Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


I have always been a believer in the versatility of rosés, and while they are not wines for the ages (with the exception of the serious ones from appellations like Tavel) they shouldn’t be dismissed as frivolous summer quaffs. I enjoy them all year — they’re especially good with Thanksgiving dinner — and I especially like them with a couple of years aging. That said, I discovered this Sicilian rosé a couple of years ago, and immediately added it to the 40 others that I sold.

The Di Giovannas have been making wine since 1860 (newcomers) and all five of their vineyards have been certified organic since 1997 (Suolo e Salute srl). The brothers Di Giovanna, Gunther and Klaus, oversee all the winemaking and winegrowing. This rosato is 100% Nerello Mascalese. The juice is macerated for about 12 hours — this is no light, pink, watery rosé — and then fermented on the lees in stainless steel for three months. It’s then filtered and fined, giving it some softness without taking away from its relatively full body.

Try this with grilled fish or even a lamb burger, because its reasonable 13.5% alcohol level belies its heft. About $15 will get you a bottle. Even in a world of a gazillion rosés, this one should make your cut.


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It’s two Philippe Bornards at once. Watch Victoria’s reviews of Philippe Bornard
Trousseau 2010 & Ploussard 2009.


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The recreational drug of choice in Colorado isn’t always Vodka, but when they put their mind to it, they produce a great organic spirit.

Update: “Vodka 14 is made from a grain blend of rye and corn, very similar to what you find in a grain blend for bourbon.”


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Hella Bitter

With all the organic spirits we’ve been reviewing at the Organic Wine Journal lately, it was only a matter of time before we had to start resourcing some bitters to take our cocktails to the next level. As luck would have it, we randomly ran into the guys from Hella Bitters – three friends who co-founded the company in 2010 and make their products in New York City.

They make two different types of bitters – a citrus and an aromatic – and sell them in stores like Whole Foods and Crate & Barrel, as well as on their website: www.hellabitters.com. If you’re ready to have your home bar go from good to extraordinary, this is what you need to arm yourself with.

Are they organic? – well, not yet. We’re talking to them about that. But they’re carefully sourcing all their ingredients, and we all know where that road leads. We’re going to be doing some cocktails with these guys in the future, but in the meantime, here’s some photos from our visit to their bitter-making lair.

The Hella Bitter Team at their facility.

Jomaree Pinkard – “Coach”

 

Eduardo Simeon – “Mission Control”

 

Tobin Ludwig – “Tastemaster”

 

Man-size cinnamon sticks.

 

The team is constantly experimenting with new recipes.

 

A new blend to try out.

 

Rose hips. No idea what they are, but they look pretty.

 

Two super-secret test batches of bacon bitters – one in whiskey. I’ve pre-ordered the entire run of that, so you can have the one on the left.

 

The wood that puts the bitter in bitters.

 

Tobin prepares a new batch to test.

The heavily guarded R&D board. They said it was ok to share it, but not the full Wi-Fi password in the bottom right.

 

Test batches and ingredients.

 

Eduardo on top of the two tanks.

 


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When Scott Holliday visited Chateau Tour Grise in the Loire Valley just before harvest time two years ago, it had been raining for weeks, leaving the grapes to soak up water. Everyone feared a catastrophe — “You could see it on everyone’s face – just weary from the battle.” But instead of a wasted season of diluted wine, the final result was stunning. Resembling a Rosé, Holliday remembers, “It was simple little sandwich wine but I enjoyed that more than any other wine I’d tasted all year long.”

It’s personal experiences like these that Holliday likes to incorporate into the wine list at Rendezvous in Cambridge, where he serves as co-wine director with Nicole Bernier. They have many Italian and Spanish wines to match the mediterranean cuisine, but France makes up the majority of selections, reflecting Holliday’s belief that this is the best country to start a wine education with. “The French are very comfortable with hierarchy and structure,“ he says. A Burgundy or Bordeaux often represent their regions consistently, so it is easier ”to explore wine within these categories.”

Since joining Rendezvous in 2008, Holliday has shifted the wine list towards organic and biodynamic wines. While offering organic selections from several larger producers, he strives to support smaller winemakers as well. “I’ve worked in small independent restaurants, and there’s a certain kinship between what we do and what they do. I relate to them on a very visceral level.”

While supporting the practices, Holliday does not indicate which bottles are organic or biodynamic on the menu. Instead, he prefers to discuss the wines in person with his customers, so they can make their own informed decision. "I feel like there are more people drinking, but I think the baseline knowledge has gone down. There are all these people who we have the opportunity to educate and to encourage.”

