Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine

Here is a short film on Cecchin Winery in Mendoza, Argentina, filmed by Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine of The Perennial Plate.

A Very Old Concept from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

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Damien Laureau – Loire

Damien Laureau

Damien Laureau

Damien Laureau has been making wine since 1999 but he only started his own domaine in 2007, picking up parcels as they came up for sale. Now his is the newest winery in Savennières and adheres to organic principles. Since he owns eight different plots, he vinifies his Chenin separately then blends the wines together for two of his labels – Les Genets and Le Bel Ouvrage. Laureau also has a quarter of a hectare in the prized Roche Aux Moines sub-appellation, allowing him to bottle with that designation (the 2011 we tasted is his biggest, most powerful wine).

Damien Laureau Vineyard

We compared four vintages of the Les Genets, starting with the 2011, a vintage with good fruit and high acidity. 2010 amped up the acid and added a nice mineral background but was less approachable than the younger wine. 2005 reminded of a rich Savagnin, with half the wine having undergone malolactic fermentation.

We moved on to two vintages of Le Bel Ouvrage, which were more full-bodied. The 2011 was young, yet drinking well. Again the 2010 was not as immediately approachable – as it opened up, it drank well with the hallmarks of being better with a few years. To see where the wines could go, we finished with a 2003 – from that notoriously hot year – finding a very rich, powerful, ultimately delicious wine.

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Paterna Winery – Tuscany


Tuscany’s Paterna winery is proud of its certified organic status, but they’re even more proud of their commitment to working with people with special needs. They call the practice Agricoltura Sociale where those with disabilities are given a place in a rural setting. This philosophy also applies to their visitors, having made their Bed & Breakfast (or agriturismo) wheelchair accessible – a milestone in Italy where being physically disabled can be a true issue in terms of movement within the countryside.

The Paterna Team

The Paterna Team

Paterna, located near the city of Arezzo, has a very low-key vibe – no television sets for visitors. Rather they encourage visitors to take vegetables from the garden, cook outside with friends and share the outdoor spaces. They are also friendly and open to campers. They grow a host of indigenous grapes such as Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Colorino, Trebbiano and Malvasia. The winery has been organic for over 20 years.

The idea for this winery began in the 1970s, according to Marco Noferi, one of the founders. The terroir is a mixture of sand and fine clay, where Sangiovese flourishes. The area is located near the Pratomagno mountain which serves as a barrier from the winds from the Northeast. Marco told me they have considerable temperature shifts between day and night at the winery.



We spent a considerable amount of time talking about how much the countryside around Arezzo had changed. In the past, they had the culture of the Mezzadria where families would work the land for a “boss.” Sometimes, up to 200 families lived on the farms, working for the landowner. This system mostly ended by the 1960s, and there was an exodus from the countryside to the city. Some two-thirds of the population left and took with them the many skills needed to run country properties. During the 1980s, however, there was a return of interest in the area with people from Milano and from Switzerland looking to buy properties and using well-known consultants. Paterna was also founded in this period of time, but with a different philosophy. They are interested in recouping indigenous varieties, such as Pugnitello, and are one of the few wineries that grow this ancient grape.

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Just because you make organic wine doesn’t mean you can export organic wine. Just ask The Wine Kat:

In the States, we can’t say we’re organic. We use PMS (nothing to do with moods at certain phases of the moon) to add sulphur in the winery and that is forbidden under US organic regulations. We can however, as of this year, say that the wine is made using organically-grown grapes and we have to get a COLA (not coca) to approve each and every label we export into the States – this all has to be overseen by our importers, for whom I am sure it is a logistical pain in the neck.

In Europe, we can say that we are “organic wine” (it has to be written exactly thus) and we can give our biogro certification. However, if we do so, we not only have to courier original copies of all certifying paperwork for each shipment (no electronic copies here, because fraudulently claiming to be organic would be the end of the world, right?), but our importers also have to apply for and pay for a special license to be allowed to import and sell organic wine. It can be a real hindrance to sales to smaller importers who baulk at the costs and general-faffing involved.

This is a good example of what we’ve written about before – the costs and time burdens are put on the winemakers who are just doing things the way they’ve been done for centuries. Mostly, they just want to claim what they are ‘not’ doing – modern winemaking techniques that have changed the definition of ‘wine.’ It should be the other way around. The Wine Kat addresses this as well:

Yet, if you decide to Roundup (other herbicides are available) everything to within an inch of its existence, spray your vines with Karate (all-destroying-insecticide) at the first sign of anything with wings approaching, do you have to apply for and pay for any additional sort of export licenses? Not that I’m aware of. I guess because you don’t put it on the label!

