New Treats for the Organic Wine Lover

By most accounts, certified organic foods now make up about 5% of supermarket sales, and are an $18 billion industry. But why drink organic wines? Like consumers, wine growers have been moving towards organic farming for over a decade for health and environmental concerns, and because it makes sense to farm sustainably for the benefit of future generations and vineyard productivity.

Notwithstanding the somewhat misguided, prevalent consumer view that organic as well as biodynamic wines represent “fringe” elements of the wine production industry, the number of organic producers around the world continues to grow. Why? For the same reasons why all-time classics like Domaine Tempier in Bandol, Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, Beaucastel in the Rhône, Mas de Daumas Gassac in the Languedoc, and Domaine del la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy have long followed these practices: because it produces better wine in both the short term and the long.

So if anything, producers like Paul Dolan and Ceàgo in Mendocino, Frog’s Leap and Rubicon Estate in Napa Valley, Badia a Coltibuono and Lageder in Italy, and Capcanes in Spain are not just following suit, they are simply catching up with what some of the great producers of the world have known all along. And it’s a good thing.

For a more complete description of organic, biodynamic and vegan delineations, see my earlier post, Organic Wines You Can Seek Your Teeth Into. Some of my most recent “finds”:


2006 Del Bondio, Oakville Chardonnay (Napa Valley, California; organic grapes) – If you like organics yet prefer the classically broad, honeyed, toasty oaked, almost tropical fruit style of California Chardonnay, this one has all of that; with, however, a pleasingly tart, zesty edge quite atypical for mid-Napa style Chardonnay

2008 Pircas Negras, Torrontés (Argentina; organic grapes, vegan) – Luscious white made from a grape originally indigenous to Galicia in Spain; floral, tropical fragrances suggesting papaya and avocado; off-dry (i.e. whisper of sweetness) on the palate, with slightly lemony, zesty qualities giving fresh, easy sensations. (Note: “vegan” wines are those filtered or fined without the use of animal products like egg whites, casein, gelatin and isinglass).

2007 Alois Lageder, Benefizium Porer Pinot Grigio (Alto-Adige, Italy; biodynamic) – Very minerally, crisp edged, linear and refined, delicate Alpine style (as opposed to soft, simple, fruity) of the grape; fleshed out on the palate with sweet pear and pippin apple qualities, finishing smooth, stony dry, almost Chablis-like.

2006 Jean-Baptiste Adam, Riesling Reserve (Alsace, France; biodynamic) – An initial touch of residual sugar underlines this chubby, juicy, medium-full, glycerol textured bottling, rich in floral, peachy fruitiness tinged with the fusel qualities of the grape; yet the balance is very fine and buoyant, as the wine finishes clean, fresh, and very nearly dry.

2006 Francois Chidaine, Montlouis Clos du Breuil (Loire River, France; organic grapes) – Whites from Montlouis are made completely from the Chenin Blanc grape, and are classically tart and dry as rocks. This bottling follows the script, before veering off by exuding a supple, succulent, melony fruitiness of thick, densely textured qualities suggesting a countrified, wildflower honey, effectively rounding out the wine’s green apple acidity and minerality.

biodynamic pyramid


2005 Quivira, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (California; biodynamic) – Classic, zesty Sonoma style – pungent, sweetly ripened, jammy black cherry/red berry aromas and flavors – packaged in a snappy, silky, medium-full (closer to medium) body.

2006 Ceàgo, Redwood Valley Camp Masuit Merlot (California; biodynamic) – Classic red berry/black cherry aroma with floral, violet-like perfume; round, fleshy, very polished texture to luscious berry flavors, buoyed by soft tannins.

2006 Cooper Mountain, Reserve Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon; biodynamic) – Pretty, feminine nose of sweet raspberry leaf tea with pepperminty nuances; soft, silky, refined qualities on the palate -- very much the delicate "Oregonian" style of the grape once always expected out of Willamette Valley, but seen less and less in these days of full extraction wines -- that are both aesthetically satisfying, and satisfyingly easy to consume. Nice.

2006 Maysara, Jamsheed Pinot Noir (Oregon; biodynamic) – Plump, juicy, wild berry aroma with autumnal spice nuances; the spiciness becoming more pepperminty and green leafy/herbal on the palate, intertwined with rounded berry flavors, medium tannins, and zippy acidity giving a lively, medium-full palate feel.

