Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine

From Decanter:

A biodynamic winemaker who refused to spray his vines with insecticide against a dangerous disease has said he is confident of victory following a court hearing, but prosecutors want him fined.

Emmanuel Giboulot emerged from the courtroom in Dijon today (24 February) to announce that ‘our arguments were listened to and I am fairly confident’.

He was facing a fine of up to €30,000 and possibly prison, but prosecutors requested a fine of just €1,000, with half that amount suspended. A verdict is due 7 April.

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Domaine Bio Coste Biau ‘06

While in Saumur for this year’s Dive Bouteille, I found myself dining at Bistrot Les Tontons, a cozy, good-vibe place with plenty of local natural wines. Gerald Beaumont, Tonton’s owner, kindly introduced us to fellow diner Mathieu Coste, vigneron of Domaine Bio Coste in the Coteaux du Giennois, north of Sancerre.

Mathieu Coste

Mathieu Coste

We hit it off immediately, and with Mathieu desperately wanting to practice his English, and I my French, we managed to have a long conversation about his natural winemaking practices. Then, much to my delight, he presented four of his wines for tasting, one of them being the Biau ’06. Biau, he explained, is the local vernacular for “beautiful” (as well as a play on “bio”) and it’s accurately named. The cepage is 80% Gamay to 20% Pinot Noir. The minerality, which he calls his acidity, is stunning. The aroma is mushrooms and moist earth, and then comes the spice and brilliant fruit on the palate.

While it’s ready to be enjoyed now, he thinks it can go another ten years. The 2006 is his current vintage, a testament to his patience in the winery. The cost is a slight splurge, probably around $25, but well worth the experience.

And speaking of experiences, while in the Loire we also managed to swing by La Levee de la Loire, a small, superb, all-natural, all-Loire Valley wine tasting held in Angers. I’ve never tasted a more uniformly amazing assemblage of wines, many available here, and others looking for a home here in U.S. If you haven’t already, get yourself to your favorite natural wine shop and check out their Loire selections. They’re hard to beat for their diversity, their elegance, their compatibility with every cuisine, or even just as a great vin de soif.

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Marco Capitoni

Marco Capitoni

The beauty of the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany has been celebrated since the Renaissance, earning the region its World Heritage Site status by UNESCO. I had the good fortune to sit down with one of the wine producers from this area that is blessed with such beauty, Marco Capitoni.

The Capitoni have been farmers in this area for generations. They farm both grains and vines at elevations of around 400 meters above sea level. “Our wines are all created on the vine,” Capitoni noted in an interview, “We have a limited production and we want to keep it that way. When the grapes get to our cellar, they are all healthy and rich in phenolics.”


Capitoni and I had a long discussion about the difficulties of growing a mono-crop and how it tends to exhaust the land. Captioni farms organically and works on managing the energy within the plant. He also works a lot on canopy management. “We work on managing the different phases of each plant. Not all of the leaves work at the same pace, nor do they work at the time. A three-month old leaf may not be working in terms of photosynthesis at the same level as a two-month old leaf. It depends on each plant.”

As one might expect, the wines in this region are based on the Sangiovese grape. Each year the area holds a wine festival in September called “Divin Orcia.” And every year Capitoni selects a phrase that signifies the wine and how the year went in the Val d’Orcia they print on the label. A recent one included La soddisfazione della fatica, le speranze ed i risultati… Orgoglio, which translates to “The satisfaction of hard work, hope and the results… Pride.”

Capitoni noted that each plant on his farm yields one kilogram of grapes or one bottle of wine. Captioni grows both Sangiovese and Merlot. In 1999, they added 10,000 Sangiovese plants and 6,000 Merlot plants. The Capitoni wines are aged in wood. He also used ambient yeast rather than selected yeasts. “The work is done in the vineyard, we don’t use any magic potions,” he added.


Orcia D.O.C. 2009

Made from a blend of Sangiovese (80%) and Merlot (20%). The wine ferments in stainless steel tanks for 18 days and then ages in barriques for 12 months followed by five months in the bottle. The wine was deep ruby red in color, with aromas and flavors of cherry and small red fruits on the nose and palate. It also had some tertiary aromas of tobacco and spice. It was a beautiful expression of Sangiovese, warmer than some of the Chiantis I have tasted but not jammy. It was harmonious and well balanced.

Orcia D.O.C. 2010

Also a blend of Sangiovese (80%) and Merlot (20%), I felt it had more tannins and was slightly more rustic than the 2009. It also had the cherry and the small red fruits aromas and flavors as well as the tobacco and cedar notes.

