"Oh, you're not serving that organic wine rubbish, are you?"
It's a question I've heard countless times during my years in hospitality and it never fails to annoy me. Why are organic meat and vegetables held in (deservedly) high regard, but organic wine is often stigmatised?
Fratelli Paradiso opened in Potts Point in 2001 and although we initially dabbled in wines made organically and biodynamically, we didn't start focusing on them until 2005. When that happened, we definitely lost customers who could no longer drink mainstream pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc or shiraz. "What's this organic wine? It's undrinkable!"
However, my belief that we were doing the right thing was too strong to abandon those wines. It's like writing a restaurant menu: if we're only catering for mainstream tastes then what's the point? We'll have the same restaurants and wine lists everywhere. How boring!
I want to drink wine made by small producers who work the fields, plant the vines and look after the grapes themselves. Wines that only contain one ingredient: the grape. I don't want to drink wine made with loads of additives, manufactured by a multinational company to taste the same every year. I want to drink wines that are vibrant and energising, wines that have drinkability.
Minimal intervention and natural wines aren't going to be perfect but the small nuances and imperfections are what get me excited. And what is a "faulty" characteristic in wine anyway? Is it volatile acidity? Well, sometimes that can be quite nice; I don't mind it.
Sometimes the wine is not ready. A wine made "naturally" in 2017 might not be ready to go that same year. It's still evolving. It's a living organism that is going to change and morph over time. We need to accept this.
Of course, we don't want to drink shit wine, but people make mistakes. It's all part of the process. Smaller Australian winemakers might also release wines early because they need the cash flow. But slowly we're learning how to hold wines back. We're a young, vibrant country. We're allowed to stumble. We're not France. We're not Italy. And that's the exciting thing. Our winemaking future isn't restrained by history.
Biodynamic, low-intervention winemaking isn't about being radical or anti-establishment. It's about making wine in a way that protects the land. Global warming is going to have a dramatic effect on our planet over the next 15 to 20 years. We have a responsibility to make better choices. Every little step we make has knock-on effect. And, at the end of the day, it's a delicious grape juice that you want to drink.