The vineyard must be full of rock’n’roll: a conversation with Miha Batič

Batič wines have an immediate signature despite often drastic vintage variation. The tone and substance of Miha Batič is also immediately recognizable in his words. Having been fortunate enough to visit him, walk the vineyards and drink in concert with his vinyl collection, I’ve also hosted him a number of times in the Bay Area. I can assure you from first hand experiences, that if you’re into wine as philosophy, magic, poetry and yet still being effortless to easily finish a whole bottle, this interview is worth a gander.

Let’s listen to Miha in is own words and look forward to drinking his 2015 Rosé, 2013 Pinela and 2013 Zaria — Eric Danch

Miha Batic
Miha Batič

Miha, what’s a biodynamic wine?
Biodynamic is a method of farming that goes beyond organic, considering the laws of the Earth’s natural motion and the seasons. A biodynamic wine reflects the variety and terroir in most living beings. Wine, like all living things, changes a little every day depending on factors like the phases of the moon and your company. When you drink in good company, the wine can taste even sweeter!

What changes were made to attain Demeter certification?
In the middle of the eighties we returned to the old method of organic vine growing, without the use of any fertilizers. Over time, this proved to be a mistake. We started implementing biodynamic farming because it is the most perfect way of reviving the soil. Everything else at Batič winery is done by a method which coincides with biodynamic philosophy since 1987.

Miha Batic in cellar

Can sulphur-free Zaria age well?
Sulphur is used to protect wine. 100 mg SO2 is the lethal dose for organisms found in wine. Over the years, free sulphur, which protects the wine, lowers while total sulphur rises. At some point, when the free sulphur is too low, the wine starts to deteriorate. Zaria is a wine made without sulphur. That is to say alive, full of vitality. While wines with sulphur eventually crumble over time because of decreasing sulphur content, Zaria has a great advantage: it is protected thanks to the micro-organisms contained in the wine that would otherwise have been killed by sulphur. Any wine can be made without sulphur, but in most cases the product will end up “being vinegar.” If we want a consistent wine without sulphur, it is important to take care of the vineyard. The vineyard must be full of rock’n’roll. When you step in the vineyard, you must listen to the Philharmonic Orchestra of cockroaches, rabbits, crickets… Once the vineyard is teeming with life, there will be enough organisms to preserve the wine without any sulphur.

ducks in vineyard

How is climate change affecting your vineyards and the ecosystems they are a part of?
With us, when you say wine, we think white wine. The Vipava Valley has a Mediterranean climate due to the influence of both continental and Alpine influences, which is optimal for premium white wines. Among the 350 indigenous varieties in the Vipava, 95% are white. Now more and more red varieties are being planted due to global demand. When you are planning to plant a vineyard, you cannot base decisions solely on personal desires; global trends, which are ever changing, must also be taken into account. When we plant a new vineyard, we select grapes that best suit the soil and climate. In the last 100 years, the average temperature has warmed by 3.5 degrees. Vineyards that we plant today are not for us but for our children and grandchildren if we are lucky. After 40-50 years, vines hit their sweet spot. Once our newer vineyards reach that age, the climate will be even warmer and better suited to red varietals. Then, in Vipava, the meaning of the word “wine” will be red wine!

Physics Based Cropping System
Physics-based Cropping System (PCS) in the vineyard: 100% healthy

What is the status of your non vinifera vineyard? What will be the next vintage?
The taste of wine is only a dress on the body. For me in particular it is considered the body. For the first time in the Vipava Valley, we have planted 20 new non-vinifera varieties, which are also non-native. Autochthonous varieties are those that traditionally perform the best due to historical symbiosis with the terroir of this land. However, people have changed farming so much over the past 130 years that vines almost cannot exist without intensive vineyard protection. Then we kill vine diseases, which at the same time kill the vitality of the vineyard. Bacteria, enzymes, yeasts… so consequently, the indigenous vines remain only in name because the essence of the grape is lost. This is where hybrids of vitis vinifera and Asian varieties can be helpful. They can survive harsh conditions without damaged or diseased berries. In a way, these varieties are the autochthon sorts of Vipava’s future. From this land they can offer wines with more vitality.

Angel Vineyard
The Angel Vineyard

Are your children interested in the vineyards?
For some of us, the story is written in the stars. My sons’ part of the story is written with their names. The name of my first son is Angel after a vineyard of the same name. My second son is Oska, the name we have also given to our brandy.

What have you been drinking lately? Batič and outside of Batič?
I think that wine should not be signed with a label. I do not like to label wines as white or red, macerated or without maceration. When I have a glass of wine that I produced, I realize why it is so beautiful to be a farmer. Wine is a part of me, always and everywhere. Once a year, I fast and drink mostly water. Now is that time so it’s only water and cherries.

Are there any specific recipes or ingredients that pair best with your wines?
In nature, all substances correspond with each other. It is not necessary to be talented to put together five types of wood or stone. Almost always a nice composition. The same is true with wines that are not manufactured, but born with fresh authentic tastes from our garden and farm. At dinner with five courses, one bottle will perfectly match with at least four plates. Our wines are very versatile.

What is your current favorite vinyl record to listen to?
Currently playing Cohen with Sharon Cohen Robinson. Excellent record. Thanks Jerzy for vinyl.