The Batič Approach to Organic Wine Making

the Batič Approach to Organic Wine Making
memories of a warm Welcome at the Batič estate.

Miha Batic’s great-grandfather made wine on his property in the old Austria. His grandfather made wine on the same property in Italy; Miha’s father, in his turn, in Yugoslavia, and now Miha makes wine with him in Slovenia. As Miha explains it, the rulers and their rules don’t matter so much as the land in the Vipava Valley that has been cultivated by his family since 1592. For him, as he explains his family’s wine to 60 appreciative guests at a tasting dinner in New York, it always comes back to the land, to nature.

The Batic winery lies on 18 hectares of land on the westernmost edge of Slovenia, 15 miles from the Italian border. Grapes are planted on the slopes edging the valley, where the dry breeze of the Mediterrean climate meets the Alpine chill. The Vipava Valley is historically known for its white wines—and Batic makes ageworthy Pinot Gris, as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon—but Old World–style reds are produced as well: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Indigenous varieties are blended with international in the Batic cuvée Bonisimus: Pinela, Rebula (known as Ribolla a few kilometers away in Italy), Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. Zelen and Vitovska are also grown.

Batic father and son are clear that it’s the growing that matters—not the cellar. Wines are made in the fields. Batic wines are farmed organically, and regional tradition places importance on farming by the lunar cycle: knowing the effect of the cycle on planting, growing, racking, or bottling. Such biodynamic principles may be trendy elsewhere, but Miha explains their uses for potato growing as much as grape growing, and one has the sense this is just old-fashioned farming, looking to nature rather than science for guidance. “Every step is a step back to our roots.”

These wines are not “modern”—they are true to the land and the grape, and are made only in successful vintages, and in tiny quantities (most in the low thousands of bottles). Old ways, now newly popular, are used in the cellar, too. The wines are fermented on wild yeast, and sulfur is used sparingly, if at all. Red and white wines alike see oak—usually in three- to five-year-old Slovenian barriques, but Batic will soon move back to larger, old Slovenian barrels. The wine is nicely balanced, with an Old World oak profile that settles beneath the spicy fruit of the Merlot, and adds a touch of oxidative interest to the velvety body of Bonisimus.

Borders may shift, as well as winemaking trends, but the wine world is slowly coming full circle, and the old ways of land and nature may emerge as the one cutting-edge method that carries us forward. Batic has waited for 400 years.

(text and photo by Katerine Camargo, Camargo Wine Support LLC ©2010)