Previously, the Cambridge Formaggio Kitchen wine department took care to identify the wines on its shelves that were made from organically or biodynamically farmed grapes and with no — or minimal — applications of sulfur. We used little ladybug icons to set them apart. It seemed like a reasonable step to take, since a significant subset of our clientele expresses a preference for wines made this way.
But there were some drawbacks to this approach — primarily, the implication that wines that couldn’t flash a ladybug badge were somehow of a second order of quality or moral standing. One can imagine the line of thinking this might initiate: If they’re not farming organically, what must be going on in those vineyards? Routine and frequent applications of chemical fertilizers? Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides sprayed on a fixed schedule whether vines are actually threatened or not?
The fact is that we don’t sell any wine that can be described this way.
The choices made by conscientious wine growers are conditioned by durable facts on the ground, the vagaries of the vintage, and the style of wine that is in view. Durable facts on the ground include, for example, whether the climate is dry or damp, whether the vineyard has a good flow of air, how pervasive mildews may be. In places like sunny, dry Sicily, prevailing conditions make organic agriculture relatively easy to accomplish. In cool, damp Bordeaux or almost anywhere in the U.S. east of the Mississippi, it can require heroic efforts.