Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


Congratulations to Cava producer Recaredo for being accepted into La Renaissance des Appellations, the group of superstar biodynamic winemakers led by Nicolas Joly. All members are certified organic and biodynamic and are chosen by a unanimous vote from the tasting committee, which includes Joly, Olivier Humbrecht, Anne Claude Leflaive and David Leclapart among others.

Recaredo website.

La Renaissance des Appellations website.

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Many Italian producers are moving towards sustainable, organic and biodynamic viticulture practices, but the panorama of who is doing what is still very fragmented and dispersed. That is one reason that I found the group I Dolomitici so refreshing.

At Vinitaly in 2012, I met the owner of Azienda Agricola Vilar di Spagnolli Luigi. He was fascinating to talk to and the only person I have ever encountered at the event who looked like he had just come in from the farm, with dirt still under his fingernails. He was from the Trentino region in Northern Italy.

We spoke for a long time about his winemaking philosophy and the group that he is part of, I Dolomitici. They are 11 producers united by friendship, solidarity, and a common vision of agriculture in the Trentino. Their desire is to promote the region’s diversity and originality with respect for nature and ethical concerns. I Liberi Viticoltori Trentini is composed of the following wineries: Castel Noarna, Cesconi, Dalzocchio, Elisabetta Foradori, Eugenio Rosi, Fanti, Francesco Poli, Gino Pedrotti, Maso Furli, Molino dei Lessi and Vilar.

They are all either organically certified or moving in that direction. Additionally, most of them are also looking to become biodynamic in the near future. They mostly harvest by hand and make sure that their soils are as healthy as possible by companion planting other crops in their vineyards. They believe in an integrated system of agriculture and do not believe in the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other chemical products. They feel the old fashioned ways that grapes were traditionally grown in their region keep the vineyards in their own natural balance.

In the group, Dalzocchio was certified organic since 2001 while Foradori has been biodynamic since 2002. Castel Noarna, Gino Pedrottti, Vilar, Francesco Poli and Cesconi are organic and are all moving toward biodynamic viticulture. Maso Furli and Molino dei Lessi are also organic and awaiting certification, while Fanti is moving in the same direction. Eugenio Rosi also believes in these practices and only uses ambient yeast in his wines.

These 11 producers also produced a wine together called Ciso, made from an indigenous grape variety that only grows in a small plot of land that the group collectively farms – just 727 plants that grow on their own rootstocks in a 100-year-old vineyard. In between the rows of vines are corn, tobacco, wheat, squash and beans.

The grape variety is called Lambrusco a Foglia Fastagliata. The first bottle of this wine was released in 2010. The name Ciso comes from the name of the farmer who gave them the vines to cultivate together. In 2010, they only made 3000 bottles and 150 magnums of this wine. While getting a bottle of the wine may be complicated, the philosophy of the group is quite easy to understand.

They look to make wines that are authentic and express the Trentino terroir where the grapes grow; they harvest mature grapes that are able to transmit a sense of what the particular vintage was like; they look to vinify the wine in such a way that the wine expresses specifics of the vintage; and they want to produce a healthy wine that is both an expression of the terroir in Trentino, the grape variety, the vintage and the winemakers’ philosophy.

The group tries to use as few sulfites as possible as they want the wines to be as healthy as it can be. Of course, the amount they use will depend on the vintage and the grape variety.

A number of the producers make a wine using the Nosiola grape that is indigenous to Trentino. This is a white grape that can be used to make still or sweet wine or a passito. Vino Santo made from Nosiola is a big tradition in this region.

Spagnolli told me that Nosiola is an aromatic and acidic grape filled with fruit and floral aromas and flavors. This grape ripens in mid to late October. Nosiola is susceptible to humidity. While this can be a disaster for a still white wine, it is perfect for drying the grapes used in a passito-style dessert wine, also made in the area. The name Nosiola is said to come from the Italian word for hazelnut, Nocciola.

A number of producers in the group make wines using Nosiola including:

  • Vilàr, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Nosiola, 2012
  • Cesconi, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Nosiola, 2011
  • Gino Pedrotti, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Nosiola 2012
  • Castel Noarna, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Nosiola 2011
  • Foradori, Fontanasanta – Nosiola Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2011
  • Giuseppe Fanti, Nosiola Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2011
  • Francesco Poli, Trentino DOC Vino Santo, 2001

Definitely a wine to try, Nosiola pairs well with a variety of foods and can also be used as an aperitif.

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Starting today, the Organic Wine Journal will be covering the wide and diverse world of organic spirits. There’s a new breed of handcrafted vodkas, gins, tequilas and others being made that reflect the same commitment to quality and practices as organic wines. Tune in each Friday for a new organic spirit review with our host Tony Sachs.