The vintage was a bit different. The winter was cold and damp while spring had considerable rain. July was sunny and dry but the vines were a bit later than in previous years in terms of their flowering. September was also dry but the tannins weren’t as ripe as in some other years so timing of the harvest was crucial.

Frasi 2008:

This wine comes from just one hectare that the Captioni family farms. The vines are 40 years old and are a field blend of Sangiovese, Colorino and Canaiolo. The three grapes are all fermented together with ambient yeast. This wine undergoes 18 days of skin contact so the tannins are riper and bigger than in the two previous wines. The wine undergoes pumping over during the skin contact period. The aging of this wine is done in 33 hl barrels of French oak from Allier. The wine is deep ruby red in color with strong cherry, herb and mushroom notes but with surprising minerality, a result of the soil with is a mix of sand and limestone with marine fossils. The tannins were much grittier on this wine.

For more information, or to visit the winery, go to

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The director of Mondovino, Jonathan Nossiter, is releasing a new documentary about natural wine called “Natural Resistance.”

From Wine-Searcher:

While “Natural Resistance” is about wine, it is not intended to be a sequel to “Mondovino,” according to Nossiter. However, it’s likely to ruffle a few feathers. Not only does it extol the virtues of so-called “natural wine” – a term that has no agreed definition – it attacks the country’s quality system, the denominazione di origine controllata (DOC), as well as conventional grape growing methods.

“Natural Resistance” is “the most joyful and optimistic film I have ever made,” said Nossiter. But the introduction to the 86-minute documentary, published in the Berlin Film Festival brochure, will displease many Italian wine producers within the country’s DOC system: “What looks like a bucolic paradise, where intelligent people produce wine according to time-honored and organic methods, is actually revealed to be a battleground. The DOC association, which is supposed to look after the interests of independent vintners, promotes winemakers who produce vast amounts in a standardized quality; and the agricultural industry with its hygiene regulations excludes traditional methods of production.”

It adds: “The only thing saving the landscape from being totally destroyed is affluent foreigners using the old vineyards as summer holiday homes.”

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alan_york_prepsAlan York, a leading consultant for biodynamic viniculture, has passed away at 62. He worked extensively with Mike Benziger at Benzinger Family Winery, and other wineries around the world. Fellow grape grower Phil Coturri had this to say:

“Alan was a horticulturist at heart. Loved plants, gardens and the teachings of Steiner. His passion and understanding of biodynamics helped spread the word internationally. I will always cherish the time I spent with him walking vineyards, talking about balance. Talking about healing the earth by understanding our soils and the environment in which our plants grow. Celebrating balance in life, wines and earth.”

Benziger Winery sent us the following about Alan’s life:

Alan Lynn York was born January 18, 1952 in Whitehouse, Texas and grew up in Morgan City, Louisiana. He told vivid stories of pirogue trips into the swamps and marshes nearby. He loved visits to Granny York, Aunt Willie and Uncle Lloyd on their farm in the pine forests of East Texas. Alan hated school and ran away to California at age 16. He returned home, finished high school, then moved permanently to Santa Barbara, California where he met his first love: horticulture.

Alan never willingly read anything until he began to garden. Then he read voraciously, first on organic gardening, then everything from Liberty Hyde Bailey to Rudolf Steiner, from soil management to orcharding, viticulture and landscape design. His first quest was “How can I grow the best plants without poisons and other chemical inputs?” After some years of gardening, landscaping, and fun in Santa Barbara, he met Alan Chadwick, a charismatic English gardener, actor, and teacher, well known for his amazing gardens at UC-Santa Cruz.

Chadwick relocated to Covelo, California where very dedicated apprentices joined him to create a garden project to demonstrate Chadwick’s French Intensive methods and his approach to biodynamics. Alan York served his apprenticeship, then joined the staff and finally was Head Gardener. After three years at Covelo, he departed and Chadwick said of him, “That young man has an enormous store of practical knowledge.” He threw himself into learning every practical thing he could, endlessly practicing each technique of propagating, fertilizing, irrigating, and cultivating every kind of plant in the garden. And he began to devote himself unstintingly to the spirit of the earth, to opening his heart to the heart of the earth. To observe his work was to see a perfect marriage of technique raised to art.

Two sides of Alan existed the remainder of his life. The easily visible part was the marriage of his ever-growing practical skills and landscape design capacities with his keen study of academic horticulture. He amassed quite a library. The less visible part was his devotion to the spirit, which he pursued through meditation each morning upon arising, and his form of karma yoga: serving the earth and its inhabitants through work.

