All of Albet I Noya's wines fall under the control of the CCPAE (Consell Català de la producció agrària ecológica). This is a public watchdog responsible to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Catalan Government. This organisation undertakes regular inspections and certifies that the terms of the European Regulation 2092/91 on organic produce are adhered to.
The quality of an organic wine (even more than for a non-organic wine) starts in the vineyards. The principal characteristics of organically grown grapes are the lack of chemical residues and ideal sanitary conditions. If you add to that low yields in the vineyards, you not only improve the quality of the grapes, but also improve the sustainability of the vineyards as the vines are naturally more resistant to plagues. Organic regulations therefore prohibit any kind of treatments with synthetic chemical products (Herbicides, pesticides or fertilisers).
The following treatments are applied at Can Vendrell:
Instead of chemical fertilisers, the vineyards are treated with green composts. The organic material recycled from the composted cellar residues and shredded vine shoots maintain the soil's balance. Every autumn we sow a mixture of five grasses between the vines that contibute a balance of nitrogen, carbon and cellulose. These grasses are cut in the spring, and after being left for a fortnight to decompose, they are ploughed back into the soil.
Although organic regulations still permit the use of copper sulphate - the traditional "bordeaux mixture" (limited to 4kg of active components per hectare) at Can Vendrell we use Copper hydroxide, which has a lower copper content and is more active at low doses. Nonetheless, Albet i Noya are increasingly substituting these treatments for biodynamic mixtures of sulphurous clays, equisetum (horsetail) extract, nettles and marine algas. These mixtures have proved effective against mildew but also indirectly help prevent botrytis.
The use of sulphur is permitted for treatments against oidium. Depending on the time of year and the temperature we use liquid sulphur (in suspension), soluble sulphur or sulphur dust. Organic farming combats cochylis, the larval state of the totrix moth (lobesia botrana) with a treatmeant called "sexual confusion" and we have participated in the proliferation of some of the 17 species of bats that are native to the area.
As in all organic treatments, timing is of the essence. To ensure these treatments reach the grapes, the vines are green pruned, removing excess leaves to give the grapes sufficient ventilation and exposure to the sun. This process also improves the quality of the grapes as with increased exposure to the sun, the skins produce more pigments, giving the resulting wine more colour and more mature tannins. Finally the grapes are selected during picking ensuring only the healthiest grapes enter the cellar.
These treatments can represent an increment in costs of around 10% over and above the cost of conventional viticulture.
Albet i Noya continue to research new methods and grape varieties. We are currently experimenting with seven pre-phylloxera grape varieties with 500 vines of each type. We have looked for varieties that had survived naturally in the wild, indicating a high natural resistance to diseases. We are looking for both sensorial and ecological qualities in these vines. Early results indicate two varieties with considerable possibilities. We also work with Incavi (The Catalan institute of Vines and Wine), to select authoctonous varieties that have greater resistance to parasites whilst producing quality fruit.