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This wine is like “a powerful hug from a really sexy lady.” Watch Victoria’s review of the Erbaluna Barbera d’Alba Superiore La Rosina 2010.

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Are you a sommelier who really knows their Languedoc-Roussillon wines? Want to win a trip to the region to meet some great winemakers? Then enter the Sud De France Sommelier Competition. There’ll be an exam and blind tasting – and then the final three candidates will compete in front of a live audience.

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9th-generation winemaker Pierre-Marie

9th-generation winemaker Pierre-Marie

Luneau Papin in Le Landreau (Muscadet) is in the process of converting to organic. As of now, 25 hectares out of 40 have been converted with the rest in process – they have already ceased using pesticides on all their lands. For 9th-generation winemaker Pierre-Marie, with his colleagues in the Loire already at the forefront of organic winemaking, this is a giant step for a storied domaine whose name arose from the joining of two area winemaking families. With 35 different cuvees, the domaine makes a wide variety of wines, using common local grapes like Folle Blanche (used in Gros Plant) and Melon de Bourgogne, as well as Chardonnay, Gamay and Merlot in some blends.

Wines tasted came from vines ranging from 25 – 75 years old, and many displayed minerality and good depth of flavor. A quartet of four 2012 vintages started the tasting – 2012 Folle Blanche showed nice richness for such a young wine, while the 2012 Domaine Pierre de la Grange, made with grapes from 45-year old vines, was delicious and easy to drink, delivering nice minerality and some complexity. Both 100% Melon, Clos des Allées showed good minerality and acid, while Les Pierres Blanches was very pure and almost saline; the fruit from 55-year old vines.

The Terre de Pierre wines from Butte de la Roche, which has a unique soil comprised of elements like magnesium, were powerful and rich – and age-worthy. The 2010 Terre de Pierre spent 18 months on lees, yielding a full, rich, stony wine; the 2008 more full-bodied with prominent acidity. The winery holds back a good number of wines to age, unusual for Muscadet. Some to seek out include 1999 Le L’D’or, which is getting very elegant in its not-so-old age, and the 2003 Excelsior from that year’s infamous hot summer which remarkably has kept its freshness.

Domaine Pierre Luneau Papin Website

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During the 14 years I was in retail, I could never find the time to get out and visit other wine shops. So with my new found liberation, I’m making up for lost time. On one of my first sojourns this beauty spoke to me – and it said all of the right things.

Domaine Barou is located in the VDP des Collines Rhodaniennes, which is a sub appellation of the Comtes des Rhodaniens. Did that help? How about it’s in the Northern Rhone, near St Joseph and the Ardeche. That’s as close as I’m going to get you. Emmanuel and Marie-Agnes Barou have been farming organically for almost 40 years (1975), and their vineyards are certified organic (Ecocert). The Cuvee des Vernes is 100% syrah from 30 year-old vines. After a brief cold maceration, and then an 18 day fermentation, it ages in five year old oak for nine months. Nothing nasty is done during that whole time, and a little bit of sulfur comes in at bottling.

The result is a $14 bottle of joy. Right away you smell the garrigue and spices, and then you’re treated to black cherries – then that same spice on the palate. The tannins are round, the mouth is full and the finish is long. And you can easily have a glass or even two, because the alcohol is sitting at 13%.

So get out there and hunt this one down, and now that you know where Domaine Barou is, you can visit them as well. Besides their wines, they’ll sell you their organically grown cherries (June), or their apricots (July) or their peaches (August and September.)

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From Beverage Media:

According to Michael Degen, Executive Director Messe Düsseldorf GmbH and Director of ProWein, “The numbers of organic producers have grown substantially over the years and this year some 250 exhibitors declare to have a specific focus on the category.” ProWein will feature a special section in Hall 6 titled “World of Organic Wine” featuring participants from Switzerland, South Africa, Bulgaria, Australia, France and Italy. Additionally there will be a “Top 100” tasting zone of award winning international organic wines. And of course many other producers in Hall 6 and other halls will be offering organic, sustainable and biodynamically produced wines as part of their portfolio, including a wide array from Wines of Chile.

The biodynamic sub-category has grabbed a lot of attention with passionate proponents adopting the controversial production system devised and introduced in Austria by Rudolph Steiner. The primary certification organization, Demeter, will have a booth at the trade fair along with seminars on the program. Also in attendance will be Ecovin, Respekt, Fepeco (Spain) and CCE (Croatia). Demeter is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2014 with a variety of seminars and special tastings listed on the ProWein website.

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