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Ramón Bilbao targets organic certification for vineyards

Published:  23 July, 2020

Spanish producer Ramón Bilbao has begun the three-year process of converting its Rioja and Rueda vineyards to organic production methods.

The producer’s wineries in the two regions achieved organic certification earlier this year under the Wineries for Climate Protection scheme.

The latest initiative will result in accreditation for its vineyards and its viticultural practices through ECOCERT.

Ramón Bilbao has identified which of its plots in Rioja Oriental’s Monte Yerga and Rueda are most suitable to organic methods using a combination of in-house expertise, weather-station data and drone surveys.

Research into the management of oidium has proved vital, reducing the need for chemical treatments of powdery mildew, which minimises pollution of the local water tables.

Rodolfo Bastida, head winemaker at Ramón Bilbao, said: “Our use of technology and on-the-job experience means we are able to map weather conditions and disease control requirements plot-by-plot, and this showed us that a seven-hectare vineyard in Yerga and certain plantings of our Verdejo in Rueda were ripe for organic certification.

“In Rioja Oriental we have Garnacha planted at altitude in a Mediterranean climate: not only have we found this variety needs less disease control overall, but the prevailing wind here balances out humidity and temperature, helping us battle oidium, for example, more ‘naturally’.

“In Rueda, we have a dry, continental climate and our Verdejo here has always been more disease-resistant than most.”

The three-year accreditation process means Ramón Bilbao is unable to release any organic-certified wines from its vineyards until the transition is completed.

However, the producer plans to release its first organic wines – a white from Rueda and a red from Rioja – later this year using grapes sourced from elsewhere.

“We vinify these organic grapes separately, and certain things are already in our winemaking programme. For example, we have never clarified our wines and already do our rackings without oxygen, so sulphur is already on our watch list,” Bastida added.

Ramón Bilbao revealed at the beginning of the year that its sustainability programme was running ahead of schedule.