What is the difference between a competently made wine and a delicious wine? TUX Bordeaux correspondent Tzuchien discusses the difference between conventional monocultural approach vs. the revival of organic and biodynamics methods in growing wine grapes.
With organic and biodynamic methods, grape farmers are looking to integrate the vineyard with the overall ecosystem. One of the most famous approaches is to bury cow horns filled with manure in the field to be dug up later as fertilizer. To TUX uncles, many of the practices sound like what we would call Feng shui (風水). More broadly, TUX uncles wonder if the real magic is, similar to Feng Shui, humans paying attention to what nature says.
Tzuchien’s husband has planted Muscat vine in the home garden and it is beginning to bear fruits. Although not a commercial operation, she has experienced the full spectrum of issues that wine grape growers must confront. It starts with trellis which determines how much sun the grapes get. Commercial operation would cull young grape clusters to improve the final quality of the remaining clusters. Tzuchien got 20 clusters last year, but this year many clusters were devastated by mildew; we are still waiting for the final count.
Terroir. It is a thing. Tzuchien’s 50 square meter garden has at least four microclimates due to the direction of sun, wind, and drainage. But it can be changed; for example, some grape farmers would put rocks in the vineyard to reflect sunlight and to warm up grapes. When it is too humid, mildew becomes a problem. The traditional solution is to use Bordeaux Mixture. In Tzuchien’s experience, it is effective but she is now attempting to grow her grapes without Bordeaux Mixture to be more organic and biodynamic.
Snail is the enemy for home grape farmers like Tzuchien. Fortunately, her father-in-law would catch them and make escargot dish. (Yum!)
As harvesting season approaches, Tzuchien plans to make bourru (發酵中的葡萄汁) which is a living and fermenting must (grape juice). Upon this news, TUX uncles are signing up to head to France to help harvest and, more importantly, drink bourru.
Connecting with the land and getting to know grape vines bring a new level of awareness and appreciation for that glass of wine in your hand. Next time when you imbibe, the least you can say is: now, I have heard how it is done!
Cheers!! From the TUX team to you!
- 子倩/Tzuchien personal archive