Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine



There’s no solution for this, chemical or organic.

Hailstones as big as golf balls, buffeted by 60mph winds, swept across the Côte de Beaune region on Saturday afternoon, causing winegrowers to predict between 40% and 80% of the grape harvest would be lost.

Read full story at The Guardian.


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Domaine Mosse

You’ll rarely come across more of a character than René Mosse. The day we visited, he was perched at a little bar in a Yankees cap ready to pour us wines. I asked him if the cap was for us, since we were from New York, and he regaled us with his last visit to Yankee Stadium. His wife, Agnès, popped in from tending the garden and saw we were in good hands so she left us to René.

Agnes and Rene Mosse

Agnes and Rene Mosse

René, who used to sell wine in Touraine, decided to start his own winery with Agnès in 1999. Since then, their holdings have grown from 9 hectares to about 18 – all farmed biodynamically. We started with two enjoyable entry level wines – 2011 Le Rouchefer, a well-balanced wine with lovely structure and acidity, and the 2011 Arena Savennieres, from young vines in sandy soil, which displayed more acidity and just a hint of minerality.

We stepped up to a more racy acidity with the 2011 Les Bonnes Blondes, from 40-year old vines. The 2011 Initials BB, an ode to an infamous Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot duet, showcased their oldest vines, averaging 60 years, in rich, elegant fashion. This complex wine with an exceptionally long finish really demonstrates how great Chenin Blanc can be. The wines are delicious and show that je ne sais quoi imprint from Agnès and René.


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Domaine Roche Aux Moines

Domaine Roche Aux Moines

Next door to the estate of Nicholas and Virginie Joly, on a hilltop in Savennières overlooking the Loire, sits an ancient cluster of buildings behind a stone wall. This is Domaine Roche Aux Moines, founded in 1981 and named for the area’s highly regarded sub-appellation. The winery is run by second-generation winemaker, Tessa Laroche. A vivacious woman, she is pushing the domaine to new directions, and acheived 100% organic status in 2012. All her wines are unfiltered, harvested by hand and built for aging.

Tessa led us on a tasting of Domaine Aux Moines, their label of 100% Chenin, starting with the 2011. The wine shows promise, thanks to a mineral backbone, and is already drinking well. The soil here is schist and clay, imparting a flintiness to the wines and making them ideal for aging. How ideal? We soon found out.

Monique et Tessa Laroche

Monique et Tessa Laroche

We travel back in time to the 1999 vintage, for a very different wine. Honey notes are predominant in this full bodied wine. 1998 reveals a more austere version and 1994 brings more acid and staggering complexity. All these wines are from the same plot, yet are vastly different. The 1992 brings it all into harmony – acid balanced with minerality and ripeness. This is our favorite.

We also tried a 2010 Les Moines, the first vintage of this wine, unfiltered with no sulfur and aged 24 months in new and old barrels. The wood was a bit too prominent, but the aging potential was evident. Clearly, the domaine is in good hands with the next generation.

Website: www.domaine-aux-moines.com


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Fred Niger Van Herck

Fred Niger Van Herck

When Guy Bossard was looking for someone to take over his winery, he could hardly have found a more unlikely partner than Fred Niger Van Herck, a lawyer who once owned a web hosting company. The organic tradition runs deep at ECU, spanning almost 40 years, but Bossard’s new partner was determined to push the boundaries – a trip through the winery reveals some surprises.

Anforas at Domaine de la ECU

Anforas at Domaine de la ECU

For starters, Fred says he makes reds “just for him,” and we are surprised to find 2012 Cabernet Franc in anfora in the middle of Muscadet. Having taken over as winemaker in 2009, Fred is just now starting to play with things like anforas. At this stage the cab franc displays more minerality than fruit, but Fred is hopeful about the wine’s future. Next, we tried a barrel sample of 2012 Ange, a Pinot Noir that already has a surprising depth of flavor.

Domaine de la ECU Vineyards

Domaine de la ECU Vineyards

Back in his tasting room, we dive into the whites (all 100% Melon), starting with a 2011 Vintage Classique, which proves young and chalky with a mineral backbone An easy drinking wine. Interestingly, ECU names wines after the terroir, which makes sense when we jump to a 2011 Gneiss that immediately amps up the minerality. The 2011 Granite is bigger, yet pair this one with Epoisses – it can take it. 2011 Orthogneiss is a rounder and fuller expression of Melon. 2011 Taurus brings together grapes grown on granite and orthogneiss (50/50) for a rich, Burgundy-style wine. Aged in old barrels for six months, this unfiltered bottle should sit in the cellar for several years.

For more info, go to domaine-ecu.com.


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No. 9 Park

Winning James Beard awards for Outstanding Service and Outstanding Wine Program is impressive – winning them without an appointed sommelier is downright spectacular. How did Boston’s No. 9 Park restaurant accomplish this? Wine Director Cat Silirie attributes it to her professional credo: “Ten sommeliers are better than one.”

Silirie, Executive Wine Director and Wine Buyer for the Barbara Lynch Gruppo, leads two other directors, the self-proclaimed “Team Wine Super Heroes,” for No. 9 Park, as well as sister restaurants Menton, and The Butcher Shop. Weekly wine classes are held at each place with the goal of “making wine more approachable not only for ourselves but for our guests too.”

“It’s not this cult of personality of just one person who knows the entire wine list,“ says Kate Gilarde, who started as an intern 10 years ago and now helps shape the wine program. ”We have a team of people and they all love wine. Your decisions as a guest are based on what they can do to help you.”

