Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


From the press release:

As summer draws to a close, the wheels of RAW have begun turning again as we launch our next edition of the fair, taking place in Berlin on 29 November. The fair’s bespoke microsite is now live and tickets are on sale.

Over 100 artisan wine growers from around the world* will be joining us at Berlin’s foremost foodie market – Markthalle Neun – for 1 day only: the 6th edition of RAWfair. All are extraordinary individuals who produce fine natural or low-intervention organic and biodynamic wine that is not only great for the planet and your well-being, but also delicious and driven by a true sense of place (‘terroir’). In short, wine at its very best. And if that’s not enough of a draw, you’ll also be able to taste artisan bread, sake, cider and a collection of spirits from a micro-distillery.

For those of you wanting to make a weekend of it, there will be lots of suppers and bars opening their doors that weekend to RAW goers in a bid to help Berlin go RAW. If you’re on Twitter look out for the #RAWBerlin hashtag (or simply follow us @RAWfair), and if you’re on Facebook then check out our feed here.

To help whet your appetite, our newsletters will include collections of photographs from some of the growers you will be meeting in November. First set below.

And last but certainly not least, the dates for next year’s RAW London have also been announced so please put the 15 & 16 May 2016 in your diaries for another UK extravaganza. Dates for Vienna to follow soon.

Any questions, let us know.

Wishing you a glorious autumn,

Team RAW

Buy tickets here:

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June Wine Bar — Brooklyn


As much as the natural wine scene has exploded in the past 10 years in New York, reflecting the culture and passion for this juice in Paris, there are still few bars and restaurants that focus solely on natural wine. June Wine Bar, which opened in January of this year, is one of the few places in NY that boasts an all-natural list. June is successfully pouring things like Costadila 280, a sparkling orange wine from Italy. This, along with other unique selections has piqued the interest of curious drinkers and wine geeks alike from the five boroughs. Places like June, along with Reynard, Ten Bells, and Contra are proof that it is possible to go “all natural” in NYC and have success.

June was born when business partners Tom Kearney and Henry Rich joined forces and brought their idea of a natural wine bar to life – both men bringing unique backgrounds to the table, each with more than 20 years of restaurant experience. Henry, who owns and operates Rucola in Boerum Hill and Fitzcarraldo in Bushwick, had a very good sense of what would succeed in this space in Cobble Hill. When he mentioned a natural wine bar, Tom knew he was in.

While opening the restaurant Sweetwater in Williamsburg, Tom, who has a chef’s background, was introduced to some of his first natural wines by bartender Sean Kranik, who was also working at Uva Wine Shop at the time. Afterward, he attended some Jenny & François portfolio tastings and caught the wine bug. Tom took his interest in wine and decided to work for Garnet Wine & Spirits, a retail shop, in order to learn from the ground up. It was a humble choice for someone already established in the restaurant industry but hungry for more wine knowledge. He later opened the Farm on Adderley in Ditmas Park where he has hosted an all-natural wine list since they opened in 2006. “Jenny has been great with bringing me along with her and the crew to connect with winemakers in Europe over the years.” says Tom.

After working in high-end places like the River Cafe, Jean-Georges and Blue Hill, Tom wanted a more casual environment and followed the migration that was beginning across the bridge to Brooklyn. The concept of June, while inhabiting a beautiful and unique space, was to focus on the wine without the pressure to eat, but to still offer delicious food from traceable, sustainable sources. “The bar is the prominent feature – a bit like a stage, and there is an emphasis on tasting.” While Tom says they’re passionate about all of the wines they sell, he’s particularly excited about discoveries from Partida Creus from Penedès, Spain, Franz Strohmeier from Austria, Eminence Road from the Finger Lakes, and Olivier Cousin from the Loire Valley. With his dedication to the importance of good ingredients at the Farm on Adderley, you can expect the same quality in his small plates at June where he serves up some beautiful dishes with seasonal vegetables like summer squash, white eggplant, and kale while still serving some classic wine bar snacks like chicken liver and a ham board. “I feel like it’s a natural transition to make choices about the wines we sell with the same criteria in mind. We are interested in winemakers who farm organically, maintain a diverse ecosystem, produce in quantities that are traceable and eschew technological manipulation in the cellar.”

