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
Chemical fertilizers (in almost a direct parallel to the overuse of copper) have been heavily overused in agriculture since the beginning of the twentieth century. The negative effects have been well documented and include sterilization and a chemical imbalance in the soil. These negative effects aren’t just localized to the land that the fertilizers are applied to either, with chemical runoff these effects are felt miles down the watershed. A key example of this is the large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the accumulation of agricultural chemicals that build up at the end of the Mississippi River.
Herbicide use is rampant throughout the world, and the most commonly used herbicide is Glyphosate. Glyphosate much like the argument used against copper use builds up in the soil and has shown to take a long period (conservative estimates state around 50 days for a half-life) to break down. On top of the fact that this compound never seems to fully disappear from the soil (even organically grown products have shown glyphosate presence due to its free use), it is also taken up by plants that are planted in the soil that it contaminates. Glyphosate is a known carcinogen that has cost Monsanto (the primary manufacturer) billions of dollars in lawsuit payouts to those that have suffered on account of it.
Finally, chemical pesticides, much like herbicides pose risk for both human health and environmental health overall. Even the chemicals that humans use on themselves to keep pests away such as deet are known carcinogens. These chemicals build up both in water supplies and in fat deposits in humans and animals.
Now, not all people arguing against a mandatory organic program are arguing for full use of all chemical options, but these are all commonly used chemical tools in the industrial agricultural setting. If there isn’t a drastic overhaul in what is and what isn’t allowed to come into contact with our food supply (including wine grapes) there will always be producers that will use the cheapest and easiest to implement methods of taking care of problems. In agriculture, buying your way out of a fungus problem, or an aphid problem with chemical fungicides and pesticides is typically going to save the most money. But at what cost to the consumer?
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