Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


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“Everywhere.” That’s what the sales rep told me when I asked where their best organic wines were at the March 18th David Bowler portfolio tasting. Bowler is known for supporting organic and biodynamic wines, and recently acquired all of Nicolas Joly’s wines — so recently, that all they had to taste that day was three bottles leftover from the decision meeting. Lucky for me, I got there early and was able to try them.

Savenierres ‘Les Vieux Clos’ 2013 is extremely mineral driven with chalk and slate notes dominant, notes of apricot were also found on the palate with a zippy finish. Savenierres Close Coulée de Serrant 2013 is a completely different wine, bright and fresh on the nose with prominent notes of rich, tallegio cheese on the palate. Finally, Savenierres Close de la Coulée de Serrant 2012 is bright with lemon zest notes on the nose and a creamy, lengthy, almost Burgundian chardonnay finish. Pretty impressive.

Moving on, it was time to take advantage of the beginning of rosé season and try a few gorgeous examples. Bandol Rosé from Domaine de la Tour du Bon that was light, fresh and tasted of fresh peach juice and clementines. There’s a reason this wine is summer in a glass.

My favorite, by far, was Champagne Tarlant. The Tarlant family has been making Champagne since 1687 and the vineyards have been passed down from generation to generation ever since. Melanie Tarlant was behind the table during my visit and was as bubbly and fun as the Champagne. Not only did she promise to send me her t-shirt (which read “F**k Number 5, I love Champagne”) but also told me which of her grandmother’s favorite vineyards each wine came from.

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Two bubblies that stood out from this tasting were Champagne La Vigne d’Or Brut Nature 2003 that is made completely from Pinot Meunier and had a surprising creaminess. The other is a champagne Melanie says is made from the “forgotten grapes of Champagne: blanc, arbanne and meslier. The Tarlants call it BAM! The wine has bright acid, lemon and lime on the palate with lots of bubbles.


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Anjou Noir Organic Winemakers invite you on Monday, July the 20th at 10 am, at Domaine Richou in Mozé sur Louet for the 4th edition of the « Paulée de l’Anjou Noir ». A glorious and friendly event to celebrate Anjou wines and gastronomy.

Black Anjou organic wines offer a remarkable diversity of expressions. The winemakers members of the association « Paulée de l’Anjou noir », share the same philosophy. They are organic and/or biodynamic producers and they want to produce real terroir wines. They have a strong will to bring new dynamics and a renewal in Anjou wines.

The fourth edition of the Black Anjou Paulée will take place at Domaine Richou in the Aubance Valley. The idea is to meet for an interesting, festive and friendly event, when the work in the vineyard is about to be finished and before harvest time.

Program:
From 9 am: Welcome coffee
From 10 to 12 am: Departure for an interpretive walk in the Aubance Hills with a few stops aimed at the discovery of special features with the help of experts.
12 am: Tasting
as of 2 pm: Barbecue and relaxing time at Domaine Richou.

Come and meet with Anjou noir winemakers, discover their terroirs and taste their wines, at Domaine Richou on Monday, July the 20th, 2015.

More info: www.pauleeanjounoir.fr


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Cascina degli Ulivi

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Some organic winemakers evolved as the movement gained recognition, while others come from families that never used pesticides for financial or philosophical reasons. But few have had the experience Stefano Bellotti of Cascina degli Ulivi recounts. It was the early Eighties and Stefano had gone from organic to biodynamic, but this was decidedly out of fashion with the winemaking set, then enthralled with all the new technologies being introduced. He was producing 50,000 bottle at the time when the floor fell out beneath him. Some negative press, including poor reviews in Gambero Rosso, had vaporized his customer base. Nearly a decade’s worth of effort building his name wiped out with a swipe of the pen.

Stefano works land that has been in his family since 1936, when his grandfather bought the farm. His grandfather may have had no idea about organic practices, but worked the land for years in this fashion, including planting the first vines. By the time Stefano was 18, only an acre of vineyards remained and the steadfast lad decided to revitalize the holdings. The year was 1977 and it never occurred to him to use pesticides. An encounter with Luigi Brezza led him to convert to biodynamic practices, and the market responded positively — until that bout of bad press brought him to his knees.

