Facing the highest summits of the Alps, the steep slopes of the Mythopia vineyard have become a paradise, home to fragrant flowers, fruit trees, rare birds and more than 60 species of butterflies. It’s a vineyard exuding biodiversity where the ecosystem is sustained by a symbiotic network of uncountable species. The vineyard is no longer a hostile monoculture with naked soil but a beautiful natural system designed to produce grapes expressing the subtleties of its terroir. The soil is activated by accompanying plants and the air is full of the music of bumblebees and the perfume of wild blossoms.
In 2009 the Mythopia vineyard assumed the role of the research centre for the Ithaka Foundation and its Institute for Carbon Intelligence. Bridging the gap between theory and practice, methods and strategies have been developed for an ecological and economically sustainable viniculture. In addition the vineyard plays a major role in researching agricultural methods having a positive influence on the climate and biodiversity.
The grapes we harvest in Mythopia prosper without the interference of oenological products. Our wines are made from grapes and air, nothing more.
A wine contains up to 1000 different substances, although their individual functions are by no way completely known. Why does a vine take the trouble to produce such an enormous chemical library in every grape? And what happens with all those molecules between harvesting the grapes and filling the wine into bottles?
Even if we take into serious account the unknown panoply of molecules in the wine, wine is not just a composition of organic-chemical formulas and minerals, but a living elixir. We should not forget that most of the organic molecules in wine have been degraded, converted and made more complex through the activity of yeasts, bacteria and enzymes. Wine is the result of not just chemical, but also biological processes. And that’s what makes each wine unique.
When making wine naturally, a large proportion of the yeasts and bacteria responsible for converting the grape juice to wine are transported from the vineyard to the cellar on the skins of the grapes and in the grapes themselves. And this is one of the main reasons why the promotion of biodiversity and the avoidance of synthetic and biological pesticides play such a decisive role in determining the quality of a wine. The yeast and bacteria flora are essential elements of the terroir, responsible not just for fermenting the sugar to wine but also for providing the enormous complexity and wide range of different aromas of each wine. At least on account of this role, they need to be protected.
The microorganisms entering the cellar together with the grapes are all too often a minority species in the cellar. This is because spores and microorganisms from past wine-making seasons are to be found on the walls and floor of the cellar and on all vats and tools. As soon as the fresh grape juice is poured into the vats, these spores and microorganisms reawaken and immediately start work on unchecked proliferation, encroaching on the Lebensraum of the still “inexperienced” yeasts and bacteria fresh from the vineyard.
Anyone wanting to make a natural wine and unwilling to have recourse to selected yeasts must therefore take utmost care to preserve the microbial flora, not just in the vineyard but also in the cellar.
Each wine cellar has its own microbial flora. And these exercise the same amount of influence on a natural wine as the famed terroir on which the grapes are grown. This is basically not different to those traditional cheese dairies which, when moving premises, wash down the walls of the old diary and then daub the washing water on the walls of the new dairy, thus taking with them their old and trusted microbial flora.