One of his favorite customer interactions came last year, when Holliday explained the biodynamic process to a young graduate student. She was very taken by it, and came back repeatedly over the next year saying, “I want the wine that was made with the moon.” Holliday reflects, “She got it. Maybe not in all its technical aspects, but certainly in the poetry behind it.”

Rendezvous
502 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
(617) 576-1900
www.rendezvouscentralsquare.com


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Vinos Ambiz Table at the Real Wine Fair

Vinos Ambiz Table at the Real Wine Fair.

Winemaker Fabio Bartolomei from Spain’s Vinos Ambiz traveled to London to present his wines at the Real Wine Fair 2014. Here’s his experience:

I’m just back in Madrid after an intense 4 days in London, 2 days of which were taken up by the REAL Wine Fair itself, and 2 days of which were for me!

My main mission: to boldly seek out an importer for my wines in the UK.

Sunday was the day the fair was open to the public, and the forecast was that it would be busy. And it was! I have to say that I’ve never had to work so hard at a fair in all the years I’ve been exhibiting at wine fairs.

The time just flew from 10:00 to 18:00. I did nothing but speak and pour wine, and I had sore feet and a sore throat! Usually, at wine fairs, I prepare a sign that says “I`ll be back!” and I go off and taste as many wines as I can and chat about wine stuff! But this time… I didn’t even have time to prepare the sign!

I suspect that something viral or ‘word-of-mouth’ happened, as the first thing that many people said to me was “I’ve been recommended to come taste your wines by….”. It was awesome, thinking about it. It’s really the best and most sincere compliment that can be given to a wine producer. It has encouraged me no end, and has reconfirmed my belief that I should listen to myself, my heart and my intuition. I generally do, but there are moments when I’m assailed by doubts. The memory of that day will help to keep me on the right path. The path of low-intervention, terroir-expressing wines! :)

The next day, the Monday, was a trade day, and I was also quite busy, though not as much as the Sunday. And in fact I had a volunteer helper: Leila, a friend who I was out with the day before, and she asked me directly “Can I be you wine bitch tomorrow?” I was shocked and speechless for a few seconds! Because, not living in the UK, I’m not really sure these days what’s politically correct or socially acceptable to say or not anymore, but if she said it then I guess it must be OK!

Fabio Bartolomei and his wine b$#@$ Leila.

So, thanks to her, I was able to escape from my table a few times and taste some other wines, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to. Apart from restaurant and wine shop people, I also got some growers coming round to taste my wines, which is quite unusual for me (unless they knew me previously from some other occasion). I could tell they were growers because they were silent and didn’t ask any of the usual questions. They would just hold out their glasses, sniff, taste and look each other in the eye silently, and then go away!

So I don’t know what to think about that! But I think I’m going to take it as a compliment, because they must have had some kind of recommendation from someone, and they actually took the time to get away from their table. Unfortunately I don’t actually know what they thought of my wines, as they were so taciturn!

And then lastly, to round it all off, was the Georgian banquet, or Georgian supra, as it’s called. This is a wonderful way of having a dinner or banquet. Basically, instead of just one or two main courses, there was a constant flow of small dishes of different things.

But the main distinguishing element of a Georgian dinner, is the custom of giving toasts to all the guests. Every so often during the meal, you hear the ting, ting, ting of a knife on a glass and that’s the signal that the toastmaster is about to give a toast. I think this is a great custom, and we should adopt it here in Western Europe too. It has the effect of bringing all the guests at the different tables, together and of uniting everybody in a way. I found, at any rate.

Yet another distinguishing feature of Georgian banquets, is the singing. This time there is no ting ting ting on the glass, but every so often you hear the melancholic, minor key, sad, sad singing of two or more voices. You may or may not like it, but I’m a sucker for it, and it actually really did bring a tear to my eye. What with all that Georgian wine flowing too, and me being like the way I am! Of course I have no idea what the words in Georgian mean, but I’m imagining deep tragedies and laments, and yearnings; maybe from the Persian invasions of a few thousand years ago! I don’t know.

The next day, I was to fly back to Madrid – but in the afternoon. I decided a few years ago, that life was too short, not only to drink bad wine, but also to take early morning (or even morning) flights!

Which gave me time to go to the Doodle Bar, in the TestBed1 space/project/thing, which is in danger of being “redeveloped”. I hope my little contribution helps.

And then it really was time to go home. But wow, what a weekend, what a refreshing, illuminating, and encouraging few days. Just what body and soul needs, maybe just a few times a year :)


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