Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


New York’s most exciting wine tasting of the year will be held once again in the spacious Granite Room and Rose Room of City Hall Restaurant at 131 Duane Street. All proceeds from this event (as well as $500 donations from Chambers Street Wines and Louis/Dressner) will go to Partners-in-Health “breaking the cycle of poverty and disease in Haiti and 11 countries around the world.” (For more information or to contribute directly, go to www.pih.org) Admission is $20, cash or check at the door. No sign-up sheet this year so come anytime, but we would advise arriving between 1:00 and 2:00 or between 3:30 and 4:00.

Natural viticulture, hand harvesting, low yields, wild yeasts, non-interventionist winemakng, and, most importantly, enjoyment, are the “principles” of Louis/Dressner. These growers are a unique and fascinating group committed to the natural expression of their terroirs and culture through honest, traditional wines. Here’s the list of vignerons attending:

Domaine de la Pépière, Muscadet; Domaine Luneau-Papin, Muscadet; Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon; Domaine du Closel, Savennières; Domaine François Pinon, Vouvray; Domaine des Terres Dorées, Beaujolais; Domain Franck Peillot, Savoie; Domaine Eric Texier, Rhone; Montesecondo, Tuscany; Weingut Knebel; Weingut Immich-Baterieberg; Weingut Clemens Busch and Weingut Koehler-Ruprecht.
And we’ll be pouring wines from these outstanding domains as well: La Sansonnière, Anjou; Noella Morantin, Touraine; Tue-Boeuf, Touraine; Puzelat-Bonhomme, Touraine; Les Vin Contés, Touraine; Michel Augé, Touraine; Laurent Barth, Alsace; Claude Maréchal, Burgundy; Paul Pernot, Burgundy; Jean Manciat, Macon; Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie; Desvignes, Morgon; Georges Descombes, Morgon; Lard des Choix, Ardeche; Marcel Richaud, Rhone; Oratoire Saint-Martin, Cairanne; Hauvette, Provence; Mas Chimères, Languedoc; Domaine du Possible, Roussillon; Nusserhof, alto Adige; Monte dall’Ora, Valpolicella; Bera, Piedmont; Cascina Tavijn, Piedmont; Ca de Noci, Emilia-Romagna; Graciano, Emilia-Romagna; Sanguineto, Montalcino; Guttarolo, Puglia; Del Prete, Puglia; Romeo del Castello, Sicily; De Bartoli, Sicily. Wow, what a list, see you on the 22nd!


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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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Olivier Cousin Trial

Jim’s Loire has a 3 part write-up about Olivier Cousin’s day in court:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


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Outside of central Boston, beyond the new cocktailians and craft beer bars in Cambridge, the Red Line ends at Davis Square, home of Tufts University. In the past year, several cocktail saloons and organic wine bars have popped up here, including Spoke Wine Bar. As the name suggests, Spoke offers bespoke small plates, from Chef John DaSilva, in a casual speakeasy setting with an extensive organic wine list, handpicked from small wineries by the owner, Felisha Foster. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with Foster about her impressive career, love of Boston, and of course, organic wine.

Falling into wine (her own words) fifteen years ago Foster has worked on the retail side, as a distributor and an importer, and most recently spent five years working as a buyer at Dave’s Fresh Pasta, a local favorite. At Dave’s she earned a reputation for building the Davis Square wine palate by choosing wines from small European wineries, but recently discovered that the retail side was no longer for her. After an epiphany on a motorcycle trip out west, Foster decided she was ready for something else.

“The space popped up right next to Dave’s, so it just kind of made sense because I knew the community already had a built-in clientele,” said Foster. “I really wanted to take the plunge.” In fall of 2012, Spoke opened its doors, with Foster stationed at her spot at the front door, warmly greeting patrons into the dimly lit cozy space. The wine list, which rotates frequently, features wines listed in order from “Light to Full-Bodied,” with knowledgeable sommeliers at the ready. During my visit, I tried a Filipa Pato 2012 Chenin Blanc from Portugal. While not certified organic, the Pato is like many of the wines Foster chooses, practicing organic production, but feel they are too small to make the leap to get certified.

