Fride, Slavko, Ciril, Zanut, Matevž, Mirko, Zorko, Nedeljko, Zlatko, Danica, Milka. They are all people of various nationalities, some come from the same village, others from places I have never heard of before.
We are not related by blood, but by wine. Wine is the blood that ties our great family together. Some came here by chance and decided to stay, bringing with them their hopes and joys. They shared these with us and some continue to share even today.
We enter the vineyards together. They know the vines as if they were their family. Decisions regarding the vineyard are made based on observations, for each vine individually if necessary, just like a mother does for each of her children.
Without them, the thing we love would be reduced to a mere business and the fine wines would lose their fine character.
The first Batič wines were born in the 16th century, shaped into being by the experienced hands of the monks of Batič estate in Šempas.
The estate has changed considerably since then, with nearly no traces of the monks left: the murals on the walls have faded, and the names of the monks are forgotten. The site of the chapel of St. Rok is now covered by ivy planted by one whose name is lost to time.
The only remaining legacy of the once-proud monks of the estate is the knowledge and tradition of high-quality wine production that has been passed from generation to generation over four hundred years.
Batič wines are more than a homage; they are a continuation of the traditions and methods of the Šempas monks. Our wines are their legacy.The concept of the “agricultural individuality,” or farm organism was introduced in the teachings of an Austrian by the name of Rudolf Steiner in 1924. In a series of lectures, he introduced an idea for a farming system based upon on-farm biological cycling through mixing crops and livestock. While the mixed-farming approach predates Steiner’s ideas, it was his idea of the farm as an organism that helped to create a new system of agriculture. The information presented in these lectures, while new in its recommendations for agriculture, contained cosmological underpinnings, which were part of a philosophy he referred to as Anthroposophy, or spiritual science. Steiner’s philosophy is also connected to ideas practiced in education, art, economics, medicine, dance therapy, and work with the handicapped and mentally ill.
In relation to its practical application in farming, this philosophy suggest that humans, animals, plans, minerals and the cosmic periphery form a whole system, or organism. The farm organism forms a unity in regard to the workings of both human and natural systems. The root of the Biodynamic system is the relationship of the farmer and his or her practices to the local ecosystem, which in Biodynamics reaches the extent of including the influence of the cosmos and subtle life forces on local habitats.
It is also acknowledged that any time we till soil or remove a crop, the land is being exploited in several ways. Land is exploited through the breakdown of organic substances and the removal of minerals. Commonly recognized organic practices and fertilizers are used to correct this problem. However, what is more important and often overlooked is the depletion of the subtle life forces that are also needed to sustain biological functioning. These forces need to be replenished in the soil and in the air above the earth’s surface.
The foundation of Steiner’s theories focused on blending prescriptive, wholistic practices with the farmer’s own experimental methods. The observance and integration of astronomical phenomenon in agricultural activities, including careful timing of the application or production of certain Biodynamic amendments, as well as the organizing of the farm as an independent unit in regard to nutrients and feed stocks, can all be considered to an extent, a prescriptive approach. However, Steiner placed critical importance on the fact that nature could be understood only through studying and integrating natural cyclical rhythms. He was deeply critical of reductionism and agricultural science’s emphasis on inputs from outside the farm. While he acknowledged the contribution of empirical science, Steiner emphasized from the beginning the necessity of farmers’ further participation in the development of this method of farming. His suggestions on the qualitative importance of observing natural rhythms and patterns in nature rather than relying solely upon quantified data, is an important wholistic contribution to the field of sustainable agriculture.
On the hill where the village of Šempas ends, the village of Vitovlje begins. Long ago, nature planted acorns here that have since become mighty oaks, rooted in soil saturated with the salts of the marl earth.
The Vitovlje marl is where warmth and mildness, the Mediterranean and the Alps, first meet. The boundary is marked by the Vipava winds, which lift the wings of hang gliders and parachutes, and often cause rain to turn to hail.
The hail separates the wilds from vineyards and orchards, and wildlife from farm animals. The chunks of ice protect the virginity of the soil. Even after several centuries, the area around Angel vineyard is covered by forest.
It is in this vineyard that I have poured my dreams for so many years, and which are now slowly becoming reality; dreams of a vineyard protected only by nature itself. The frequent intense winds of the Vipava protect this vineyard instead of man.
Slowly but surely, vine by vine, the vineyard is revealing all its beauty.