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Luckily for wine drinkers, Stefano persisted and rebuilt his reputation, with an assist from the German market. Today he sells over 110,000 bottles all over the world and is widely respected as one of the top biodynamic winemakers on the planet. He resurrected the farm side of the property as well, to balance out the crops and also supply an agriturismo and restaurant he opened in 1998. His holdings today amount to 22 hectares of vineyards, 10 hectares of crops that include ancient varieties of grains and cereals, 1 hectare of vegetables and 1,000 fruit trees along with cows and chickens. He even planted almond trees to help combat phylloxera.

Located near Alessandria in eastern Piedmont, the pastoral agriturismo is set amidst vineyards, rolling fields and wandering farm animals. A rustic building offers 4 duplex rooms and a restaurant mainly supplied by the farm — over 80% of the goods are grown and raised on the grounds. You will find homemade yogurt, jams and delicious rustic bread among other treats. And don’t miss the house-cured 3-year-old prosciutto.

During dinner one night, we tasted 10 wines alongside a degustation menu (antipasti, pasta, secondo and dessert) costing €28. Wines by the glass are a reasonable €4 – €6 and the full range is available to taste, thankfully with your room a mere steps away.

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A 2007 Filagnotti Cortese from Gavi grapes was a rich, fruit-forward wine that showed very well with some age. The 2009 Montemarino is Cortese aged in acacia barrels, a complex wine that needed the extra years to integrate its flavors, while a 2009 A Demua, a blend of Riesling, Timorasso, Moscatello, Verdea and a few others, sees 2 years of skin and 2 years in bottle, making for a deliciously funky oxidized style wine. We tried two Nibios side by side, a 2006 Terre Bianche and a 2007 Terre Rosse. The ’06, grown on limestone from vines aged 10-40 years was more elegant and showed great balance. The ’07, grown on red clay, was earthy, more full-bodied and quite intense. By contrast, a 2006 Mounbé (85% Barbera with Dolcetto and Ancellotto) with evident tannins still had years to go. We finished with a floral 2008 Passito, made from the moscat grape, which sees 1 week of skin contact and 10 months of fermentation. The resulting wine is all about balance, not too sweet with notes of honey.

I have met few winemakers as passionate as Bellotti in their respect for the rhythms of nature and their stewardship of the land. He never set out to be an evangelist but even through the lean years, he persisted in executing his vision. The proof is evident in everything he does and these wines, not of all which are imported into the U.S., are worth searching out.

Website: www.cascinadegliulivi.it/eng/index.php


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July 8-10 2015 in Marlborough, New Zealand

The Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowing conference is the first of its kind to be held in New Zealand and is being organised through Organic Winegrowers NZ.

The conference will run over 2 ½ days and will play host to speakers and guests from all over the world. The programme will feature a number of technical seminars, panel sessions, an international and New Zealand organic wine tasting, keynote speeches and an organic feast, designed and prepared by award winning chef Bevan Smith from Riverstone Kitchen in Oamaru.

The conference is open to all wine industry members in NZ and Australia and is an opportunity for companies to learn more about every aspect of organic viticulture, wine production and marketing.

Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ) is a growers’ association dedicated to supporting and encouraging the production of high quality organic wines.
Founded in 2007 by organic viticulturists and vineyard owners from every major wine region in New Zealand, OWNZ is an independent incorporated society, governed by and for its members. The organisation is led by a national executive committee of organic and biodynamic winegrowers, and by regional grower committees in several wine regions.

To promote networking and learning, OWNZ delivers field days and workshops on organic winegrowing throughout New Zealand. Other current projects include creation of online and printed resources on organic growing; marketing and publicity about NZ organic wines; and organic research projects. In spring 2011 we launched the Organic Focus Vineyard project, a research and demonstration project highlighting the process of converting a vineyard to organic management.

OWNZ works in partnership with New Zealand Winegrowers, who provide collaboration and some funding support.

