Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine

Domaine de Montcy

Domaine Montcy Vineyard

Laura Semeria loves a challenge. The Italian native was a sommelier and food producer, but on a trip to Loire Valley she fell in love with the nearly-forgotten grape Romorantin. Coming across a young, but floundering estate, she was determined to buy it and set out to do big things.

Laura took over Domaine de Montcy in 2007 and began converting it to organic practices in 2008. In 2010, she started the process of becoming biodynamic. No doubt, her neighbors were taken aback at the Italian showing up with her newfangled ways, but she made it work. Today, her winery is thriving, she’s built a two-room guest cabin in the middle of her fields and she even encourages lingering among the vines, with signage spotlighting the different grapes.

Montcy Guest Cabin

Guest cabin at Domaine Montcy

The domaine makes 12 different wines including several expressions of Laura’s beloved Romorantin, which she ages 18 months on lees, and is her only grape not used in a blend. We started with a fresh, vibrant 2011 Cheverny Tradition that is 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, then moved on to 2011 Clos de Sondres, a 50/50 Sauvignon/Chardonnay blend that exhibited more body and power.

Next were two expressions of Romorantin – a 2009 Cour Cheverny, more acid driven and a bigger vintage than usual, and 2010 Plénitude, which was sharp with prominent acidity. Moving on to the reds, we tried a nicely structured 2010 Cheverny Rouge Louis de la Saussaye (60% Pinot Noir, 25% Cot/Malbec, 15% Gamay) and a vibrant Cot (Malbec) & Pinot Noir blend. To finish, the 2009 Cour-Cheverny Claude de France (100% Romorantin) was lightly sweet (39 grams/rs) with plenty of acid to back it up.

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New wine bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, focussing on organic and Biodynamic wines.

Sort of Wine Bar
639 Driggs Ave
Sort of Wine Bar Facebook Page

Read more about them on Greenpoint Gazette.

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From Wired:

You’d think the various adjuncts wouldn’t make it past the sommeliers, high-end buyers, and big-name critics of the wine world, that such chemical or mechanical shortcuts would be picked up by their well-trained palates. But the truth is that these things can’t be sniffed, tasted, or spotted unless they are overused.

“Usually you need lab equipment to detect additives,” Draper says. “The Europeans had a very sophisticated machine that could analyze a sample for non-approved varieties like the Rubired in Mega Purple [a popular grape concentrate used to deepen the color of red wine], which was used to reject non-vinifera wines being imported from the States. They also had another machine that could detect whether non-grape sugar was added to a wine, and could even tell where the beets used for the sugar came from.”

Draper’s solution is not banning adjuncts, but asking winemakers to disclose them on a voluntary basis.

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Domaine FL

Domaine FL

In Rochefort-sur-Loire, Domaine FL has big plans for the future. A brand new winery building had largely been completed when we arrived last year, but a B&B and restaurant on the upper floors was yet to come. For our visit, we took in a gorgeous view of rolling hills while standing around a table trying the wines in the not-yet-completed top floor.

Founded in 2007 and organic since 2009, Domaine FL is named for owner Philip Fournier’s parents’ names: Fournier and Longchamps. Unusually for the area, the winery’s holdings are spread on both sides of the river, including some in the prized Roche Aux Moines sub-appellation. Wines produced by FL fall are classified as either Savennières or Anjou.

Domaine FL Vineyards

We started with Anjou Blanc, from the hills around the winery. In France, the wine is called “Les Bergeres,” but in the U.S. it is labeled “Le Chenin” -apparently an easier sell. The 2010 was refreshing with pronounced apple and drank easily. A good introductory wine not meant for aging. More intriguing was the 2008 Chamboureau made from Savennières grapes grown on schist. It aged for 18 months in barrels and vats, garnering an intriguing truffle nose in the process. This is a rich, complex wine ready to drink now by contrast the 2009 was fuller bodied but less intriguing. Just as interesting was the 2008 Roche Aux Moines from across the river. The volcanic rock imparted strong minerality to this racy wine. The Anjou Red "Le Cochet” is 100% Cab Franc with pronounced tannins when we tried it.

In good vintages, the domaine also makes sweet wines. We especially liked the 2009 Coteaux du Layon ”Les 4 Villages” – a medium sweet wine (80 grams/rs) balanced by nice acidity, perfect for foie gras or blue cheese.

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Here is a short film on Cecchin Winery in Mendoza, Argentina, filmed by Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine of The Perennial Plate.

