Lowe Family Wine Co: paving the way with biodynamics & preservative-free wines.
Preservative-free wines are starting to gain the popularity they deserve. With all the same flavour & flair that makes great wine, without the added sulphur, what’s not to love? Lowe Family Wine Co in Mudgee NSW is one such brand leading the way when it comes to making these complex, yet rewarding wines.
For chief winemaker and 5th generation farmer David Lowe, making great wine is all about starting with growing the best fruit possible. For him, that means utilising organic & biodynamic principles that strengthen vine health through soil complexity, something he has been doing for almost 20 years on his Tinja Farm since organic certification in 2005. The use of this premium fruit is even more important when it comes to making preservative free wines.
As Lowe explains, “There is nothing to hide behind in preservative-free wines. Typically sulphur (i.e. preservatives) is added to wines as it protects the grapes from oxidation throughout the winemaking process, which in turn affects flavour. So without added sulphur, we have to be very careful to keep oxygen contact to an absolute minimum from the moment you harvest, all the way through fermentation until the wine is safety bottled. And as you can imagine, keeping oxygen-filled air away is a very difficult process.”
So why the need for such premium fruit, then? Bad or damaged grapes, whether this is from broken skins caused by birds, disease or bunches that are too tight, begin to break down quicker, creating oxidation and therefore affecting flavour. So for Lowe, the first step to making great preservative-free wine, and any wine for that matter, is focusing on the ground up.
Like any agricultural product, the final produce is only as good as the plant it was grown from, and the soil where this plant seeks its nutrients. This is one of the many reasons Lowe’s practice organic farming. Rather than burdening the land with inorganic substances such as pesticides or herbicides, Lowe focuses on more natural farming techniques like enhancing vine strength through biodynamic soil preparations.
“Following my conversion to organic certification, biodynamics was the natural next step to making better wine from a healthier, more sustainable vineyard”, says David, who not only uses these practises to grow grapes, but to take a regenerative agricultural approach across his whole farm, including livestock and food gardens that are grown for use at the on-site farm-to-table restaurant, The Zin House.
Biodynamics takes a holistic and ecological approach to farming by following a set of practices first laid out by Rudolf Steiner in the early 1900’s. It has now been adapted to modern farming across the world, including by David Lowe whose vineyard & farm has been certified biodynamic since 2011.
By increasing soil fertility with an active balance of microbes that mineralise and feed the plants, you create a self-supporting system that strengthens the plant, ultimately making them more resistant to disease and reducing the need for quick hits of artificial fertilisers. To do this, a range of biodynamic preparations are made using naturally beneficial ingredients such as herbs, manure, quartz & others, then spread across the vineyards in line with the lunar and astrological calendar.
As David puts it, “Some people still consider it a bit too witch crafty for them when you start talking about the lunar calendar and cow horns buried in spinal formations, but as a young winemaker when I first discovered over half of the 20 great wineries of the world were biodynamic, that was enough proof for me to get involved. And now that I see the benefits daily in my own vineyard, I’m totally convinced.”
To take this natural winemaking style one step further, David then introduced his first preservative free wine to the Lowe Wines line-up in 2009. As someone who suffers from a sensitivity to sulphur dioxide himself, he wanted to create a solution for those wine lovers looking for top-notch drop without any of the additives.
“Organic wines are already lower in preservatives as the certification rules limit the amount of added sulphur to about half what it is in conventional wines, however I wanted to go one step further for those who want an even more natural alternative. That is where our Bio-logical wine range comes in.” explains David.
Lowe’s current Bio-logical wine range includes a Shiraz and Rosé that bear all the health ticks; preservative free, organic, biodynamic, vegan, and in the case of the Shiraz, unfiltered & unfined also. As David jokes “They’re essentially alcoholic grape juice, there’s nothing added but natural yeast and the best grapes from our vineyards.”
As for the taste, David and the hundreds of people through Lowe’s Cellar Door every week, couldn’t be happier. The Rosé is a light pink blush, with a fresh, crisp flavour – the ideal spring drink. The Shiraz is vibrant and devoid of drying tannins, with scents of blueberry and just a touch of pepper – best drunk slightly chilled on a warm summer’s day. Just remember once the lid is opened, the bottle is best finished that day as there are no preservatives to stop it from oxidising. But with all those health ticks you can do this guilt – and hangover – free!
“Our preservative-free wines are always the most difficult to make, but the reward is worth the effort. Because there’s no sulphur, they exhibit all the fruitiness of youth, so you can enjoy them as a fresh, young wine, and without the preservatives you can skip the hangover too.” David details.
For more information about Lowe Family Wine Co at the following links
Website – www.lowefamilywineco.com.au
Instagram – www.instagram.com/lowefamilywineco/