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AIV Debate: Can biodynamic unlock ‘noble’ wines?

Greater respect for the soil is key to producing wines that accurately express terroir and may be considered 'noble', a meeting of the Academie Internationale du Vin has been told.

Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards addresses AIV members in London

Raymond Paccot, of Domaine La Colombe in Switzerland, said that biodynamic winemakers represent a ‘resistance’ movement. They are at the forefront of efforts to improve expressions of terroir by rejecting 20th Century cultivation methods.

The concept of biodynamic, and also organic practices more broadly, were recurring themes during the Academie Internationale du Vin (AIV) debate, which was held under the title, ‘is noble wine a valid concept?’.

‘Through the use of herbicides and water soluble fertilisers, many vineyards have suffered,’ Paccot said during a speech at the AIV conference, held at London’s Cavendish Hotel and co-hosted by Decanter. ‘We are emerging from a time when it was thought possible to replace culture and knowledge with simplistic products and techniques,’ Paccot said.

Paul Draper, of Ridge Vineyards in California, added that ‘wineries must use minimal levels of sulphur dioxide or you will not have a wine that will show a true sense of place’. He defined the concept of ‘noble’ as ‘wines of place’.

The AIV is known for its full-bodied debates. Yet, barring a brief dispute over whether Spain or France contains more limestone areas, the London discussion remained orderly. Perhaps inevitably, though, it threw up more issues for debate than definitive answers.

Three quarters of the conference agreed that noble wine is a valid concept, but few could agree on its precise nature. Swiss wine expert Jose Vouillamoz highlighted that there is ‘no strict definition of what a noble grape variety is’.

Bruno Prats, winemaker and ex-owner of Chateau Cos d’Estournel, summarised noble wines as ‘a coming together of terroir and [winemaker] skills. If you miss out one, you cannot have nobility.’

His comment followed a talk by Victor de La Serna, a journalist and vineyard owner in Spain, who said the predominance of blended house styles in Rioja has ‘completely obliterated terroir‘ in one of Spain’s premier wine regions.

Written by Chris Mercer

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