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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Jacky Blot – Loire

Winemaker Jacky Blot

Winemaker Jacky Blot

Michael Tulipan did a recent tour of the Loire, visiting a number of wineries that were all small, family-owned and practicing organics or biodynamics. Here’s the first is the series in the series.

You cannot taste wines with Jacky Blot until you know exactly where they came from. So you clamber into his vintage – what shall we call it? Jeep? Jitney? Let’s go with jalopy – the kind of vehicle low and heavy enough not to get caught in the vineyard muck, but where you feel every rut in the seat of your pants.

On a sunny day, after a period of ceaseless rain in Montlouis, he takes us for a loop around the most recent vineyard acquisition, Clos de Mosny, a prized plot surrounded by imposing stone walls. Jacky stops occasionally along the way at various plots, always pointing out nearby rows of vines that have been sprayed, where the soil looks hard and dead. His plots, by comparison, are bristling with life – the tell-tale grasses and vegetation of the organic way.

Clos de Mosny

Clos de Mosny

Some of these vineyards are up to 100 years old and still yield excellent grapes. Jacky is proud of all this, but we really must taste some wines. For starters, if you can find his sparkling Triple Zero – triple as no chaptalization, no sugar added, no dosage used in making it – it’s a must try. The 2011 is bone dry, a true palate memory eraser. With this, the marathon commences, starting with whites from Domaine De La Taille Aux Loups. The 2011 Remus proves very dry and full bodied while the 2011 Remus Plus takes that body and ups the dryness to desert bone dry. From the new vineyard, the 2011 Clos de Mosny (the first vintage and monopole) is already very good with a wonderful elegance. Alas, only 30 barrels of it exist.

Jacky Blot Wine Barrels

Suddenly, we are in Vouvray and drinking a racy 2011 Clos de la Bretonniere from old vines. For fun, we compare a 2008 Remus with a 1996, which is termed ‘entry level.’ If this is entry level, everyone else doesn’t stand a chance. Seventeen years brings the nose of a demi-sec but with a dry finish. It’s a big, vibrant wine and proof well-made wine, no matter what the supposed quality level, can live on and on.

Then we move on to the reds from Blot’s other label, Domaine de Butte. Highlights are the* 2011 Mi Pente, a dense red with supple tannins, and the 2011 Perrieres, grown on clay, big and robust. We end with the sweet wines. The 2009 Moelleux* is fresh and well-balanced with 50 grams of residual sugar. The 2009 Cuvee Romulus floors us, a richly delicious wine, sweet, balanced and lush.

Visit the Jacky Blot website.

See more of Michael Tulipan’s writing at The Savvy Explorer.

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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

“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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Regular readers of Wine Alchemy will know that I am a particular follower of Caiarossa, a Super-Tuscan biodynamic red wine that was first made in 2003. I have followed every vintage release closely since then, as it seems to me that this is a wine that, while always excellent, has improved each year as the vines have become older (they are now ten years of age) and the influence of biodynamic vineyard practices deepens. In addition, while Caiarossa is always a blend, mostly of a number of bordeaux grape varieties with Tuscan sangiovese, the proportions of these grapes in the final blend have varied markedly with each release; reflecting the terroir and the specific vintage conditions encountered each year on the Tuscan coast.

Each new release of Caiarossa is therefore unique and has become something of a special occasion at BD Mansions. What seems an emerging theme is the rise in importance of cabernet franc to become the lead grape, now displacing merlot from that role, and the current 2009 follows this, being a blend of 25% cabernet franc, 21% merlot and 18% cabernet sauvignon. Sangiovese is increased in 2009 to 19%. Supporting balance is achieved with 8% petit verdot, 6% syrah and 3% grenache, these latter three grapes being used in much smaller quantities than previously.

Rather than simply write a review of Caiarossa 2009, I really wanted to drink it paired with food, as perhaps most wines should be, and as Italian red wines really demand. But what food to pair it with? It would be easy to call in the usual suspects but I had decided to set myself a few criteria.

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