The diverse wine list at No. 9 Park reflects the interests of the entire team. The cuisine inspires traditional French and Italian selections, but also represents other parts of Europe and the United States. “We have this fascination with Sherry, which is really spurred on by my colleague Melodie Reynolds,” says Gilarde, while tends to lean towards Burgundy. “It’s natural to have food that echoes something from the old world, and then to have wine that beautifully underscores it.”

The preference for traditional styles of production often leads to wineries that practice organic farming. “You can tell when a wine is made with care,“ says Gilarde. ”We’re trying not to over manipulate the wine with our own personality, and certainly organics and small production are a function of helping that shine through.”

While Gilarde says she does not consciously seek out organic wines, the majority of her wine list is organic. "More often than not, we’re trying a wine then say, ‘Oh, of course, it’s organic.’ Wow. Organic is more than just a label or category. It’s part of a bigger, richer story that inspires our appreciation for the quality.”

Gilarde, however, avoids marking the organic wines on the menu. "I seek quality first, and I believe when you start putting labels on a wine list, you’re automatically casting a shadow on others. We stand by all of the wines on our list for representing themselves well, whether they’re organic or biodynamic or not.”

Ultimately the hope is that the wine list at No. 9 Park contributes to the conversation about wine. Says Gilarde, “I think it’s such a wonderful way to learn, and that way we get to talk about wine together, we drink wine together. It’s a way to enjoy connecting with each other.”


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Fattorie Cerreto Libri Canestrino Bianco

Back in the dark ages of my early wine life, I used to be one of those clowns who thought Italian white wines were something to be tolerated, if not out and out ignored. Isn’t it just innocuous pinot grigio from massive cooperatives or insipid and watery Orviettos? That may have been the case 30 years ago, but thank goodness much has changed since then.

It wasn’t until I did the wine thing full time (15 years ago) that I came to learn of the amazing whites from Friuli and Campagna and Piedmont and the Valle D’Aosta and Sicily and so on and so on. You get the idea – I’m a convert. Now I actually go and seek them out, and that was the case when I visited my friend Philippe Essome’s Brooklyn wine shop Passage de la Fleur. It was there that I took a chance and picked up a bottle of the Canestrino Bianco, and I was handsomely rewarded.

Andrea and Valentina Zanfei own 80 hectares in the Chianti Rufina region of Tuscany. The husband and wife team decided to work together in 1997. The first thing they did was convert all of their agricultural practices to biodynamics, and they’ve been farming that way ever since. At first Andrea had to balance his winegrowing with his day job, that of a high school history and philosophy professor, but now he’s a full time vintner making a Chianti Rufina as well as the white.

The Canestrino Bianco is a blend of 80% Trebbiano and 20% Malvasia (both 30 year-old vines). He describes it, off-handedly, as a typical, dry Tuscan white.

If this is typical, I’m moving to Italy.

It’s unfiltered (slightly cloudy) with a beautiful light amber color, not quite “orange”. It’s fermented in cement and aged in steel and fiberglass. The nose is surprisingly floral given its slightly oxidized nuttiness and citrus on the palate. Its medium body begs for hard, aged cheeses and salamis of all kinds. The price is right (mid teens), so get yourself a bottle and get yourself to your own version of an Italian piazza immediately, preferably on a hot summer night. Enjoy.


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Winemaker Olivier Cousin

Winemaker Olivier Cousin

The trial of winemaker Olivier Cousin finally has a verdict – he must pay 1 Euro for using the word “Anjou” on his wine. More to follow, but for more information (in French) see this story.

And if you want to help Olivier with his legal costs – buy a t-shirt.


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Hatzidakis Winery - Santorini, Greece

Hatzidakis Winery – Santorini, Greece

In the varied world of winemaking there are gorgeous French châteaux and sprawling Napa estates – and then there is Hatzidakis, a small Santorini winery consisting of a simple trailer and sparse vegetation. Other than a picturesque view of Pyrgos Kallistis in the background, a visitor might start to wonder where they made the wrong turn.

Fortunately, there is more below the surface – literally. The majority of the winery is underground in a cave. And not only is Hatzidakis making some of the best wines in Santorini, they are also organic.


The underground winery at Hatzidakis.

The underground winery.

After heading through a wooden door next to the trailer, steep stairs lead down to the winemaking cave and the subterranean tasting room – one of the more adventurous paths to taste wines in the age of accessibility. There are now plans underway for a new winery and tasting room.


Kostas Stamou - Agronomist

Kostas Stamou – Agronomist

We tasted wines with Kostas Stamou, Agronomist for Hatzidakis. The winery, like most in Santorini, favors using indigenous grapes. Assyrtiko makes up the majority of their output, but they also have a 100% Aidani, a 100% Mavrotragano (one of the two main red grapes on the island) and two dessert wines – the standard Vinsanto and a Voudomato.


Haridimos Hatzidakis

Haridimos Hatzidakis

Haridimos Hatzidakis founded the winery in 1996 and has been committed to organic winemaking from the very beginning. He started with this original property, replanting the abandoned vineyard with Aidani, and now farms 10 hectares of vineyards around Santorini.


Hatzidakis Vineyards

Hatzidakis Vineyards

Low yields in a vineyard lead to quality grapes, but the amount of space between plantings at Hatzidakis is at the extreme. There isn’t a lot of water to go around and this is what the soil can support without intervention.


Santorini Vines

Santorini Vines

In Santorini, vines are grown in a circular basket pattern (“koulara”) that protect the grapes from the strong wind and heat.


Pyrgos Kallistis

The view of Pyrgos Kallistis.

To learn more about Hatzidakis, visit them online at www.hatzidakiswines.gr/en.html.

All photos by Adam Morganstern.


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