Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine



Obituary at The Press Democrat.


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From Wine-Searcher:

Patrick Guiraud, president of Sudvinbio, claims there isn’t much support among European vintners to eliminate sulfites from organic wines. The EU will revisit organic wine regulations next year, to discuss whether to continue to allow sugar to be added (chaptalization) and whether to allow new wine additives that have come on the market since 2012. But sulfites are not currently on the agenda.

“In the U.S. that issue was dropped into the activist community, which had a knee-jerk response,” says Paul Chartrand, who imports organic wines from Europe to the U.S. “In Europe the winemaking community is a much bigger part of society. You find some producers in Europe making no-sulfite wines, but very few want to make all their wines that way. They don’t want to change the world of organic wine.”

But many Europeans would like to change the U.S. definition of organic wine. Guiraud said the influx of newly certified organic producers in France has created a situation where the country has more organic wine to sell than it has buyers.


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From Bon Appetit:

Eventually, she landed at Louis/Dressner, the importer that helped introduce natural wine to the U.S., with Tarlow as a top client. She and he got along, and often ended up going to the same tastings and fairs on both sides of the Atlantic, so when Tarlow decided to open Reynard—a restaurant as big as all his previous places combined—he asked her to helm the wine program. According to Campbell, the transition was easy, and not just because she and Tarlow had similar drinking habits.

“There’s the idea [with Tarlow] that everyone should be rising together. At other restaurant groups you feel like it’s much clearer that somebody needs to get rich here, instead of like, How can we keep this whole thing going for a while for everybody?”

That ethos permeates pretty much every undertaking at the Tarlow restaurants, Pollyannaish as it may sound (and with the caveat that meals there are hardly cheap). In the wine department, this means that when the Wythe Hotel, Reynard’s mothership, hosts weddings, Campbell has to go to bat for natural wine—and if a bride can’t find anything in her price range that she likes, Campbell’s willing to pour a fancier natural wine, charge less, and take a hit on the difference.


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Eric Asimov discusses his love for Savennières – though admits you might not like it yourself. And who makes some famous Savennières? Biodynamic master Nicolas Joly:

Hovering over the appellation is the best known, most expensive and most baffling domaine, Nicolas Joly, among whose holdings is Savennières’s most hallowed terroir, the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. Mr. Joly may be best known nowadays as the guru of biodynamic viticulture. Biodynamics has come to be widely accepted (though fervently dismissed as well), but Mr. Joly holds other beliefs that may be equally or even more controversial.

For example, while all wine producers wish to harvest ripe grapes, what constitutes ripe is subjective. Mr. Joly seeks grapes that have begun to shrivel and, he hopes, develop botrytis, the noble rot that is an essential component of wonderful sweet wines but not always desirable in dry wines. Fermented until dry, the Joly wines are typically high in alcohol, 15 percent or more as against the more typical 13 to 14.5 percent. Mr. Joly also recommends the extreme measure of decanting his wines two days in advance.


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Over at Palate Press Remy Charest has written an interesting piece on Clark Smith:

This is a writer who extolls the virtue of biodynamics “because of its impenetrability to conventional scientific investigatory practices”, but then goes on, on the very next page, to denounce “natural wine nonsense” and criticize the proponents of natural wine (notably Alice Feiring) for not providing a clear definition of what natural wine is.

He also insists that “a complex natural ecology” is essential in providing “distinctive and soulful character” to wine (and other foods), yet will advocate that bringing a wine’s alcohol content down by 3% or using cultured yeasts and other additives is a way to create a wine that better expresses terroir.

One example of this is the “Faux Chablis” he makes under his own Winesmith label. To create this Napa Valley chardonnay, Smith takes Napa chardonnay grapes at what he deems to be optimal maturity… and then takes out a significant amount of alcohol to bring out the “lemon oil” character that, he claims, is the true signature of Napa terroir in chardonnay grapes.

To me – and many others – this kind of statement is an obvious contradiction. If chardonnay grown in Napa results in high alcohol at maturity, then high alcohol is a signature of terroir. If that results in an unbalanced wine, then doesn’t that mean that the grape is simply not suited to the place? Wouldn’t it make more sense to plant fiano or roussanne in Napa Valley, grapes that would likely yield a better balance of acid and alcohol and flavour at maturity, in the valley’s climate?


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The City of Brotherly Love is discovering natural wines. From Philly.com:

“We have a tremendous amount of talented chefs, but I think the ambition of what’s available to drink is not matching the ambition and quality of the food,” said Fields. “We’re just now beginning to develop a more sophisticated group of wine buyers.”

One of these individuals, Jason Malumed, became so busy linking up nonregistered natural-wine importers eager to enter the PLCB system and sell in Philly that it led to the foundation of his own distributorship, Chalkboard Wine + Spirits.

He represents six importers, bringing about 400 natural-focused wines to the market. “The wines will definitely take some more effort to sell to diners, as they are not big brand names,” he said. “But once they put the wine in their mouth, that is all it takes.”


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Join us for an evening of wine and discovery, at the Slow Wine US Tour: 3rd Edition. Using your own Slow Wine guide, a value of $25- included in the price of each ticket, you can taste your way through the regions of Italy, learning more about the quality, terroir and value of each wine. Join us to discover new wines and meet the people behind 70+ selected Italian producers who represent the Slow Wine values.

The third edition of the wine guide in English, Slow Wine, adopts a new approach to wine criticism and looks at a variety of factors to evaluate wineries in their entirety, taking into consideration the wine quality, typicity and adherence to terroir, value for money, environmental sensitivity and ecologically sustainable viticultural practices.

Terra Gallery & Event Venue
511 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

Monday, January 27, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM

Buy tickets here.


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We posted a link yesterday to an editorial in the New York Times about a winemaker in Burgundy being prosecuted because he is refusing to use Pyrevert to help combat a contagious bacterial disease in the region.

While it doesn’t directly say it, a reading of the editorial implies that use of Pyrevert might threaten the organic status of the vineyards. Lisa Bell, who works with Natural Merchants, has pointed out to us that Pyrevert is a plant-based pesticide, and is allowed under organic rules.

The core issue remains – should a winemaker be forced to spray his vineyards with something he feels is dangerous and ineffective? This is also a reminder that ‘organic’ is simply whatever governments choose to call it, and that each winemaker has their own standards for how they want to tend to their vineyards.

We’ll be covering this issue more in-depth shortly.


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