After a few trips to June it was evident to me that the staff was educated and passionate about their list, and well versed on the wine. Tom says, “It starts with educating them about how commercial wine is made. I think the average person is mostly unaware of what goes into making a commercial wine. The use of spinning cones, reverse osmosis, enological enzymes, oak powder, grape extracts, catalogue yeasts; most of the staff seems sort of shocked that this is done at all. Consuming something that is free of this kind of manipulation is a lot more attractive to the average person. I think we’re living in a time where overwhelmingly we distrust these large profit-driven paradigms that aim to maximize efficiency at the expense of quality.”

The experience at June is truly exceptional. The ambience emulates a Parisian bar from the 1920’s; the beautiful design somehow fuses cozy with glamorous and brings a staff that is friendly and knowledgable. They often invite winemakers for an evening to chat with customers in a casual setting while featuring their wines by the glass to encourage tasting everything. Nick Gorevic, a wine rep for J&F is also a consultant for the list at June and has built an amazing selection. From interesting Moravian wines (Czech Republic), to the gorgeous wines from Hervé Souhaut and unique Australian wines from Domaine Lucci, he listens to the feedback from customers and the list is invariably evolving. He was pleased to learn that people were requesting even more distinctive selections like orange wines and whites from Jura. Still, you don’t have to be a wine professional or even have wine knowledge to enjoy an experience at June – just find a spot at the bar and you’ll be met with unpretentious recommendations. We know we will keep coming back to discover new gems on the list, taste, learn, and simply to spend time in a place that promises a lovely evening.

June Wine Bar
231 Court St,
(917) 909-0434

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Milos Winery summer

While standing on slopes of vineyards carved out of a mountainside, you wonder how Miloš Winery produces any wine at all — let alone some of the best organic wines in Croatia. Terraces march up the face of the mountain, leveling off just enough to allow a jeep to bounce its way halfway up. From this height, you admire an amphitheater of Plavac Mali grapes swaying in the ocean breezes. It is bone dry here in the summer, but the grapes draw moisture from the limestone-rich soil, which is adept at holding humidity. Below you, the lone road traversing the Pelješac Peninsula wends out of sight around a bend and sparkling blue seas extend in every direction.

The Plavac Mali grape is revered in this part of the world, the long lost relative or perhaps even forefather, of the much more famous Zinfandel. No matter the exact origins, the grape stands on its own — though too often a tannic bomb best cellared for years, if not decades. The sun is relentless here, making for big wines that can easily spin out of control. Only the cool ocean breezes can rein in this monster — or a storied winemakers like Frano Milos, whose family has lived in these parts for nearly 500 years.

Miloš wines have been made for generations, though only after the fall of Communism did they have the ability to be sold under the family name. Indeed, Frano’s was the first Croatian winery to launch as a private business in those early days of the new republic. From the start, he eschewed modern techniques for tradition and he continues to work in what can only be described as “the old ways.” Certified organic, the wines are made with minimal intervention, including no added yeast and only a small amount of sulfur added just before fermentation. The wines also age much longer than is the norm. As Frano’s son Ivan told us during our tasting, the goal of his father’s winemaking is to “achieve elegance.”

Milos winery

You can taste both the entry level Plavac and the Stagnum range, made with Plavac Mali grapes from vines over thirty years old. We started with a 2013 Stagnum Rose which was intense, with a good balance of acidity and minerality. The 2010 Plavac, billed as an entry wine, but far more than that, was the opposite of tannin bombs you find elsewhere. The alcohol level sat at a reasonable 13.6% and the resulting wine was softer and more enjoyable than other Plavacs we tried in the region. The 2006 Stagnum, a current release no less, was herbaceous and savory with a hint of spice followed by dry finish. 2003 Stagnum, by turns, was intense with good tannins and showed the potential for greatness, but would benefit from at least another five years of aging. Incredibly, this wine was aged for 3 ½ years in barrel and another 6 ½ years in bottle before being released. We finished with two very good sweet wines, a 2007 Stagnum Semi-Sweet and the 2007 Stagnum Dessert Wine. The former was more fruit forward than sweet, while the latter had a balanced sweetness, raisin-y with great structure.

If you should find your way to the paradise that is the Croatian Coast, do drop in on the family and taste some wines. Admire the stunning photos Frano takes, which adorn the old winery’s walls. And before you leave, pick up some tea full of Mediterranean herbs like sage, germander, rosemary, heather, bindweed and St. John’s Wort that grow on the surrounding lands.

