Great Organic Wines (For Organic & Non-Organic Wine Lovers Alike)
by Randy Caparoso
WHY DRINK ORGANIC WINES?
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.
In California alone there are now some 12,000 acres of vineyards (almost 5% of the state’s total) certified by third party organizations like California Certified Organic Farms (CCOF); and there are nineteen wineries certified as producers of Organic Wines (i.e. wines farmed organically and vinified without additional sulfites). It is also worth noting that over 90% of vineyards up and down the West Coast are farmed sustainably, without any certification. The days of routine, rampant use of chemicals are long gone, and practices like cover cropping to establish organic mulching and foster beneficial insects, and canopy management to minimize mildewing and other diseases, have become pretty much standard practice in the U.S. and around the world.
While prestigious, longtime organic producers like Napa Valley’s Frog’s Leap, Domaine Ostertag in France and Alois Lageder in Italy have never aspired to “save the world” agendas, the reasons to drink their wine are ultimately the same as that of any other wine: grapes from clean, healthy vines also make some of the world’s finest, most distinctive wines.
There are hundreds of certified organic wines to choose from in the Colorado retail market, although you often have to look on the back labels to see the designations. Here are twenty perfectly delicious examples, all retailing between $9 and $18, and available in stores in select specialty wine stores on Colorado’s Front Range (and in most cases, across the country):
2007 Frog’s Leap, Rutherford/Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (California; made from organic grapes) – Crystal clear, fresh, green melon aroma with herby, grassy undertones; lemony crisp entry, become round, soft, long and slender in the middle, finishing with a light lemon and honeydew fruitiness.
2007 Holmes, Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand; organic grapes) – Classic New Zealand nose – green herby, slightly peppery, and grapefruity fresh – followed by crisp, fine, silky, lemony dry and refreshing flavors.
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).
2006 Paul Dolan, Mendocino Chardonnay (California; organic grapes) – