Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine



Winegrower group The Outsiders hosted a pre-Millésime Bio evening in Montpellier, where 18 producers poured their wines for over a hundred trade visitors from Europe and the US. Thanks to Louise Hurren for the update and Ken Payton for the photos.

Jon and Liz Bowen (Domaine Sainte Croix)

Jon and Liz Bowen (Domaine Sainte Croix)

Brigitte Chevalier and Pierre Roque (Domaine de Cébène).

Erik Gabrielson and Frances Garcia (Mas Zenitude)

Nicolas Mollard (Le Clos du Serres)

Nicolas Mollard (Le Clos du Serres)

Robin Williamson (Domaine de Saumarez)

Robin Williamson (Domaine de Saumarez)

The Outsiders

The Outsiders

Erik Gabrielson and Frances Garcia (Mas Zenitude)

Brigitte Chevalier and Pierre Roque (Domaine de Cébène)

Paul-Henri Thillardon (Domaine P-H Thillardon)

Paul-Henri Thillardon (Domaine P-H Thillardon)


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It’s that time again. New Year’s celebrations call for champagne, and why not start the year right by making the drink of choice a biodynamic one. Some great ones to try are A & J Beaufort, Benoit Lahaye, Champagne David Léclapart, Champagne Fleury and Champagne Françoise Bedel et Fils. You can read more about them in this Forbes article by OWJ Editor Adam Morganstern.

And over at Organic Authority, writer Donna Sozio has an interview with the “bad boy”of Champagne: Frederic Zeimett of Champagne Leclerc Briant in Epernay. One nice quote:

I wish for all of Champagne to realize that heavy use of chemical products is not the best practice for the future of farming. In fact, I would love for the Champagne region to forget about the word “INDUSTRY” altogether. Too much in Champagne is done in an industrial manner. We believe there is a better way then using chemicals produced from substances such as petrol to fight disease in the vineyards, or producing wines similar to a large industry like milk or beer. By utilizing organic and biodynamic techniques, one can still produce beautiful wines representative of the region (Leclerc Briant is the proof).


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Isabelle Legeron will be at The Ten Bells tonight at 8pm, signing her book Natural Wine and joining in the celebration of ‪#‎JURA.


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From the Press Release:

Millesime Bio, the global event for organic wine, takes place on 25 to 27 January 2016 in the heart of France’s leading organic production area, the new Languedoc- Roussillon / Midi-Pyrenees region. Over the 3 days, 900 exhibitors from every wine producing country and region will meet with sector professionals. A rise in visitor numbers of 13% in 2015 is a great sign that the 2016 edition is not to be missed! Millesime Bio has become the leading global marketplace for organic wine.

More information at www.millesime-bio.com.


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June Wine Bar — Brooklyn

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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
www.junebk.com


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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

www.milos.hr/en.html


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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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