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Ramón Bilbao begins organic conversion

Spanish wine producer Ramón Bilbao has begun the process of organic conversion for selected vineyard plots in Rioja Oriental and Rueda.

Over the last few years, the producer has used precision viticulture, including data from weather stations and drones, the select plots in Monte Yerge (Rioja Oriental) and Rueda, which it believes are suitable for organic farming.

By intensively studying disease management, the estate has already reduced the quantity of applications it uses to treat powdery mildew.

Ramón Bilbao has already achieved organic certification for both its wineries in line with the Wineries for Climate Protection scheme. It is now working European certification body to achieve the necessary standards for its vineyards.

The vineyards have now been entered into the required three-year conversion period. The producer is nevertheless planning to launch its first organic wines this year, a white from Rueda and a Riojan red, which will be made from grower-sourced grapes.

Rodolfo Bastida, head winemaker, 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 news follows the launch of the producer’s ‘liquid salt’ earlier this year, a product of the winery’s innovation department.

Described as a “liquid salt with the aromas and colours of Ramón Bilbao Rosado”, it is made by capturing volatile aroma compounds in the CO2 released during fermentation. These compounds were then combined with salt, dug from a 700-metre high mine in the Urbasa foothills of the Andia mountains. Finally water was added to create a liquid with a saline concentration of over 240g/l.

The producer recommends using the product sprayed over salads or mixed into vinaigrette.

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