Natural Organic And Biodynamic
Natural, Organic and Biodynamic Wine
Being huge wine nerds, we are very excited to have labelled every wine in the shop based on production method. You will see little stickers on each price ticket, green for organic, blue for bio-dynamic and orange for natural. We know there has been a huge growth in demand for information about provenance and production when it comes to food and drink, and rightly so. More and more customers are asking how are wine is produced, not just what it tastes like, and we think this is brilliant. However we are not always sure everyone understands what each of the many competing and complementary terms surrounding grape production mean, so below we have a short(ish) explainer, along with some great wines produced in each way.
Green - Organic - The obvious one.
This means grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. To check if a wine is certified organic look on the bottle for a little green leaf made of stars, or the AB (agriculture biologique) sign on French wines. However, there are quite a few winemakers who grow organically and have done so for many years, but who can’t afford to go through the certification process as it can be very expensive for some very small winemakers. If we know and trust the winemaker in these circustances we are happy to count the wine amongst our organic range.
Red: Ribbonet Syrah £15.99 - Classic French Syrah from Ariege in the SW. Bright berry fruit, Cinamon and touch of white pepper.
White:Orsogna Lunaria Trebbiano d'Abbruzzo £15.99 - Bit of skin contact and lees fermenting makes a full bodied, citrus skin, nutty white. Different and interesting.
Blue – Biodynamic The wacky one.
Biodynamics is regarded as the next step after organics, but it is not quite that simple. Without going into a huge amount of detail here, Biodynamics was developed from the principles of Rudolph Steiner and in simple terms is a blending of organic ideals with a holistic, spiritual/mystical approach to agriculture. You may have heard of techniques like burying cows horns filled with home-made fertiliser and harvesting based on cycles of the moon. It sounds crazy but is fast becoming accepted practice among the best winemakers – many of whom we have met seem 100% sane! Look for the Demeter or Ecocert logo on bottles.
Red: Open Now Minervois £13.99 From a winery started by English ad-man John Hegarty this is ripe, easy to drink blend of Syrah and Grenache. Lots of bramble fruit, full but fresh. Proof that Biodynamics doesn't mean wacky when it comes to the taste of the wine.
White:Montirius Vacqueras £22.99 We met these two lovely, but ever so slightly bonkers winemakers on a recent visit to the shop where they told us how they play music to the wine as it matures, and allways keep a bottle of the previous vintage next to the maturing barrel so they can 'speak' to each other. The wine is wonderfully fresh and vibrant white hints of peach, white flowers and and salty, stony minerality
Orange – Natural The controversial one.
We don’t like the term natural here. It sounds too judgemental, as if all other wines were somehow ‘un-natural.’ The term ‘minimal’ or ‘low intervention’ best sums up this philosophy.
It started as a reaction against a ‘big winemaking’ style which buried the grape’s natural terrior under too many fancy cellar techniques. Lots of oak, bought in yeast cultures, added sugar, colour and acid amongst other things.The idea is that you get the clearest expression of grapes origin. Which we whole-heartedly support. The problems and disputes in the wine community have arisen from the way the term is misunderstood by some customers and the way some ‘natural’ wine tastes.
Sulpur is an additive which has been used since Roman times for cleaning and disinfecting. It is very good at preserving wine. However it has been deemed a problem by natural wine adherents, and one of the additives in wine which should be minimised or eliminated. This has lead to one direct and one indirect problem. The direct problem is that natural wines have a higher than average tendency to exhibit faults such as secondary fermentation (going fizzy in the bottle) oxidising (tasting like sherry) and others. There is a distinct ‘funky’ taste and especially smell to a good number of wines branded as natural. Some fans claim to love these flavours but to others they are faults which mar the ‘real’ taste of the wine - a problem for a philosophy said to be all about promoting real terroir.
The indirect problem is that more and more people believe that it is sulphur which has been giving them headaches after drinking a bottle of wine all these years. While there are a tiny proportion of people who have an allergy to sulphur, chances are that it is alcohol which is giving you that headache. After all sulphur is present in far greater proportions in products like dried fruits, packaged meats, squashes and more – if you can eat these without a reaction, wine should prove no problem.
Lastly, just to add to the controversy, there is no certification system for natural wines, no body to oversee who is following any principles. We have labelled wines as Natural/Low Intervention if we believe they are keeping intervention to a minimum, certainly, no pesticides, naturally occuring yeasts, no fining, and no additives or processing aids.
White- Alexandre Bain - Le Levee £27.99 Made in Pouilly Fume from Sauvignon Blanc but because his winemaking doesn't meet the criterion of the regulatory body he is forced to label it as Vin de France, a comprimise a lot of loe intervention winemakers a prepared to make to stick to their principles. It is wonderful and full-bodided with lots of spicy pear and quince.
Red - Domaine Vigneaux Syrah £13.99 From the Ardeche This is medium bodied with juciy red fruits, and an earthy, funky quality which adds a good savoury character alongside the gentle tannins.