For more information go to: www.organicwineconference.com


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BIODYNAMIC GRAPE GROWING & WINEMAKING SHORTCOURSE

Date: March 23, 2015
Time: 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
Location: Maysara Winery in McMinnville, Oregon
Address: 15765 Southwest Muddy Valley Rd, McMinnville, OR 97128
Price: General – $60 | Students – $30
Tickets: http://biodynamicshortcourse.brownpapertickets.com/

Sponsored by Demeter USA and Maysara Winery, the full day session offers a comprehensive look at Biodynamic® farming and winemaking from local practitioners and winemakers along with an open forum for questions. The event will be held at Maysara Winery in McMinnville, Oregon from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm

Join committed practitioners and educators for a full day seminar and tasting created especially for those in the wine community interested in learning more about Biodynamic farming and winemaking. Practical information on the certification process will be shared, and myths and misinformation will be clarified. Attendees will learn how this high level sustainable farming practice contributes to grape and wine quality.

The Program:

The Short Course begins with a history of Biodynamic agriculture, and proceeds through a series of focused conversations among veteran vintners and viticulture experts on topics of fundamental importance for American wine: What defines a BD farm in concept? What practices make up a BD winegrowing system? What effect does it have on grape vines and wine? Is there any science to back it up? What are the similarities and differences between NOP organic and Demeter Biodynamic? What do BD winemakers have to say? The speaker list includes many Oregon based Biodynamic farmers and vintners.

Throughout the day, there will be an open conversation to include attendee questions and comments.

A delicious lunch will be served mid-way through the program, and at day’s end all guests will be invited to try some of the wines created and shared by the Short Course speakers.

The Logistics:

BD Winegrowing Short Course will take place on Monday March 23 from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm at the beautiful Maysara Winery located at 15765 Muddy Valley Road in McMinnville, OR. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets at: http://biodynamicshortcourse.brownpapertickets.com for $60 which includes lunch. There is a student rate of $30. For more information contact Barbara Gross at 503-649-0027 or bgross@coopermountainwine.com.

About Maysara Winery

In 1997, Moe and Flora Momtazi purchased an abandoned wheat farm in the foothills southwest of McMinnville, Oregon. The plan was to grow pinot noir grapes that reflect the old world way of farming holistically and producing un-manipulated wines. Maysara winery and Momtazi vineyard are dedicated to create an ecosystem that preserves the land as a whole without any external or unnatural additions.

Today, Momtazi estate consists of 532 total acres with 250 acres planted of pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot blanc, muscat and riesling vines. Maysara Winery has been certified Biodynamic since 2007 and Momtazi vineyard since 2005. It is the largest certified Biodynamic vineyard in Oregon, and the second largest in the USA.

About Demeter USA

Demeter USA is a non-profit American chapter of Demeter International, the world’s only certifier of Biodynamic® farms and products. Biodynamic agriculture goes beyond organic, envisioning the farm as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. In an effort to keep the farm, the farmer, the consumer, and the earth healthy, farmers avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers, utilize compost and cover crops, and set aside a minimum of 10% of their total acreage for biodiversity. The entire farm, versus a particular crop, must be certified, and farms are inspected annually. In order for a product to bear the Demeter logo it must be made with certified Biodynamic ingredients and meet strict processing standards to ensure the purest possible product.


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Jenny & François Selections is pleased to announce the 11th annual Natural Winemakers’ Week, February 26th – March 3rd, 2015. Natural, Organic and Biodynamic Winemakers from France, Italy, Spain and the USA are coming to NYC for a week of wine dinners, classes and free tastings.

Winemakers Coming:

Dufaitre (Beaujolais), Clos Siguier (Cahors), Oudin (Chablis), Chemins de Bassac (Languedoc), Patience (Languedoc), Grange Tiphaine (Loire), Mortier (Loire), Rimbert (Loire), Plageoles (South West), Quantico (Sicily), Ca’ dei Zago (Veneto), Azimut (Penedes), Flos de Pinoso (Valencia), Dirty and Rowdy (California), Vinca Minor (California), Montebruno (Oregon)

For an updated listing of dinners and tastings go to www.jennyandfrancois.com/nww15.


