Organic, Natural, and Biodynamic wines!
On Tuesday, March 7th we had the opportunity to explore a new and interesting world of wines. It was all about Organic, Natural, and Biodynamic wines. There are lots of different opinions about Organic, Natural, and biodynamic methods surrounding wine and winemaking. This tasting allowed us to learn a bit more about these interpretations and processes as a group.
Let’s begin organic wines. Making wine in an organic manner can be a great place to start when it comes to helping out the environment and have less harmful chemicals come in contact with your wine. That being said – when you find a wine that is labelled as organic that actually only refers to how the grapes were produced. This means that when they are in the field they must use only organic methods to grow and tend the grapes. Once the grapes are picked and being turned into wine the process can change and there are no extra regulations stipulating how they make the wine. There can be other additives put into it, use reverse osmosis, reduce water content, reduce alcohol content, etc. Due to this when you find organic labels from the USA, where they are a little more strict with labelling, they will only say on them that they were made with organic grapes.
After organic the next step is bio-dynamics. This is a system that was created by Austrian Rudolf Steiner in the 1920′s, almost a full 20 years before organic farming was “created”. Bio-dynamics is an organic form of farming but it also encompasses much more than that. In the Biodynamic system, it is believed that everything in the entire universe is connected and gives off a resonance or “vibe”. It is a very holistic view of agriculture. The biodynamic calendar is broken into 4 categories; Fruit days (harvest), Root days (pruning), Flower days (leave alone), and Leaf days (watering). There are also governing bodies that assure if a wine is done by biodynamic methods and the wine might be labelled if it is. In biodynamic wines, it is not possible to put any other chemicals or manufactured additions such as yeast. However, you do still have some options for working with the wine and using technology to help. With Biodynamics they say that you are able to get a wine that is more natural and has more region-specific flavours or more defined “terroir” character.
Finally, we come to natural wines. These are wines that use biodynamic methods for farming and then when it comes to making the wine they try to do as little as possible. They want minimal intervention, no addition or removal of products from the wine, and the goal is to get a wine that is exactly what the grapes give you. Unfortunately, there is no controlling body to make sure that when someone says they are producing natural wines that they are really doing that. This is a relatively “new” style of wine commercially but this is the way that wine has been made for thousands of years. This is a heavily debated style of wine right now because it can have flavours that could possibly be judged as faults in them. There can also be a large difference in how each bottle of wine can taste from one another. One thing is for certain, they definitely taste different than what you would normally get from a regular style of wine. If you are looking for the lowest amount of products that could have possibly come in contact with your wine, selecting a natural wine is a great option!
The wines that we tasted were all really interesting and it was definitely a chance to explore what is out there for different styles of wines. I will go through the wines in order of Organic, Biodynamic, and then the 2 natural wines that we tasted.
This is an organic, vegan-friendly wine that is made in Sicily, Italy using the number one grape varietal of the region: Nero D’Avola. Even the bottle and label are made of recycled materials and the ink on the label is vegetable ink. It is a lovely medium-bodied wine brickish purple in colour. It smells of black cherry, liquorice, mint, and dark berries. The palate is lovely and balanced with black pepper, currant, cherry, and would go great with meat or tomato-based pasta dishes.
This is another lovely organic wine but this time from a family run winery from the south of France. It is a blend of Carignan Noir (45%), Syrah (23%), Grenache Noir (25%), and Mourvèdre (7%). It is aged for 18 months in tank and unfined and loosely filtered. This wine is very fitting for old world wine lovers, it is bright purple, with a touch of cherry red. The nose is loaded with earthy notes of leather, tobacco, wet soil, red fruits, and a touch of barnyard. It is medium bodied with plums, chocolate, cassis and herbs on the palate. This wine would be awesome with a hearty game stew on a cold day.
