The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Presenting a Place in a Bottle

Posted on | March 12, 2010 | Written by Christy Canterbury | 2 Comments

This week at IWM we welcomed the esteemed Loire producer Nicolas Joly.  Joly is famous within the wine community for his staunch promotion of the winegrowing and winemaking principles of biodynamics.  Joly not only practices biodynamics in his vineyards and winery, but he also personally lives the principles.  This effectively means that he believes in harnessing the “life forces” of the universe by first trying to understand, and then trying to provide for the natural needs of all things, his vines coming first and foremost.  His goal is to express his appellation to its fullest extent in each bottle of his wine.

Nicolas Joly: Two Very Different Ways of Achieving a Wine from Inside IWM on Vimeo.

Joly claims, “It is not that the wine is in biodynamics that is it good,” and I appreciated his admission, especially phrased as it is in his charming English. I’ve heard many wine professionals and fanatics wax rhapsodic over how biodynamic wines are always better in quality, and I respectfully disagree.  It may be true that if you look at the whole of the wine world and then at the whole of the biodynamic wine world, the greater percentage of higher quality wines certainly sits in the biodynamic camp.  However, I’ve tasted more than a few biodynamic wines that are wanting in one way or another.  (I’d further say that you can’t make an absolutely true blanket statement about wine.)  Joly went on to explain that the holistic approach is what brings it all together. He observed that “When you are seeing the forces, pulling the right forces into place,” you naturally create quality.  Perhaps Joly is right and perhaps he is not, but I do know that his life forces were seamlessly aligned when he created his 2007s.  They are showing brilliantly!

In order to fully harness his appellation, Joly strictly avoids adding anything to the winegrowing and winemaking process that is not totally organic and naturally part of the appellation.  He explains that when winegrowers don’t abide to this strict biodynamic code, the wine is no longer an honest reflection of its appellation.  These additions could be oak chips, enzymes, or they could be the biggest enemy—yeasts, especially aromatic yeasts (mon Dieu!).  Having heard some pretty extreme philosophies on this topic of additives from other producers, such as the protest that Rainer Lingenfelder launched at growers who trucked in water from a nearby lake to hydrate their vines during the persistent heat of 2003, I found Joly’s ideas pretty easy to accept.

Nicolas Joly: What Happens in the Cellar from Inside IWM on Vimeo.

Then his train of thought moved to sulfur additions, and I was pleasantly surprised that Joly was not completely against adding sulfur.  He does, however, point out the sulfur must be natural and not a product from the oil industry, and I agree.  First, small amounts of sulfur are naturally produced by yeast during the fermentation process.  Second, as Joly points out, “If you ship far away, your wine should have it” because most wines without added sulfur don’t travel well.  Joly recollected more than a few bottles he has opened that were not in good condition because the winemakers refused to add sulfur, and by doing so, denied their consumers a better bottle of wine.

But, enough of my “Cliffs Notes.”  Click into our videos to hear from the man himself!


2 Responses to “Presenting a Place in a Bottle”

  1. Michael Boice
    March 16th, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

    Very interesting blog Christy…and timely for me as my wine knowledge grows. While at a tasting at IWM this past saturday I could not help but notice how many folks where put off by C.O.S. Nero di Avola Syri. But to me this is one of those stand out wines because its nose and pallet taste like the place from which it came; earth, barnyard etc. I actually nick named the wine Tre uomini con un cavallo! A compliment for sure.

    What’s my point? I think ‘some folks’ prefer wine that is not so expressive of the place, right or wrong. Perhaps a large majority of the wine drinking public has rubbed up against ‘manufactured’ wine for too long and when they taste something like Syri they think the wine is bad.

    My background is in plants and soil. Truely representing the place in a bottle is quite a farming achievment, one my pallet prefers!

  2. Christy Canterbury
    March 16th, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

    Thanks for your two cents, Michael, and I agree the Scyri is delicious! As a friend in the business recently said, thank goodness there are so many kinds of wine. Like fashion, food, music and art, we’re lucky to have a plethora of styles to appeal to different palates so that we can grow the wine drinking community!

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