Miloš Winery

Boljenovići 15, Ston, Croatia

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At Wine FTW, Louise Hurren interviews Randall Grahm about his new Popelouchum Project:

“The whole notion behind the initiative is really predicated on the idea that the New World has really been hopelessly imitative of the Old – we haven’t yet discovered our unique and distinctive voice. My idea is that growing varietal blocks of grapes is quite limiting – we’ll never find the degree of congruence that the Old World has discovered with their centuries of iteration – but maybe by growing completely heterogeneous blocks, every vine genetically distinct from the other, we can produce a wine of real complexity, and allow the soil characteristics of the wine, rather than the varietal characteristics, to emerge. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to produce a wine from our Popelouchum Estate in San Juan Bautista, reflective of the great quality of terroir I know it to possess. Secondarily, we might find certain vines that are particularly well suited to the site, or which have utterly unique (and favourable) characteristics.”

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Randall Grahm is seeking $350,000 in funding for his Popelouchum Vineyard project on Indiegogo.

In his own words (and be grateful Indiegogo doesn’t have the capability for footnotes):

We aim to create a truly unique, superior and nuanced wine, a “Grahm Cru,” an expression of the unique terroirs of our Popelouchum Estate in San Juan Bautista. We plan to do this by adopting a very unusual methodology – the breeding of 10,000 new grape varieties, each genetically distinctive from one another – and blending them into a unique cuvée that the world has not tasted heretofore. In so doing, we might also discover individual vines that are more congruent to our site as well as those that might have greater global utility – disease or drought tolerance – in a changing climate. We plan to employ biodynamic practice and use other techniques – some new-fangled (the use of biochar), some old-fangled (dry-farming), to grow grapes in a more deeply and truly sustainable fashion.

Read about the full project on the site. Some quick notes, though… the grapes will be grown biodynamically, and he also plans to have the vineyard certified organic. Perks include dinner at the vineyard and the chance to name one of the grape varieties.

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Domaine de Saint Pierre is a 6ha organic property with vineyards located in both Arbois and Cotes de Jura. The winery produces reds, whites and pet-nat created by owner and winemaker Fabrice Dodane. Savagnin de Voile 2008 is a bright and zippy white, mineral driven with medium acidity. Aromas of golden delicious apple skin, lime zest, hazelnuts and musk prepare you for more hazelnut on the palate, smoky oak, vanilla and orchid. A gorgeous expression of Arbois, and Jura in general.

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Château Pontet-Canet


Importer Duclot la Vinicole recently hosted a vertical tasting of ten vintages of biodynamic Bordeaux prodcuer Château Pontet-Canet. The estate has been family-owned since 1959 with second-generation winemaker Alfred Tesseron at the helm. The property has 200 acres of vines and uses approximately a 50/50 split between new French oak and cement vats for aging.

The winery is also known for replacing mechanical engines with horses — about half the estate is farmed using horsepower, with a goal of 100% in the near future. "A horse never puts his foot in the same place,” says Tesseron. The family trains their vines into arches so the horses can pass through without harming them. The winery had their first green harvest in 1990, a fully biodynamic vineyard in 2005 and the entire winery was certified in 2010.

The vertical tasting included wines before and after the organic practices began. While subtle, the wines after the change have bright and fresh qualities that weren’t present prior.

The following three stood out in terms of balance and complexity of flavor:

Château Pontet-Canet Paulliac 2007

A very limited production wine, due to summer rot and humidity — it isn’t available outside of Pontet-Canet’s cellar. On the nose, there are notes of shaved dark chocolate and red currants. On the palate, the wine is lush with red currants and a lengthy finish.

Château Pontet-Canet Paulliac 2009

The deepest of the wines I tried, the nose is delicate and pretty with blackberries and prunes. On the palate the wine tastes spearmint, milk chocolate and more blackberries.

Château Pontet-Canet Paulliac 2010

My personal favorite of the group, 2010 is gorgeous, velvety, deep and bright. On the nose I found shortbread cookies, violets and strawberries. On the palate there are more strawberries, strawberry leaf, cassis and spices.


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Mike Benziger

From The Press Democrat:

Benziger Family Winery, founded more than 30 years ago by a pioneering Sonoma Valley wine family who helped bring green farming practices into the mainstream, is being sold to one of the world’s largest producers of low-priced wines.

The Wine Group, the world’s third-largest wine company with such budget brands as Franzia, Almaden and Corbett Canyon, announced Monday it has purchased the winery in Glen Ellen and its nearby sister winery, Imagery.

Financial terms were not disclosed, though industry estimates ranged from less than $90 million to slightly more than $100 million.

The article also states that part of the deal includes the winery’s green practices will be maintained. Over at Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray sees this may be a sign of biodynamics moving into the mainstream.

This might be a good time to invest in cow horns.

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