2005 Höpler, Pinot Noir (Burgenland, Austria; biodynamic) – Spring flower fresh, floral and perfumed; in fact, very fine, gentle, rather feminine in weight (light-medium bodied), the pure red berry flavors extending seamlessly across the palate.

2004 Lageder, Krafuss Pinot Noir (Alto Adige, Italy; biodynamic) – Very serious stuff; showing a Pinot nose of floral strawberry/wild berry fragrance complimented by smoky oak and burnt leafy nuances; rounded, luscious, juicy entry in the mouth, becoming zesty with acidity in the middle, the smoky, spiced berry sensations ringing all the way through a long, lively finish.

2007 Gemtree, Tadpole Shiraz (McLaren Vale, Australia; organic/uncertified biodynamic) – There aren’t a lot of organic wines coming out of Australia, and this one offers all the black, deep, bouncy, lush fruitiness Shiraz lovers look for in their reds; an intense nose, suggesting raspberry liqueur, with a vanillin oak veneer; a soft medium-full body underlined by easy tannins, allowing the Shiraz fruit to pleasure the palate.

2007 espelt, Sauló (Emporado, Spain; organic grapes) – Good and ripe, aromatic blend of Garnacha (60%) and Cariñena, yet solid with slightly drying tannins lending a dense, muscular, medium body presence, the juicy, cassis-like flavors pushing through at the end.

2005 Capcanes, Old Vines Mas Donis Barrica (Montsant, Spain; organic grapes) – A blend of Garnacha (85%) and Syrah, exuding ripe bing cherry fruitiness, with a backdrop of smoky/flinty, minerally/stony, and even faintly gamey qualities; medium-full body filled by smoothly rounded tannins, the earthy fruit qualities pushing through a bracing finish.

2007 Cantine Barbera, Nero d’Avola (Sicilia, Italy; biodynamic) – The underappreciated Nero d’Avola grape yields black colored, yet amazingly soft and lush styles of red wine, and Cantine Barbera’s is choice – teeming with luscious, sweetly aromatic black cherry aromas, following through on the palate in an easy, medium body rounded by ripe tannins and the pure, lively, persistent qualities of the grape.

2005 Badia a Coltibuono, Chianti Classico Riserva (Toscana, Italy; organic grapes) – A pure, nearly flawless expression of Chianti and the Sangiovese grape, beginning with a lush, red berry nose with undertones of forest floor twigs and rose petal potpourri; firm yet silky, densely concentrated yet elegantly composed on the palate, finishing long, almost sweet in intensity.

2005 Clos Roche Blanche, Cabernet Touraine (Loire River, France; organic grapes) – Pure, soft and refined Cabernet Franc based red, defined by an earthy raspberryish nose tinged with cedary wood, the mildest gaminess and a green leafy mintiness; smooth light-medium body unimpeded by tannin or weight, the dusty raspberry flavors lingering on the palate.


2003 Capcanes, Pansal del Calàs (Montsant, Spain; organic grapes) – While pretty much a rarity, retailing for around $33 (500 ml.), this is such a remarkably unique dessert style wine – big and sweet like Port, but not nearly as heavy or spiritous – that it begs attention. A full bodied (17% alcohol) blend of Garnacha (around 70%) and Cariñena, yet incredibly smooth and well balanced: deep ruby color followed by sweet raspberry/cherry aromas with the slightest touch of rancio (a complimentary oxidation); juicy, succulent, lusciously sweet flavors pushed up by lively acidity, giving flavors of nearly endless exhilaration, as fresh and immediate as sucking directly from the fruit off the vine.


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"I fought against the bottle," as Leonard Cohen wrote, "but I had to do it drunk"... specializing in wine as a restaurateur, retailer, wine judge, journalist, frequent flyer and mental traveler. But to me, wine is a food like a rose is a rose. So why all the fuss? Currently: Editor-at-Large/Bottom Line Columnist, The SOMM Journal; Contributing Editor, The Tasting Panel. Awards: Sante's Wine & Food Professional of the Year (1998); Restaurant Wine's Wine Marketer of the Year (1992 & 1999); Academy of Wine Communications (commendation) for Excellence in Wine Writing and Encouragement of Higher Industry Standards; Electoral College Member, Vintners Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone.