Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


Island Friends and Refreshing White Wines

Summer has arrived on our island in the Mid-Atlantic. All at once it is warm enough for houseguests, sailing and white wine. I wanted to try some whites from organic wine pioneer importer Paul Chartrand. Fortunately, I had a built-in tasting panel, as my longtime friend Erica Cantley was visiting (with her new husband Tom). Erica has been in the restaurant and wine trade as a maitre d’ with Daniel Boulud, a wine tour guide in Italy with bicycle tours of Tuscany and Umbria, a food writer in New York, and now as a restaurant consultant in Philadelphia. Years ago we went on a food and wine walk with her in the Umbrian hill town of Spoleto, and the chorus of shopkeepers who called out her name con gusto “L’Erica” still rings in my ears.

Our other guest taster was OWJ writer Meryl Rosofsky. This was a celebration for Meryl as she just finished her Masters in Food Studies from NYU and can now concentrate on writing full time. Meryl presented a paper in New Orleans about the role of food in the recovery efforts after Katrina. Like Erica, she has led wine tours by bicycle in Italy and her fluency in both French and Italian allows her to interact with the world’s great wine personages in their lingua franca.

The last taster was my wife Deborah, who has a very critical palette. She tends not to romanticize food and wine and cuts to the true chase of tastes and flavors as she experiences them.

Our first toast to an organic, ethical and healthy summer was a Prosecco, Perlage Riva Moretta. This is a single vineyard Prosecco from the Nardi family of Valdobbiadene, a DOC area in the Veneto region of Italy. The family has been growing grapes since before 1900 but they went fully organic in the early 1980’s. We tasted a bottle of the 2007 release. It retails for around $17.

Publisher: This is creamy and smooth Prosecco. The mouth feel of the wine is more like a still wine with ultra fine carbonation rather than a bubbles-first Prosecco. The fruit came through with notes of apple and lemon, the latter taste giving it a very refreshing quality. Lots of minerals adds to the smooth finish. Well chilled this would drink very well with a soft cheese or crudite as a summer aperitif or after dinner treat.

Meryl: Toasty, pleasing aroma. Not a lot of initial bubbles and low effervescence. A little sweet, well balanced however with enough acidity to complement food. Nice overall, but not my favorite Valdobbiadene Prosecco.

Erica: Well balanced and dry, almost chalky. Good acid and creamy bubbles but they die fast. Notes of grapefruit. Would drink well with misto fritto on a summer night.

Deborah: A bit overly creamy initially, a bit sweet with minimal bubbles. Would go well as an after dinner drink where its sweetness would be an asset.

Next into the glass was a 2006 Viognier from the Provencial village of Bonnieux in the Luberon region of Vaucluse, on the northern edge of Provence. Built on the ruins of a Roman Villa, Chateau La Canorgue practices organic and biodynamic farming. Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan are the red grapes grown on the estate and Viognier and Chardonnay are the whites. All the Viognier are hand picked, fermented, and aged “sur lie” on the yeasts. We drank this white with our salad course. Retails for around $17.

Publisher: Very fruity and clean, crisp flavor of ripe peach. A hard smooth finish. Leaves lots of the fruit on the tongue. Plenty of acid keeps it fresh and interesting. A great summer wine to go with salads or seafood.

Meryl: Super clean and elegant. A delicious wine. Would pair beautifully with fish and seafood. Stands up to food without overpowering it. Just lovely.

Erica: Medium bodied and well balanced, good acid notes of candied citron and gentle herbs.

Deborah: Delicious, and full bodied. Easy to drink. Understated and refrains from making bold statements, would go well with a wide variety of foods

The last pour was a popular favorite for a summer white, a 2007 Pinot Grigio from the Veneto. This one of course from organically grown grapes. Estate bottled by Perlage in Soligo, Italy. Retails for around $14. We drank this with a seafood pasta in a tomato herb sauce.

Publisher: True Terroir, not your boring mass-produced Pinot Grigio. Good mineralization and complex fruit make this very tasty and refreshing. Little aftertaste or lingering deep flavors.

Meryl: Light and lovely, crisp and refreshing. Food friendly. Not a ton of flavors but a little more character than your typical Pinot Grigio. Good acidity.

Erica: Lemony acid with a slightly nutty aftertaste. Easy to enjoy with light food.

Deborah: High mineral content with interesting flavors, more fun than most Pinot Grigios. Complemented our seafood pasta nicely.

So it went, a summer night of drinking the delicious handiwork of dedicated organic and biodynamic growers, vintners, importers and retailers. A sustainable thank you to all involved.