by Andy Besch
on Jan 23, 2014
While catching up with a wine rep/friend of mine the other night at Buceo 95, a terrific wine and tapas bar on the Upper West Side, I was reacquainted with Le Clos D’Un Jour. That’s both the name of the winery, in Cahors, as well as the name of this particular cuvée. Stephane and Veronique Azemar make three cuvées on their seven hectare winery situated on the Lot River, where their total production is only 12,000 bottles, and their 40 year-old vines are farmed organically. Grass covering the entire land is weeded by Oussant sheep, who serve not only as good weeders, but also as wonderful natural fertilizers. Whatever the sheep don’t eat is removed manually, never by machine. The winery uses no pumps — only gravity — to move things along.
Le Clos D’Un Jour (the wine) is the Azemar’s flagship Cahors, and is a blend of 90% Malbec (a.k.a. Cot, or Auxerrois) and 10% Merlot. It’s fermented in steel tanks, and aged for 18 months in cement. As you’d expect, only natural yeasts are used and there’s no fining or filtration. The color is true to Cahors’ reputation for “inky black” wines, but this wine is elegant. The Malbec gives it the oomph, and the Merlot gives it the grace. Full-bodied, with surprisingly soft tannins, Le Clos is black currant heaven, yet lively and bright. For about $20, I say bring on the duck or steak!
by Andy Besch
on Jan 21, 2014
I’m kind of breaking the rules by reviewing this wine, because it goes for around $30. However, it only comes in magnums, and that’s two bottles-worth, so it really only costs around $15, so it works for me. Jean-Francois Coutelou — locally known as Jeff — has been making wines naturally since 1987 in the Herault region of the Languedoc. He farms biodynamically, and there’s no hanky panky in the winery — just natural yeasts, no filtration or fining, and minimal, if any, SO2 added. If he does add it, it’s only in bottling.
The Sauve de la Citerne (“saved from the tank”) is a wine Coutelou makes from juice that he doesn’t know what to do with, hence the name. It’s juice that he feels just isn’t quite good enough for his higher priced cuvees, so he uses it to make this fabulous value. Take it from me, there’s nothing inferior about this wine whatsoever. It’s a full-bodied blend of 80% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache. Right away you’re in for a mouthful of blackberries and black raspberries, but then along comes a wave of bracing acidity and minerality. As time goes by it softens and there’s a nice creamy, velvety quality that takes over.
So the next time you have a gang over buy a bottle or two of this crowd pleaser. It’ll be gone before you get a chance to sit down and join your friends. And if you’re a retailer, you’ll appreciate the very cool label, too.
by Paul Howard
on Jan 20, 2014
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.
by Organic Wine Journal
on Jan 16, 2014
Join us for an evening of wine and discovery, at the Slow Wine US Tour: 3rd Edition. Using your own Slow Wine guide, a value of $25- included in the price of each ticket, you can taste your way through the regions of Italy, learning more about the quality, terroir and value of each wine. Join us to discover new wines and meet the people behind 70+ selected Italian producers who represent the Slow Wine values.
The third edition of the wine guide in English, Slow Wine, adopts a new approach to wine criticism and looks at a variety of factors to evaluate wineries in their entirety, taking into consideration the wine quality, typicity and adherence to terroir, value for money, environmental sensitivity and ecologically sustainable viticultural practices.
Terra Gallery & Event Venue
511 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Monday, January 27, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Buy tickets here.
by Sam Smith
on Jan 14, 2014
We recently had the pleasure of meeting with Sam Smith of Samuel Smith Brewery at Top Hops in New York City. He was kind enough to write this piece to introduce his brewery to Organic Wine Journal readers.
Samuel Smith’s is a small independent brewery based in Tadcaster in the county of Yorkshire in the North of England. We brew at Yorkshire’s oldest brewery, established in 1758. This extraordinary heritage is reflected in our use of traditional brewing methods, such as utilizing the classic Yorkshire stone square system of fermentation and delivering beer with a team of shire horses.
Beer delivered by Shire horses.
Our range of beers is regarded as one of the finest in the world, encompassing the classic British brewing styles. We are pioneers in organic brewing, with a broad range now encompassing 7 organically certifed beers and 1 organic cider. The brewery first started brewing organic beers in the mid 1990s, when the organic movement was still very much in its infancy. The quality of the beers, and the increasing interest in knowing where our food and drink comes from, has led to continually increased sales ever since then.