“I’m interested in portfolios and the problem with the whole organic thing is that a lot of the people that I deal with are not going to get certified,” Foster said, “They’re like, ‘My family’s been doing this for eight generations, why would we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a stamp on the back of our label for something that we’ve been doing forever?’”

She is drawn to these smaller importers and portfolios less by the fact that they are organic, but for the quality their smaller production yields. “I’m drawn to the way those wines taste because they have more of a sense of place – they don’t taste commercial,” she said.

Foster, who works with distributors like Dressner and Kermit Lynch, handle many wines including some that are biodynamic and sulfite-free. Her regular clientele have learned to trust her opinion and relationship with the wines over the little green label. Like the producers Foster works with, she maintains a close relationship in the Davis community – evident by her proximity to the bar – she lives four minutes away. And the feeling is mutual, “I just love the area and the community – we’ve been very well-received.”

Spoke is located in Somerville, MA at 89 Holland St.

Website: www.spokewinebar.com


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Organic and biodynamic wines now come from all parts of Italy, as these practices are beginning to seriously take hold in the country. One of the Sicilian wineries that has adhered to these practices for the past 20 years is Manfredi Guccione from Palermo. The winery is located at 500 meters above sea level in the hills of Contrada Cerasa, near the city of Monreale; an area in Sicily where people from Albania migrated generations ago, and where a local language is still spoken that is akin to Albanese. The area’s grapes were usually sold for blending wines, because of their high sugar content.

In 2005, Guccione decided to change the way he grew his grapes and cut yields drastically. He used both ancient Sicilian winery and natural winemaking techniques to produce his wines. They use field blends for their wines, rather than planting clones or genetically modified plants.

Harvests are done by hand and fermentation takes place using ambient yeasts. They add nothing to the wines, nor do they filter them, preferring to leave them in the most natural state possible. Additionally, they have lowered the amount of sulfur they use. This natural approach continues through bottling and packaging, putting on the labels by hand and using beeswax to seal the bottles.

Their motto in Sicilian is “Stu Vinu fa respirare l’anima,“ loosely translated to ”this wine helps the soul to breathe."

The winery was certified organic in 1996, relatively early in the history of natural winemaking in Italy. They are moving towards becoming a biodynamic winery as well.

The winery only produces mono-varietal wines, focusing on indigenous varieties such as Trebbiano, Catarratto, Perricone, Nerello Mascalese and Nero d’Avola. They choose to make only mono-varietals because they feel they reflect the perfect terroir of the area and the precise microclimate that they are blessed with.

I was introduced to the winery during Vinitaly 2013. They participated in the event as part of the Vivit group of organic, biodynamic wines – a separate section in the fair. The 2014 edition of Vinitaly will have a much larger number of “natural wines” from all over the world.

The winery has clay soils, and a particular microclimate with large thermal excursions of temperature. They produce 21.000 bottles annually, divided among eight wines. The wines are sold in a number of European countries such as France, Spain, Germany, England, Norway and Sweden, as well as in Japan, the US and Australia.

The family was truly lovely and I enjoyed the wines immensely, a good reason to go back to Palermo and Monreale to visit the winery and the amazing Monreale Cathedral.

Tasting Notes

Lolik 2011

100% Trebbiano that spends four months in 3 hl tonneaux, and then in stainless steel tanks for five months before being released. This was a beautiful white wine with floral notes and minerality. Perfect for light summer fare.They also make another version of Trebbiano called Veruzza that is only aged in stainless steel.

Gibril 2011

This is made from 100% Nerello Mascalese. It matures in 4 hl tonneaux. It was a gorgeous red wine with fresh red fruit aromas and flavors, as well as rich, chewy tannins. This grape variety grows well at higher altitudes. Many will recognize it from the wines of Mt. Etna, where it is often blended with Nerello Cappuccio. Some say that it is genetically related to the Sangiovese grape from Tuscany.

Arturo di Lanzeria 2011

This wine is made from 100% Perricone. This wine is refined in 4 hl tonneaux as well. The wine was deep ruby red in color with lovely red fruits, some oak and lots of spice. It also had chewy tannins and a hint of minerality. It also has considerable minerality for a red wine grape. Perricone is another Sicilian grape that is often used in blends. It too is supposedly related to Sangiovese. 



