Organic & Sulfite Free
IN LA MANCHA, ORGANIC (AND SULFITE FREE) IS EASY
How do you make a sulfite-free wine that tastes good?
It’s a question the Parra brothers are asked all the time. Their signature wine, Viña Cuesta Colorá, is entirely sulfite-free. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is added to almost all the wines we drink from the cheapest mass-produced wines to the most expensive and elegant. Most winemakers think the use of sulfites is critical to prevent the wine from aging quickly due to oxygen exposure or falling victim to unhelpful bacteria and yeasts that may damage its flavor and they’re right. At the same time, there are many who believe that SO2 dulls the flavor of wine and causes some consumers to have allergic reactions that may cause headaches or asthma-like symptoms.
For decades now, there has been a search for a great sulfite free wine. The problem is that sulfite-free wines do not taste very good thanks to all the problems sulphur dioxide is used to combat. Viña Cuesta Colorá, is a different matter. It is bright, lively, with a bracing acidity and overflowing with abundant fruit flavors and it tastes as good after shipment to the United States as it does in La Mancha, where it is made. There are two reasons for this. The health of the grapes that go into the wine and the special process the Parra Family has worked out for keeping the wine free of contamination as it is being made.
Francisco Parra says.
We use the best grapes and the best grapes only. They come to vinification in beautiful shape. Then we clean them carefully. The entire process of making the grapes into wine is done in a sealed, oxygen-free environment. The tanks the grapes ferment in are cleaned exhaustively with purified water and salt. So that at the moment we place the grapes in the vats everything is almost at the level of being antiseptic. Fermentation is conducted with the natural bacteria found on the grapes themselves. The vats are left open at this stage, because the gasses produced by fermentation form a barrier between the fermenting grapes and the air. As soon as fermentation stops, the vats are sealed. Almost no oxygen touches the wine. From that point until bottling, we hardly move the wine at all. Bottling is done with minimal or no oxygen contact.”
How do you produce so many Organic-certified wines?
All Parra Family wines, including Cuesta Colorá, are NOP-certified Organic. That means that Eco-cert a contractor to the USDA has certified them Organic according to United States rules and regulations. It’s an amazing feat to produce around four million bottles of NOP-certified Organic wines, but Francisco Parra insists that it’s a lot easier to do this in La Mancha than almost anywhere else.
Our climate is very rough, very dry and very windy, and this makes it quite easy to produce pest- and mildew-free wines without the use of pesticides and other chemicals. The truth is the diseases and afflictions that affect grapes in places with more gentle climates, just don’t survive well here.
”The vines on the Parra estates are carefully tended by a team of a few dozen workers, many of them locals who have been engaged in traditional, pesticide-free farming their entire lives. Much of the work is done by hand. The vines are pruned carefully and the cuttings mulched and used on the land for fertilizer. A flock of some 1,500 black sheep, a breed native to La Mancha, wanders the Parra lands and the manure from those local sheep are also used to fertilize the vineyards.
Everything is done in a traditional, sustainable and healthy manner, and you can taste it in the glass.”