Throughout the years, farmers abandoned their care for animals and became vintners. I believe that the cacophony of animals in the vineyard is more genuine than silence. The louder they sing, the merrier I become. When the melody crescendos, the orchestra of bees, birds, and crickets invites the quiet vineyard snails.
Snails damage the vineyard, but I do not object to their presence. I have a deep respect for a vineyard that attracts snails, as they are a signal that the vineyard is clean and pure. Snails only live in vineyards where man is present but does not leave any permanent traces.
Too many snails cause so much damage to the vineyard that a good harvest is impossible. Finding a chemical-free way to preserve the vineyard and keep the snails away would be miraculous.
Fortunately, nature contains a cure for every disease. The cure for vineyard snails are Indian Runner ducks; they compete with each other to see who can catch more snails. Their job is to catch all of the snails, and their bounties are the snails that they love to eat. They leave nothing but clean, untouched soil behind.
The more bounties the ducks collect, the sweeter the harvest will be.
The rows are exactly 1.2 meters apart for a total of 12,000 vines per hectare, each a foot and a half tall. Daytime temperatures in mid-August are usually over 35 °C. Our working days start at dawn and end at dusk six days each week.
Because the vines are so short, we have to bend over to work with them. Back pain is a way of life.In my years of working the vineyards, I noticed how the workers are struggling in the summer heat, but always whistling or singing on their way home.
A Physics-based Cropping System (PCS) that is opening a brand new chapter in the world of organic and biodynamic winemaking.
No one is forced to produce pure, vital wine. Everyone is free to make their own decisions; it is simply a matter of each individual’s conscience and culture.
We have come to the realization that the taste of wine is of secondary importance, while the feeling left after a sip of wine is of primary importance.
Our desire for healthier grapes did not originate from searching for new means of suppressing the disease, but from searching for an answer to the question of how grapevines can live together with the organisms that we call diseases.
In order to achieve this, we have attempted to copy what nature does. Realizations regarding how successful vineyards are in providing self-protection against diseases have led us over and over again to the elements of fire and air.
The beneficial effects of wind and heat in nature provide us with better grapevine vegetation. The impact that the elements of fire and air have on plants led to the development of the Physics-based Cropping System (PCS) and Batič is the first winery in Europe that is using this system.
The purpose of the PCS is to protect the grapevines. It is used in a way similar to that of classic pesticide sprinklers, in weekly intervals. However, unlike pesticide sprinklers that get rid of pests and diseases by using toxic pesticides, the PCS is operated exclusively by wind energy and is 100% healthy for grapevines and nature.
In contrast to other means of combating disease, the PCS does not operate by killing or getting rid of harmful pests. The PCS acts like homeopathic medicine, it does not suppress pests, but it strengthens the grapevine’s immune system.
By supplying this warm wind at a speed of 150 km/ h and at a temperature of 75 degrees, the grapevines develop more resilient, thick fleshy leaves and the resveratrol content in the grapes increases.
The high resveratrol content helps the grapes maintain a higher level of self-protection and consequently reduces the need to use sulphur or other antioxidants in the wine later on.
The reinforced leaves act as a physical barrier to harmful pests, consequently enabling us to reduce or even completely eliminate the amount of highly toxic pesticides used to protect the grapevines.
Since the PCS runs exclusively on the basis of warm wind (without using pesticides), the vineyards are able to maintain a large number of their own yeasts/fungi, which later assist in the spontaneous fermentation of grape must after the grapes are harvested.
Using a PCS at the time of pollination will result in a more homogeneous pollination of the vineyards. This is because well-pollinated vineyards are more resistant and less inclined to rot during the harvest. Since the amount of pesticide used is reduced, the grapes are better able to preserve their aroma.
The PCS signifies a new milestone in organic or biodynamic farming since regular use of a PCS can help us greatly reduce (and, in some regions, even completely abandon) the use of preparations to combat grapevine diseases.
Wine made this way is a true balm for your body and soul.
As we say, “if a farmer’s luck is good, he will survive fifty harvests.” Our family has survived fifty harvests, and each harvest is a glimpse of our family through space and time. Our traditions are the harmony between the culmination of these glimpses over generations.
Vintners’ first attempts to return to nature were fraught with failure, much like a child taking its first steps. Stumbling and falling were common. However, they kept on believing and learning the language of nature until a generation came that could speak it – the farmer’s mother tongue.
My father has been teaching me this since childhood. Visiting the vineyard is like visiting a friend. I know what nature desires, and she knows what I wish for.