Henry Yuen, Wine writer (To view the original Chinese version of this article please log onto http://www.taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )
Picture: Kevin Trowbridge
The 'organic' team of Summerhill Pyramid Winery
The term “organic” has been mentioned, used, heard of so often that it has become somewhat of a cliché in the food and wine industry. Yet, the regular Janes and Joes are still trying to capture the real meaning of “organic”. When it comes to wine, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to Ezra Cipes, General Manager at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, one of the pioneer wineries who experimented with organic grapes and wine-making successfully and made a name of it ever since.
The truth is, when Summerhill Winery “celebrates nature’s perfection”, they are referring to their organic wine-making philosophy.
But what exactly is “organic wines’? It’ll take days and pages of data and research if we’re to go into the agricultural science of things. However, to put it in simple ‘drinkable’ terms, organic wines refer to grapes originating from an organic vineyard and must remain organic at the winery level during the complete winemaking process. Simply speaking, organic viticulture means the conventional use of fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides is totally absent from the vineyards. Normally the use of these chemical will rid the land of weeds, bugs and spores; meaning that the land is being forced fed with foreign minerals and nutrients. Consequently, the vines are nurtured so they are less resistant to Mother Nature and the authenticity and health of the terrior are basically lost.
The recent conversation with Ezra Cipes revealed a much larger scope of the term. While there are different definitions and levels of being organic (Go to http://www.sumerhill.bc.ca to read about organic grapes and wine-making). Crafting organic wine is a passion of his. He firmly believes that being close to nature with as little human intervention as possible is the true essence of organic.
As per Ezra Cipes, Summerhill Pyramid Winery has been employing organic farming practice since the eighties. The objective has always been to respect the eco system that allows weeds, other plants, pest and predators to be in their natural balances. Their emphasis relies on a healthy microbiology system with a lot of composting works to enrich the soil. The system will in turn provide stronger immune system for the vines. A good diversity of plants and animals is in fact important to the bio dynamicity of the environment. A similar application of using less chemicals, electricity and other resources during the wine-making ensures the organic practice carries through.
Surely, it is a lot easier said than done! In order to remain organic at the vineyard level, and the wine-making level, the whole process and manuscript requires much labour-intensive works, efforts and diligence. However, according to Ezra, the rewards are equally intense. Not only are the vines healthier, the resulting wine qualities are much more terrior-authentic, the true signature of what the land, the soil and the climates represent has been stamped.
To Summerhill Pyramid Winery, being organic is part of the process to craft true wines that to praise nature and its roots. The yield per acre may be lower, such as from 10 tonnes of grapes per acre down to only 3 to 4 tonnes per acre for the production of premium wines. Nevertheless, such philosophy and hard-work not only pushes the winery to the forefront as being an environmentally responsible proprietor. Their passion for life, their respect on nature, the land, the terrior, the soil, their sense of responsibility and their contributions as one of the living things on earth carry much bigger objectives behind organic.
In every respect, Summerhill’s wines are the genuine representations of the true embrace for nature and organic. The outstanding and delicious wines are simply the outcome and the statement of the worthy process. Their wines are worth a try!