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The fourth FIVE fair is gathering steam. This year it will be held in Pamplona’s Ciudadela (Fortress Park), a landmark of the Navarre capital, on the 6th and 7th of May. FIVE has become the great meeting point for the peninsula’s organic wines. More than 30 different D.O.s have participated in the three previous fairs and wines have been on show made from native varieties seldom seen on the modern market, as is the case with monastrell, bobal and viognier. The fair has attracted importers from more than 20 countries, among which are to be found the main buyers of this type of wine.

Following on from previous fairs, the aim is to have some 60 participating wineries, so that visitors will have sufficient time to familiarise themselves with the wines on show. FIVE’s hope is that quality will come out, the quality of the products on show. That is the reason why the emphasis of the fair is not on an advertising display by the wineries participating but on testing and getting to know the wines on an equal footing.

After three successful fairs attended by organic viticulturists from Spain, Portugal and France, FIVE has opted to optimise its efforts to energise the the sector. Accordingly, last year it decided to organise the event on a biannual basis, concentrating in the ‘odd’ years on organising other activities aimed at strengthening the presence of organic wine in international fairs and other events related to the sector. Last year, the first virtual fair took place with the participation of 56 Spanish, French and even Italian wineries.

FIVE is organised by AEN – the Association of Organic Agricultural Enterprises of Navarre. This year, as well as the fourth FIVE fair, it is organising an organic wine promotional drive for Prowein in March, Europe’s largest fair for the sector. Organic, biodynamic and natural wines from the south of Europe can participate in the fair and visitors can register without charge. For more information and registration visit our webpage: www.five-bio.com.


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Coulee de Serrant

Coulee de Serrant

Nicholas Joly is as close to a living legend as the Loire Valley gets, especially in terms of organic and biodynamic wine. He holds court in a rambling old château in Savennières, hidden behind ancient stone walls, vineyards covering the hill behind the study. He does not live here but, instead, resides in the 12th Century monastery behind the hill.

Nicolas Joly and his daughter Virginie

Nicolas Joly and his daughter Virginie

Joly is an evangelist for natural winemaking and the moment you meet him, he will challenge your ideas on the subject. Sure, people may not use pesticides, even follow biodynamics in the fields, he says about his fellow winemakers in the Loire and elsewhere, but when they go into the cellars there are almost no restrictions. That, he warns, is when the funny stuff happens – like re-yeasting, which he alleges is a common practice.

If you let him (and face it, you have little choice) he will talk about his new passion – truth in wine labels. He lists ingredients used to fine wines or additives being used and says “consumers should know.” It truly is horrifying and you can’t help but agree with him. This will go on for a while and then he might be called away to the phone. He’ll point to the wines, three carafes lined up on a tray, and simply say, “help yourself.”

All Joly’s wines are hand-harvested in four or five passes as they reach botrytis stage, and have been farmed biodynamically for the past thirty years. Compost comes from 10 cows and 2 bulls, plus a herd of Ouessant sheep that winter in the vineyards.

The three wines tasted were 2011 Le Vieux Clos, 2011 Clos de la Bergerie and the 2011 Coulée de Serrant, the last his very own appellation. The wines were open for seven days and showed exceptionally well – he posits that Chenin picked at this late stage gets better after it is opened. The Clos de la Bergerie especially shined, a very rich, very refined Chenin that clearly benefited from being open so long.

Website: www.coulee-de-serrant.com


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From Dr. Vino:

Frédéric Niger Van Herck, a partner and the winemaker at Domaine de l’Ecu, posted the news that their “Expression de Granite” 2012, one of three bottlings that express the different soil types, has been denied the approval of the tasting committee. Here what he said on FB:

News of the day: Granite 2012 has just been rejected by the AOC tasting committee–and unanimously, no less… Promised for next year, full-on chemistry, mechanical harvesting, commercial yeasts, full use of enzymes, and sulphur galore… It should pass that way.

The worst thing is that everything is sold out and have nothing left… When will these official tastings end that turn the beautiful into standardized products? [my translation]

Long live the French wine!

He elaborated that the panel of five tasters judged his wine to be oxidized, adding “what a bunch of…”


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