According to her twitter page (@winekat) works at Seresin in New Zealand – which is a fantastic place to visit – and her her views are her own, not her employers’.

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Congratulations to Rouge Tomate for being awarded three stars and a World’s Best Wine List Jury Prize from The World of Fine Wine.

What impressed McCoy, and her fellow World’s Best Wine Lists senior judges, was not simply the depth of the selection of natural, organic, and biodynamic wines, and the way it opens up new possibilities for drinkers, but that it pulls off this trick without being didactic. It’s an approach that fits snugly with the restaurant’s culinary philosophy: Flavor first.

Also winning three stars, and another Jury Prize, is Press, a restaurant in Napa, where former Organic Wine Journal contributor Kelli White is the sommelier.

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Or at least it seems that way. A title like “Why ‘Natural’ Wine Tastes Worse Than Putrid Cider” just doesn’t seem positive. Maybe I’m reading it wrong.

What natural wine devotees think is pure, clean and authentic can taste for others like putrid apple cider or just as bad – -characterless, bland and acidic.

No, that’s definitely bad. I would like to point out that according to the author’s own writing, this merely equates Natural Wines with putrid apple cider – it does not say how it is worse, as stated in the title. Is he going by price, bottle variation or whether the labels are prettier? He doesn’t say.

To back up his claim, author Bruce Palling speaks with a whopping total of one wine broker and cites one bad experience at a restaurant he had. He also states the natural wine movement didn’t take off until Noma started serving them.

For a rational response, please read what Alice Feiring has to say.

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Roagna Langhe Blanco 2012

Rogana Langhe Blanco

The Roagna family has been growing grapes organically and making wines traditionally in the Piedmont region of Italy for four generations. The family’s principle holdings are in Barbaresco (6½ hectares), but in 1989 they expanded into Barolo. The wines are known for their classic style. Never filtered or fined, they’re made with minimal amounts of sulfur and are aged from three to five years in large, old Slavonian oak. The Roagna’s have been known to bottle and then hold back the wines for a couple of more years before release. What they end up with is complex, well structured and made to age for a very long time.

All that being said about their spectacular reds, they also make one white that I completely forgot about until recently, when I was having lunch at Locanda Verde in Tribeca with some friends and saw it on the wine list. It was a hot day and the wine called to me. One of my hosts only drinks white wines, with the exception of Chardonnay, which she finds repulsive and undrinkable. I thought I was safe ordering the Roagna, thinking that it was probably Arneis or Cortese.

When the wine came and I was given the chance to sample before pouring, something wasn’t quite right. Don’t get me wrong, the wine was fantastic, but it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. It tasted eerily like a wine from the Macon or even a Meursault, and that meant Chardonnay. Too late. The bottle was open, everyone was ready to drink and celebrate (her kids had just graduated from high school), so I gave the go ahead to pour away.

Now, I have tried to slip a great Chardonnay past her many times, and I have always failed. She’d take one sip, wrinkle her nose, smack her lips in a disgusted way and ask for something else. Maybe it was the spirit of the celebration, or just the fact that this is a beautifully made white (90% Chardonnay/10% Nebbiolo), but there was a huge smile on everyone’s face at the first sip that lasted all the way through the second bottle.

The Roagna Langhe Blanco is medium-full bodied, crisp and minerally, with the taste of hazelnuts, pear and honey. It’s fermented in old oak casks and is then aged for 1 ½ years longer in a large oak cask. The 2012 is just out, and it’s priced at retail at $20. You have to buy one for that friend of yours who hates all Chardonnays.

P. S. I may never tell my friend what she loved so much that afternoon.

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The 2012 Pig in the House Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) from NSW’s Cowra wine region has been named the 2014 NASAA Certified Organic Wine of the Year.

The inaugural NASAA Certified Organic Wine of the Year Awards attracted around 100 entries from across Australia. The Awards were open to Australian wines that have organic certification from an approved body such as the NASAA.

“This is the first organic wine tasting only open to wines grown and produced in Australia and certified by a Department of Agriculture Accredited Certification Body, such as NASSA Certified Organic.” explained the Awards organiser, NASAA’s Ben Copeman.

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