This was the wine we started our tasting off with since it is a Champagne and I love starting classes off with a “Pop”. We are now getting into the biodynamic wines. Dominique Moreau created the estate Marie-Courtin in 2005 with the goal to produce, single vineyard, single varietal, single vintage champagnes and using biodynamic grapes. All of this is amazing to be able to do in the champagne region and still produce a stellar wine! Dominique is ranked one of the top 10 grower producers from champagne, meaning that they make and produce their own champagnes. The Resonance is small production, made entirely with Pinot Noir grapes picked from 35-40-year-old vines. This champagne is also zero-dosage so no extra sugar added either. It is a wonderful wine with a gorgeous sparkle. Light yellow in colour but vibrant and enchanting. On the nose it is toasty and yeasty with slight stone fruit. The palate is creamy and delicious with a lovely, balanced acidity, a touch of pear and nice minerality. This is an amazing wine for celebrating, or just enjoying when you get that craving for bubbles!
This is a Sauvignon Blanc from 5th generation wine producer, Jonathan Didier Pabiot from the Loire region of France. Part of his vineyard is organic while other parts are biodynamic. He is working his way to all biodynamic but does not yet have the resources. This wine is vibrant and refreshing. It is pale yellow in colour with a green tinge. The nose is loaded with citrus, mineral, and cut grass. On the palate it is light and delightful with a nice acidity. Lots of fresh fruit, gooseberry, green apple, and just all around wonderful! This is a wine that could be drunk way to easily by itself but would go lovely with some cheese or lighter seafood.
This Cabernet Franc is from a family run winery from Spain. Rosalia Molina is not only the winemaker but also the artist who creates the labels. It is a higher altitude winery at 1,100m with 120 hectares under vine. They use natural yeasts to create fermentation and no added chemicals are put in the wine. The Cabernet Franc is aged in used barrels for 2 years. This was hands down the favourite of the night with everyone picking it. It is a gorgeous fuller bodied deep red-purple colour. The nose was loaded with lots of dark berries, cassis, a touch of leather, cigar box, dark chocolate, and eucalyptus/herbs. The palate was full and delightful, nice tannins with medium acidity and well balanced between fruity and rustic. This wine would do wonders with a steak or roast beef. Still showing very good for its age and should hold up nicely for a few more years! Would definitely revisit this wine again and again without any complaints.
This wine is from a young producer, Milan Nestarec, from the Czech Republic. Gruner Veltliner is a white grape indigenous to Austria but it should feel quite at home in the Czech Republic as well. This was our first natural wine of the night. The producer uses organic methods to produce the grapes and minimal interference in the winemaking as well. It is also bottled without adding any sulphur. It does stay in contact with the grape skins for a little bit so you do get a lot darker vibrant yellow colour to it. It is a very interesting wine and quite different than a lot of Gruner Veltliners that I have had a chance to try. On the nose there are dried fruits such as apricots as well as walnuts, oat cookies, and some vegetal notes. The palate does have an interesting sour acidity to it with nice refreshing fruit flavours. This is a funky wine that deserves a taste if you want to expand your boundaries and try something new and interesting.
This was our second natural wine for the night and this was from the same producer from the Czech Republic. It was a lovely light blend of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt. Zweigelt is a grape that was created in Austria in the 1920′s blending two indigenous Austrian grapes. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts, in 20-year-old open oak cats for about 20 days. It is then placed into 20-year-old oak barrels for about 18 months. There is only about 20mg/litre of sulphur added at bottling as well, which is well below normal levels. This was a very cool smelling and tasting wine. On the nose it had plenty of olive notes, hints of tomato, quite a bit of earthiness and some light red fruit smells. The palate was light and delightful with a lovely acidity, blueberry, pepper, earth, and mushrooms. I know its weird but I think this would be one of the coolest wines to try with pizza!
I had a great time at this tasting and loved the fact that was able to open the eyes of so many people to a wonderful new world of different style wines. There were some shockers in what we tried but I am definitely interested to see what the future holds with all of these trends. Will they be big influencers? Are others going to follow suit? Are more people going to go Organic? Only time and the stars will tell! Those biodynamic guys might know better as well;)
Thanks to all that came and hope to see you at a tasting or the shop soon.