First Low Sulphite Nitrogen Assisted BC Wine Is Released
Summerhill leads the way with an aromatic Ehrenfesler
Always leading, @summerhillwine's bright 2013 Ehrenfesler an example of low sulphite #bcwine
The new @summerhillwine low sulphite Ehrenfesler a #bcwine industry first http://bit.ly/1ovjnQl
Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Canada's premier family-owned certified organic and biodynamic winery, is pleased to present their 2013 Ehrenfelser, the first BC wine made with the use of a nitrogen generator for the purpose of reducing unnecessary sulphite addition in winemaking.
According to Summerhill winemaker Eric von Krosigk, the Ehrenfelser is "a beautifully expressive wine that is the essence of freshness and terroir due to minimal sulphite addition. The wine is crisp and bright with a gentle fizz from the natural CO2 preserved from the fermentation. It's perfect for al fresco dining and for sharing with friends.
The wine, $19.95 CDN per bottle, can be found at the winery, purchased online, or wherever fine VQA wines are sold.
For trade interested in carrying this special wine, Summerhill is represented in western Canada by Renaissance Wine Merchants.
Summerhill Leads the Way for Low Sulphite Wines in BC
"We are on a no-sulphite program at Summerhill, which means we use little or no sulphur wherever we can," von Krosigk continues. "However, we will not sacrifice a wine to oxidation if it does need some. We have adjusted everything to make this work, and continue to research new and old techniques to reach the goal of zero added sulphites. While sulphur has been used for 5000 years in winemaking, it has its own taste and smell that takes away from the wine, so we are very focused on making improvements at every stage from bud to bottle. We hope at some point to put an ingredients list on the bottle with a single entry: grapes. That is our goal."
Pilot Program Paves the Way for BC Wineries
The innovative generator was added to Summerhill's winemaking program in time for the 2012 harvest. In a pilot project supported and funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, and delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, the winery plumbed the nitrogen directly into the headspace of its tanks, with the goal of reducing or eliminating preservatives/allergens (SO2) used in winemaking, while reducing the carbon footprint from transporting nitrogen tanks.
Additionally, the winery is now able to use nitrogen liberally in various other winemaking processes to eliminate oxygen pickup at every step that they desire. Although use of inert gasses to cap tanks and prevent oxidation is common in the wine industry, plumbing a renewable nitrogen generating system directly into the headspace of tanks and applying constant low pressure will be, as far as the winery is aware, a first for a BC winery. This system's demonstrated success will pave the way for improvement in all BC winemaking, both in terms of wine quality and in environmental sustainability, and enable possible production of no-sulphite-added wines.
Summerhill, along with global trendsetters in France such as Gerard Bertrand and Michel Chapoutier, have adopted a more natural approach to winemaking and vineyard management, primarily in response to consumer demand for more sustainable practices and lower sulphites.
Michel Chapoutier, one of the most highly regarded winemakers in France, spoke recently at the Vancouver International Wine Festival on the topic of consumers seeking no sulphites, and said to an audience of wine trade: "The people who are making wine without sulphites are pioneers and should be celebrated for their innovation."
Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill says, "We are committed to share our data and knowledge from the pilot testing with our provincial industry, and at the same time continue to encourage the wine industry in BC overall to work towards producing quality wines of provenance with sensitivity to healthfulness and to the environment. In 2012 the project was pilot tested and troubleshooted," he shares, "and in 2013 the results are evident in the resulting wine quality. The first wine that is being released from the innovative program is the 2013 Ehrenfelser. I am very proud of this wine."
Von Krosigk notes, "We were already making low sulphite wines compared to industry averages. With this technology, our use has dropped an additional 25-90% depending on the wine."
Frequently asked Questions:
Q. Which other wines were produced other than the 2013 Ehrenfelser?
A. All wines from 2013 onward have been made using the nitrogen generator.
Q. The generator was in place just before the 2012 harvest – what were the quantifiable results based on wines made with the generator in 2012?
A. When the system was installed in 2012, it became apparent that 80% of our tanks were allowing small amounts of air in through faulty seals. Refurbishing all seals allowed the conditions for a zero oxygen environment when the nitrogen was introduced to the headspace of the tanks. The results are considerably lower levels of dissolved oxygen, and hence reduced or eliminated requirement for SO2 as an anti-oxydent.
Q. How stable is the wine overall? How long will it last in bottle?
A. We will be monitoring this. Our hypothesis is that the shelf life will be increased by at least 30% due to the extremely low dissolved oxygen content.
Q. Summerhill is using a natural cork – why not use a screwcap or nomacork enclosure?
A. Natural cork, harvested from mature forest ecosystems, is the most sustainable closure on the market from both a material perspective (it is stripped from the trees and then regrows), and from a carbon footprint perspective. In addition, wine ages extremely well under natural cork, and the ritual of opening a bottle is part of the beautiful experience of wine appreciation. Certain cork suppliers have done an extremely good job of reducing the incidence of cork taint to a fraction of what it was historically.
Q. This is not a sulphite-FREE wine… is it even possible to make one? Otherwise, to what percentage have sulphites been reduced in this wine and what is the lowest that that level can go?
A. We were already making low sulphite wines compared to industry averages. Now, with this technology, our use has dropped an additional 25-90% depending on the wine. Sulphur is a natural component of grape juice, so it is not possible to eliminate altogether. Our goal is to eliminate any addition of sulphur.
Q. What is the length of the study period?
A. We will be monitoring the evolution of 2013 Ehrenfelser’s quality and shelf life over a three year period ending in 2016.
Q. Will this process be better for reds or whites or will it be the same?
A. This process will be beneficial for both.
Q. Did you produce a set of wines with previous methods (added sulphur) to do a vintage-to-vintage comparison?
A. We did in 2012, and that data will be released to the industry.
Have more questions? Let us know. Our winemaker Eric von Krosigk would welcome a conversation.
About Summerhill Pyramid Winery:
Summerhill Pyramid Winery, located for more than 20 years in the Lakeshore district in Kelowna, BC, is Canada's premier certified organic winery, BC's first Demeter certified biodynamic vineyard, Canada's foremost producer of sparkling wine, and now Canada's first producer of uncooked Kosher wine.
Winemaker Eric von Krosigk oversees the portfolio of BC VQA wines that suit every occasion and has earned the winery the 'Canadian Wine Producer of the Year' award at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London, England. The winery, owned by the Cipes family, is also home to the Sunset Organic Bistro, serving food grown and raised by local organic producers, including Summerhill's own on-site permaculture-style vegetable garden. The mission of the entire Summerhill team is to produce exceptionally good-tasting wines organically, support local organic food growers, and provide unforgettable experiences for all guests.
More background reading on Summerhill Pyramid Winery's organic and biodynamic farming practices can be found here.
For more information, visit www.summerhill.bc.ca, find Summerhill on Facebook or follow the winery on Twitter @summerhillwine.