Friday, 25 April 2014

Earth Day: Think Wine, Consider Organic

Photo: Matthew Rogers (CCL)
So, I don’t know if you heard, but Tuesday was “Earth Day”. There seems to be new ‘days’ every year, only this is one that I’m sure most of us will feel something towards: the campaigns to reduce food waste and the amount of meat we eat, energy consumption, and the move to have more traceability and seasonality in the food we eat - and indeed, what we drink.

I completely love the idea of more natural growing and farming even though I know deep down we would not have enough food to eat without some more intensive practices. But I can’t (along with most of us I suspect) say that I buy organic produce as much as I would like, either down to price or availability.

I have, however, found particular things that I ALWAYS buy organic, and it’s purely due to the better taste; garlic is much stronger and thus you use less, and organic milk and dairy produce to me is much fresher tasting somehow. 

Photo at Bonterra Vineyards from my visit in Nov 2013

I am lucky enough to work with organic (and biodynamic) wines in my day to day life, and am often left questioning the value of organic on the product, and in particular on wines... Does it encourage consumers to pick up the bottle, or does it have the opposite affect? Do we intrinsically assume that as it’s organic, the price must be higher and the quality lesser than those at the same price? Or do we naturally assume all grapes for wines are organic anyway?

Well, from my own experience, and drawing on some time spent with Bonterra (USA) winemakers Bob Blue and Dennis Martin (both of whom have pioneered organic growing since the 1980s - WAY before it was ‘cool’) and Adolfo Hurtado from Cono Sur (Chile), organic grapes give wines a true expression of how they should be - the true depth of flavours, the characteristics, the yields, the intensity - its all how it is ‘supposed’ to be.

The flavours are clean and you can dig around a bit and find perhaps the earthy flavour you hoped for in that Pinot Noir, or the fresh, bright citrusy flavours you might expect in that Chardonnay. But, aside from the tasting notes which we all talk about, you can find a true product, crafted from grapes that have been grown with only natural fertilisers, water (Bonterra actually use their own reserves so not to pull from local water sources), soil and natural pesticides (Cono Sur in Chile release geese onto their vines to eat all the bugs).

In addition, the skill of growing grapes good enough to make wine from - and doing it naturally - is a pretty impressive skill in itself, and when this skill and brilliant winemaking comes together? Well, the wines are, in my opinion - awesome. I’m not saying all organic wines are amazing like I would never say all Sauvignon Blanc is amazing…. But you really will feel it when you get a good one.

As consumers, even if it's just once a year, maybe it’s good to reflect on the amazing amounts of natural resources that go into our favourite things; and wines and spirits are no exception. So, as a celebration of ‘Earth Day’, albeit a little late,  try something organic or environmentally friendly this weekend, and see if you can taste the difference.

If you’re thinking of some pretty amazing wines - which happen to be organic - the Bonterra range (made by Bob Blue himself) is available from both Waitrose, Ocado & Tesco - the Chardonnay is my favourite white wine (bold statement I know- but it is SERIOUSLY good), and the Zinfandel is a truly Californian variety which is currently Tesco’s wine of the week. 

Let me know if you try an Organic wine/spirit/beer this weekend, and how it was for you!

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