A Very Old Concept from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

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Damien Laureau – Loire

Damien Laureau

Damien Laureau

Damien Laureau has been making wine since 1999 but he only started his own domaine in 2007, picking up parcels as they came up for sale. Now his is the newest winery in Savennières and adheres to organic principles. Since he owns eight different plots, he vinifies his Chenin separately then blends the wines together for two of his labels – Les Genets and Le Bel Ouvrage. Laureau also has a quarter of a hectare in the prized Roche Aux Moines sub-appellation, allowing him to bottle with that designation (the 2011 we tasted is his biggest, most powerful wine).

Damien Laureau Vineyard

We compared four vintages of the Les Genets, starting with the 2011, a vintage with good fruit and high acidity. 2010 amped up the acid and added a nice mineral background but was less approachable than the younger wine. 2005 reminded of a rich Savagnin, with half the wine having undergone malolactic fermentation.

We moved on to two vintages of Le Bel Ouvrage, which were more full-bodied. The 2011 was young, yet drinking well. Again the 2010 was not as immediately approachable – as it opened up, it drank well with the hallmarks of being better with a few years. To see where the wines could go, we finished with a 2003 – from that notoriously hot year – finding a very rich, powerful, ultimately delicious wine.

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Paterna Winery – Tuscany


Tuscany’s Paterna winery is proud of its certified organic status, but they’re even more proud of their commitment to working with people with special needs. They call the practice Agricoltura Sociale where those with disabilities are given a place in a rural setting. This philosophy also applies to their visitors, having made their Bed & Breakfast (or agriturismo) wheelchair accessible – a milestone in Italy where being physically disabled can be a true issue in terms of movement within the countryside.

The Paterna Team

The Paterna Team

Paterna, located near the city of Arezzo, has a very low-key vibe – no television sets for visitors. Rather they encourage visitors to take vegetables from the garden, cook outside with friends and share the outdoor spaces. They are also friendly and open to campers. They grow a host of indigenous grapes such as Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Colorino, Trebbiano and Malvasia. The winery has been organic for over 20 years.

The idea for this winery began in the 1970s, according to Marco Noferi, one of the founders. The terroir is a mixture of sand and fine clay, where Sangiovese flourishes. The area is located near the Pratomagno mountain which serves as a barrier from the winds from the Northeast. Marco told me they have considerable temperature shifts between day and night at the winery.



We spent a considerable amount of time talking about how much the countryside around Arezzo had changed. In the past, they had the culture of the Mezzadria where families would work the land for a “boss.” Sometimes, up to 200 families lived on the farms, working for the landowner. This system mostly ended by the 1960s, and there was an exodus from the countryside to the city. Some two-thirds of the population left and took with them the many skills needed to run country properties. During the 1980s, however, there was a return of interest in the area with people from Milano and from Switzerland looking to buy properties and using well-known consultants. Paterna was also founded in this period of time, but with a different philosophy. They are interested in recouping indigenous varieties, such as Pugnitello, and are one of the few wineries that grow this ancient grape.

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Just because you make organic wine doesn’t mean you can export organic wine. Just ask The Wine Kat:

In the States, we can’t say we’re organic. We use PMS (nothing to do with moods at certain phases of the moon) to add sulphur in the winery and that is forbidden under US organic regulations. We can however, as of this year, say that the wine is made using organically-grown grapes and we have to get a COLA (not coca) to approve each and every label we export into the States – this all has to be overseen by our importers, for whom I am sure it is a logistical pain in the neck.

In Europe, we can say that we are “organic wine” (it has to be written exactly thus) and we can give our biogro certification. However, if we do so, we not only have to courier original copies of all certifying paperwork for each shipment (no electronic copies here, because fraudulently claiming to be organic would be the end of the world, right?), but our importers also have to apply for and pay for a special license to be allowed to import and sell organic wine. It can be a real hindrance to sales to smaller importers who baulk at the costs and general-faffing involved.

This is a good example of what we’ve written about before – the costs and time burdens are put on the winemakers who are just doing things the way they’ve been done for centuries. Mostly, they just want to claim what they are ‘not’ doing – modern winemaking techniques that have changed the definition of ‘wine.’ It should be the other way around. The Wine Kat addresses this as well:

Yet, if you decide to Roundup (other herbicides are available) everything to within an inch of its existence, spray your vines with Karate (all-destroying-insecticide) at the first sign of anything with wings approaching, do you have to apply for and pay for any additional sort of export licenses? Not that I’m aware of. I guess because you don’t put it on the label!

According to her twitter page (@winekat) works at Seresin in New Zealand – which is a fantastic place to visit – and her her views are her own, not her employers’.

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