Some mates with… Marcelo Canatella
15 Jan 2023
This month we talked with Marcelo Canatella, an agronomist specialized in vineyard management for high-end wines.
What was your education?
I was lucky enough to study in the 1980s in an Agro-technical and Oenological High School. At university I graduated as an Agricultural Engineer and I knew I was going to work in viticulture. Shortly after graduating I was lucky enough to meet the prestigious French winemaker Michel Rolland, who was starting a project in Mendoza called “Clos de los Siete”. At the end of the ’90s I started to take charge of the viticultural part of the project. It was there that my passion for viticulture and for wine as a consumer was consolidated. And so, while working I was lucky enough to meet Pedro Landa in 2002, with whom we toured the Val de Flores vineyard. There I began to learn about organic viticulture and its benefits for the soil, and that is why we made some changes in soil management in that vineyard in order to be organic in 2008. Then I decided to start on my own in order to be a consultant for other projects in high-end wines (MonteViejo, Flecha de los Andes, Bodeda Rolland, among others).
What are the characteristics of Val de Flores and Bodega Rolland organic productions?
In Val de Flores we produce a very high-end Malbec, in a vineyard that is more than 70 years old, we also have Merlot plantations, this is where the vineyards are and where it is made. And it has been organic for 15 years, being pioneers in organic production.
Val de Flores wine is one of the top wines of Argentina produced at Bodegas Rolland.
Why did you decide to go organic?
Because always, in both wineries, we were in contact with organic production from very early on and we realized that it was possible to produce with quality and taking care of natural resources. That is why we opted for organic production, because we believed in it.
What is the importance of certification?
It is fundamental because it is not only the non-use of agrochemicals, but not only the vineyard has to be certified organic, but also the winery has to be certified organic. To be organic you have to read the legislation and comply with it. To do this, it is important to carry out good soil management and phytosanitary treatment. After that, pruning and yields are the same.
Organic certification has a positive influence on the ordering and recording of data as well as on the permitted products to be used. For a wine to be organic, it must be audited by a certifier. Forms must be submitted, sheds must be adapted, a whole process of washing machinery must be followed, there is a whole process of treatment of empty containers, among other procedures. Thus, when consumers see an organic logo on the label, they should be reassured that they are complying with the organic legislation and that they are buying a quality product.
What are the distinguishing characteristics of organic wine compared to conventional wine?
According to my experience, having evaluated managements in different areas of the country, the great difference of organic management lies in maintaining a living soil, since by not using agrochemicals, there is a different microflora and microfauna, so there is also no desertification and soil erosion. When you touch that soil, you realize that there is living matter, so the grape and the wine are different, because the yeasts or the microfauna inside the grape berry change. Fermentation is different because the native yeasts, which are an expression of the terroir, are not eliminated by the use of synthetic products, so organic wine is the fermentation of grape juice and sugar transformed into alcohol through native yeasts, without the need to add selected yeasts.
What does your work as a consultant consist of?
I am dedicated to give management recommendations, I advise on the technical side, so I do not manage. I am dedicated to the integral management of the vineyard, from pruning, when the cycle starts in May/June until harvest in February/March, and I give advice on all tasks (irrigation, nutrition, pruning tasks, sanitary schedule, etc).
How do you see the panorama of organic wine production in our country?
Currently, we see a boom and a need for organic work in vineyards throughout Argentina because today we already see viticulture in other areas (Patagonia, Entre Ríos, Córdoba, Buenos Aires) beyond the Argentine west. Each geographical area adds different characteristics depending on the varietal.
Consumers today are looking for different things, as long as they are neat and of good quality. That is why they demand organic wines and all the actors (producers, processors and consumers) are turning to this market niche.
During the pandemic, a greater awareness was generated for the care of the planet and a healthier diet, and with it the demand for organic wines has increased considerably, accelerating a trend that was already visible in the different markets. On the other hand, the search for new marketing horizons, new markets and innovative and differential products makes the sales of these products continue to grow in value and volume.
Why are Argentine organic wines increasingly appreciated?
Argentina is doing very well in organic wine production because there is an interaction of several issues: we have an exceptional and diverse climate throughout the country. It is the expression of terroir, which is the relationship between soil, people and climate. This defines the terroir in any crop and in wine even more, because it gives a totally different identity to the same varietal in the same year, in each different climate; added to the fact that we have great professionals who have spent years trying to improve the final product. This is reflected in the wine scores and in the growth of consumption.
What are the most relevant statistics on organic production in Argentina?
According to the Statistical Laboratory of the National Institute of Viticulture in the 2022 campaign, there were 142 establishments that entered organic grapes for a total of 706,171 quintals. The report indicates that during the last campaign 11.1 million liters of organic wine, 2.4 million liters of organic must concentrate and 887 tons of organic raisins were exported. In the last year, exports of all three products increased compared to the previous year.
How did Vanguarvid come about and what does it consist of?
It came about after a lot of work, together with my colleague Gabriela Celeste. We invite you to visit www.vanguarvid.com. On this platform you will be able to access winegrowing and winemaking information, with high technical rigor, but designed in a friendly and attractive way.
Could you give us some tips for those who are new to the world of wine?
Nowadays all wineries have their organic line. I invite them to see the horizontality of the wines, and try for the same vintage, a winery and different varietals. Anyone who wants to start in the world of wine has to drink with the intention of knowing what they are drinking and be encouraged. The only rule is that there are no rules and everyone can start tasting wines.
What is the future of organic wine production?
The present is already very promising, so in the coming years we will continue to see growth. This happens because of the need to take care of resources and maintain biodiversity, so it is not a fad and will be sustained over the years.
What are the contact channels to find you?
You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on my Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/marcelocanatella. As well as through the web www.vanguarvid.com and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/vanguarvid/?hl=es.
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