Stone square fermentation.
The brewery has to search far and wide to find good enough organic ingredients, with good organic hops being particularly hard to source. The hop plant can be very susceptible to mildew, thus finding hops of sufficient quality that have not been chemically treated can be a real challenge. Fortunately the brewery has some great partners as hop merchants who help us track down what they need.
Unlike many other breweries, all of Samuel Smith’s beers are brewed solely from natural ingredients. They are also all certified as vegan friendly and grown free from the use of artificial pesticides, fertilizers, growth agents or GM, which are becoming ever more prevalent in what we consume.
The staple organic beers are the Organic Pale Ale and the Pure Brewed Organic Lager. More recent additions to the range are the four organic fruit beers: raspberry, strawberry, cherry and apricot. These delicious beers are brewed from organic malt and hops and then blended with organic fruit. The brewery believes these to be the only organic fruit beers in the world – these unique beers are bursting with fresh fruit flavor and are quite delicious accompaniments to brunch.
The most recent addition to the Samuel Smith’s organic range is the Organic Chocolate Stout. The brewery has a reputation for brewing some of the finest stouts in the world, so we decided to develop an organic stout and thought it would make for a delicious beer if it could be brewed with organic cocoa. The result is an extraordinary beer which combines delicious milk chocolate flavors with a dry roasted malt body. The label on the bottle carries a picture of a cocoa bean and the latin term for the cocoa plant – ‘Theobroma Cacao’ – translated as ‘food of the gods’. After drinking the beer, we believe this phrase to be fully accurate.
As well as beer, the brewery has made cider for many years and more recently decided to start producing an organic cider. We source organic apples, which are then fermented to produce a brilliant medium dry cider which appeals to a broad range of drinkers. According to the ‘dirty dozen’ on organic.org, apples are one of the food stuffs we eat which is most contaminated by pesticide residues. This is why it is important to drink organic cider.
Having tasted all these beers it becomes apparent how exciting and fun it can be to appreciate good beer. Like fine wines, they combine different flavor profiles, which makes for a delicious drinking experience. Furthermore, like fine wines, these fine beers should be paired with food to enhance a meal. It could even be argued that tasting good beer is more exciting than tasting good wine, since the diversity in flavor can be so much more broad.
by Andy Besch
on Jan 13, 2014
In the heart of the Willamette Valley lie 210 certified Biodynamic and organic acres, all owned and operated by the Marchesi family. Rudy is the head of the clan, which came to Oregon via the Bronx. I really like that, but what I like even more are their wines. In a bit of an unusual set up, Rudy has two winemakers — Ben Thomas who oversees the reds (namely Pinot Noir) and Stephen Webber, a Brit, who’s the lord of the whites.
Working with cooler climate grapes, Stephen gets to play with German and Alsatian varietals, and the Borealis is a beautiful blend of four. It’s about one third Muller-Thurgau, one third Riesling, 20% Gewurtztraminer and 14% Pinot Gris. I know it sounds like a car wreck, but it’s more like a sleek Mercedes two-seater. The wine starts slightly off-dry (1.6 r.s.) with ripe peach and pear, and then evolves, cruising along to a beautiful long grapefruit and lime finish. An excellent ride, with great mileage (only 12.3% alcohol) and zero sticker shock, just $16. This is definitely a wine you should park in your wine lot. Vroom vroom!
by Andy Besch
on Jan 7, 2014
About twenty years ago, Dante and Helena Lomazzi became the third generation of winemakers at Dante’s four hectare family winery in Tuscany. In 1990 he converted the agriculture to organic (certified) and now practices biodynamic viticulture. The Rosso Jeune Vigne is their entry level red, made from 97% Sangiovese and 3% Colorino grapes. The wine is fermented in cement tanks and then aged in used Slovenian tonneau for a year. We’re talking native yeasts, no enzymes added, no filtration and only a tiny bit of SO2 added at bottling.
The result is a simply sublime medium/full bodied red with the perfect combination of brilliant red fruit, and herbaceous minerality. The acidity is there, the tannins are mild, the alcohol is 13%, and the price is somewhere around twenty bucks. Pretty much perfection in my book, but you be the judge. You know where to find me if you disagree, but I’m not worried.
