Emiliana Organic Vineyards, a 2,760 acre operation in Chile's fertile wine valleys, isn't just the world's largest organic and biodynamic vineyard. It's also a personal passion for winemaker Jose Guilisasti Gana, and his family.
When Emiliana was founded in 1986, its goal was to find the best terroirs to grow exceptional grapes for high-quality wines. But Jose's ambitions were bigger: already managing the family's organic farm, he knew the health and environmental benefits of organic agriculture, and made it his work to convert Emiliana's holdings to grow organic grapes.
Today, Emiliana has three lines: A biodynamic line, certified by DEMETER; an organic line, certified by the IMO; and an environmentally-friendly line, certified ISO 14000 for integrated vineyard management. Emiliana is one of only seven vineyards in the world to achieve and maintain ISO 14000 certification. I spoke with Jose Guilisasti about how this came about, and why he does it.
Organic Authority: What was it that made you decide to go organic and biodynamic?
Jose Guilisasti Gana: One major reason I decided to go organic at our farm is because I experienced firsthand the dangerous effects created by synthetic products used in farming, such as red eyes, very bad headaches, respiratory problems, etc. The main goal was to change the environment to provide a healthier and safe place to work, where people will feel safe and comfortable all of the time.
Additionally, after converting the farm to organic, we found that the quality of our fruit was improving dramatically, and the wines were getting better and better. So it was rewarding to me to see that, as a result of our changes to the farm, people were feeling safer, the environment was getting better, and our wines were improving in quality.
OA: What are some differences in the taste of organic wines as opposed to those produced conventionally?
JGG: We think that the best way that wine can express the real sense of place (terroir) is with organic and biodynamic practices. So in the end these natural methods will produce a wine with its own identity and the best expression of the terroir. I also truly believe that the perception of the fruit is much cleaner and immaculate, reflecting its true character and personality.
OA: You have dedicated your life to your wines. What is the reward for you?
JGG: After 15 years working with organic and biodynamic practices, it is greatly satisfying to know that these methods allow us to produce high quality wines with real respect to the people and the environment. Further, I take great pride knowing that Emiliana's responsible practices are being recognized globally, and influencing change at vineyards and wineries throughout the world.
Also, I am happy to see Chile enhancing its image at the same time Emiliana is making high quality wines; we all need to produce in a more sustainable way with tremendous respect to the people. That is my ultimate reward: seeing Chile improving and gaining respect as a premier wine appellation in the utmost environmentally responsible way.