Alan went to Detroit where he co-directed the horticultural education and gardens of the Waldorf Institute of Mercy College-Detroit. Then to Missouri where he directed the American Farm Institute, and finally back to his true home—California. Alan spent his remaining 21 years establishing an intensive apple orchard in Boonville, a large vineyard near Ukiah, very extensive work at Benziger Family Winery—now the leading biodynamic vineyard in California, and an ever-expanding international vineyard consultancy that took him to Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Italy, Israel, and France. He served as president of the Biodynamic Association for seven years and also edited the “Biodynamics” quarterly journal.

He will be remembered by his many friends, co-workers, and clients for his astounding sense of humor, infectiously deep laughter, keen wit and intellect, and devotion to his art and craft. In later years he could describe the difficult concepts of biodynamics with a warmth and clarity that few have achieved. Had he lived a few more years he would have achieved great international renown. Alan York is survived by his devoted soul-mate and wife, Rose Ann, his son, August, his mother Joyce Williams and his sister, Jan Flowers. Alan departed this life on February 3 , 2013.

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Jenny & François Selections is pleased to announce the 2014 Natural Winemakers’ Week, March 1-6!

Set your tweets to hashtag #nww14!

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. Set your tweets to #nww14!


11a-5pm: Astor Center Grand Tasting 399 Lafayette St, 4th St, NYC, (212) 674-7501

Tickets $29 at – this event sells out quickly!


4-7pm: Appellation Wine & Spirits 156 Tenth Ave, NYC (212) 741-9474

Free Tasting

8pm: The Farm on Adderley 1108 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn (718) 287-3101

Winemaker dinner with Christian Binner, Clement Cousin, and Hardy Wallace (Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery).

Featuring a seasonal, hearty meal to compliment the natural wine. $75/person

Reservations required –


10am-5pm: Jenny & Francois Portfolio Tasting 287 Spring Street between Hudson and Varick St

Trade and press only

Please RSVP – call 646-775-6400 or


5-7pm: Fermented Grapes 651 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn (718) 230-3216

Free Tasting

8pm: The Ides Bar – Wythe Hotel 80 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn (718) 460-8000

Party featuring all the winemakers, wines by the glass.


5-7pm: Chambers Street Wines Tasting 148 Chambers Street, NYC (212) 227-1434

Free Tasting

8pm: Aska Restaurant 90 Wythe Avenue Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718) 388-2969

Winemaker dinner with Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery. $150/person (including tax + gratuity)

Reservations required –

More Events to be announced! Please visit for updates and tastings throughout the city.

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The 200-year-old Wine Cave at Domaine Bernard Baudry.

The 200-year-old Wine Cave at Domaine Bernard Baudry.

The wine cellar at Baudry is an impressive sight; a 200-year-old cave carved into the side of the hill in Cravant-les-Côteaux, just west of Chinon. Hailing from a family of winemakers, Bernard Baudry studied in Beaune and worked as a wine consultant in Tours before launching his own winery in 1975. His son Matthieu joined him in 2000 and today they oversee 30 hectares, all farmed organically with no irrigation. When I ask Matthieu about being organic, he says simply that his father didn’t have the money to buy chemicals and so they never started.

Matthieu Baudry

Matthieu Baudry

Their grapes are hand-picked and aren’t pressed. Grapes are vinified separately, expressing the terroir of the plot they grow on. This being Chinon, reds dominate. Their Cabernet Franc on the gravel soil of the La Vienne River Valley becomes fruity and soft, but is richer with more tannins on the hillsides above the winery.

Baudry vineyards

The wines run from light bodied, Les Granges, to full bodied ones like Les Clos Guillot. Le Domaine 2011 may not have been from great terroir, according to Matthieu, but it had a nice minerality and will benefit from aging a few years. Les Grezeaux 2011 comes from the best vineyard site, a mix of gravel and clay, with a resulting power that sets it up for cellaring. The 2010 Les Clos Guillot ratcheted up the intensity with an aromatic nose, high acidity and long finish, and already refined though just a few years old.

By turns, the 2011 La Croix Boissée revealed itself to be chalky from the limestone soil, acidic with a hint of salinity. Try this one in five years to fully appreciate it. Or just seek out a 2003 – surprisingly fresh for that infamously hot vintage.

Learn more about Domaine Bernard Baudry.

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Obituary at The Press Democrat.

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