Improbabile would be the Italian way to describe being a successful female wineaker in Puglia. Throw in being an Australian, and the fact that the winery is literally an industiral garage, and you have an interesting recipe for some of the best organic wine in the region.
Winemaker Lisa Gilbee went to her first wine tasting at 9. She loved everything about it, particularly the concentrated musty aromas that permeated the room. She knew then that she wanted to make wine. She left her native Australia for Italy in 1994 and landed in Puglia’s lesser-known winemaking region of Manduria. Seven years ago she started her winery Morella, named after her husband, Gaetano Morella.
Four years ago she applied for a building permit. Italian bureaucracy being what it is, the permit has just been approved, to which Lisa laughingly says, “The good news is that in that time we learned a lot about what we need. The bad news is that loans got tighter.” The building, which will include a home for her family, will be in the country amid their vines, a field of young ones (40 years old) on one side, and the old vines (80 years old) on the other. Lisa was lucky enough to purchase the old vine section from an elderly couple who tended the vines themselves until they passed away – 8 months apart from each other.
Everything Lisa does is natural. She holds herself to very high standards and employs a biodynamic “coach,” Ukrainian Alex Podolinsky, whom she knew from Australia. Before going biodynamic, as she puts it, “I stopped using the ‘icides’ – pesticides, herbicides, fungicides.” For her region this was radical, because most of the growers were in the sway of the chemical salesmen who promised increased yield. Naturally, this resulted in poor quality wine, mostly sold in bulk to other winemakers.
By choice, Morella is neither certified as organic or biodynamic. It’s not even DOC. Lisa follows her own farming practices and believes that her fans will trust that she’s done the right thing.
Despite the dreary, rainy day of our visit, Morella’s fields, even in their post-harvest state, glowed. The land and its plants radiated vitality, beauty and health. No wonder Lisa’s dream is to build her winery and home for her family amidst these vineyards.
Morella grows 4 varietals: Primitivo, Negroamaro, Malbec and Fiano. From these grapes, 6 wines are made: 4 red and 2 white.
Lisa describes her garage as a “lego winery.” Hand plunging, slow open fermentation and a basket press are her building blocks. The basket press – an old-fashioned cage with pistons that squashes the grapes – extracts 60% by volume and the grapes can only be pressed once with this method. Industrial presses yield 80%, the remainder of volume being stems and leaves. What’s left from her pressing is sold to distilleries.
The juice is then put into 300 liter barrels, mostly to segregate one varietal from another, but also to allow for micro-oxygenation and settling. The latter is essential because the wine will not be filtered. After 12–18 months, the wine is moved to either stainless steel or cement tanks for another 2–6 months. Then it is hand-bottled. She said, “It’s refreshing as an Australian to have wines with natural acidity. In Australia we have to add acid.”
Her final thought; “It’s old fashioned wine making with attention to cleanliness. If you have good vineyards, you don’t have to do much in the winery.”
The winery’s production is 20,000 bottles. 2000 are white. Most is sold in Switzerland, followed by England. A few palettes find their way to the U.S. so do yourself a favor and look for them. They are imported by Piedmont Wine Imports.
Morella Primitivo Negroamaro, 2010
Albero Damiano, the Maitre d’Hotel at Palazzo Indelli in the seaside town of Monopoli, tasted the wine and weighed in with the following – “Stupendous!” It’s not necessary to serve with this with meat, it would also work well with vegetables and fish. "Personally, I like wine that tastes of ripe fruit, which this does. Chocolate finish. Serve with figs, almonds, or biscotti.”
We agree with the expert. It’s elegant and sophisticated. Should be savored with a special meal, and if your meal isn’t special, this will make it so. This is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape-style wine.
Morella Old Vines Primitivo, 2010
Gorgeous wine. Full of ripe fruit, currants and berries, but not a hint of sweetness. Medium body. You can almost taste the gnarl in the vine. Legs linger on the glass leaving patterns like an historic leaded window. Deep ruby red (not as black as the Primitivo Negroamaro blend). Settles in after 10 minutes and becomes noticeably rounder and even more luscious. Albero Damiano added, "the ultimo Primitivo for typical Puglian food, like orrchiette with broccoli rabe, sausage and mushrooms.”
Learn more about Morella at www.morellavini.com