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The Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute released a new annual study they’ve started conducting about American wine consumption. Here are their findings for 2014 as relates to organic wine:

Though the Organic Trade Association reports that 41% of American consumers are now buying organic food, this number is not as high with organic beverages. That could explain why only 16% of this sample said they look for organic wine as part of their decision-making process. Listing “sustainable” on the label only was important to 10% and “biodynamic” to 6%. Other research indicates that many Americans assume that most wine is organic anyway and therefore don’t look for these cues, and some consumers confuse the term “biodynamic” with “genetically modified,” which can be a deterrent to purchase.

We’re emailing for the full report, but some quick thoughts until then. It’s not surprising that more people look for organic food than wine. For many, the simple word combination of “organic” and “wine” still conjures up the idea of a wine with something missing, like diet soda. It’s the first year of the study so we’ll see how that 16% figure changes over time.

The more interesting thing, of course, is the claim that “many Americans assume that most wine is organic anyway.” We’ll be delving into that once we get the full study. The authors of the report are professors Dr. Liz Thach, MW, Dr. Janeen Olsen and Dr. Tom Aktin.


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Daniele Ricci — Piedmont

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The pile of grape skins sitting in the middle of a field provides the first clue that Daniele Ricci is no ordinary winemaker. When asked about it, he remarked “what comes from the ground, returns to the ground.” The skins are fertilizer for next year’s vines and we have on display, in vivid detail, full-circle, ultra-natural winemaking.

Carlo Daniele Ricci is a third generation winemaker, making wines under the label Azienda Agricola Ricci in the town of Costa Vescovato, a little-tread corner of southeast Piedmont. Not even an hour from Milan, the province of Alessandria is easily bypassed by the wine consuming hoards in search of Barolo and Barbaresco to the west. This is timorasso country. “Huh?” you ask. “Timo-who?” It turns out that the signature white grape of the region is one that nearly vanished into the dustbin of history, until being revived by another area winemaker, Walter Massa, in the past two decades. The grape is an aromatic white varietal with good acidity that ages well, yet somehow proved easily forgotten. Ricci, along with Massa and a handful of others, are working to build a new audience for timorasso, though few can rival Ricci’s natural, long skin-contact wines.

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We met Ricci in his winery, just off the town’s main square, and it’s readily apparent he eschews technology in the winemaking process. His wines are unfiltered with long maceration times of up to 90 days. He uses a pneumatic press and does not believe in batonage. He climbed up on a ladder to show us wine fermenting in wood, pushing down on the slats to reveal grape skins and gurgling liquid fully alive. Some of these wines will age for years in bottle — one current release, the 2004 San Leto, is ten years old. About the only thing Ricci will do is add minimal sulfur, about 60 mg/hectoliter.

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Ricci is equally non-interventionist in the fields, where his philosophy is to follow the rhythm of nature. “Quality of life has no price,” he says, showing us the healthy vines now hibernating for the winter. In the spring and summer, herbs and greens grow beneath the vines, imparting herbaceous notes in the grapes. Ricci considers himself a farmer first, and even grows an ancient variety of wheat low in gluten.

Down in the valley where he has a two room agriturismo, for friends and family, we settle into chairs to taste wines alongside a three year old prosciutto. First is a 100% timorasso, the 2009 Il Giallo di Costa. With 90 days of skin contact, the wine proves very intense with a long finish, and is definitely built for aging. In comparison, the delicious 2007 Il Giallo di Costa, which has some sherry-like characteristics, is a blend of cortese, favorita and timorasso. By contrast, Terre di Timorasso, aged twelve months in stainless on the lees, showcases the brightness and acidity of the grape with a more approachable style and medium body that would be versatile to work with a range of foods, from seafood to chicken.

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The 2004 San Leto Riserva, named for the vineyard where the grapes are grown, is killer. 100% timorasso, the wine sees 2-3 days of skin maceration before aging for 18 months in 500-liter oak and acacia barrels and an additional 12 months in bottle. The ’04 is rich and oxidized with a racy perfuminess. Alas, this riserva San Leto, identified by its blue label, is not made every year. The next release will be a 2006, possibly followed by a 2010.

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Far off the beaten path, Ricci has succeeded in creating a sustainable model for winemaking that leaves him, perhaps, less famous but instead a true steward of the earth. If you make it to his corner of the world, there’s even a place to stay.


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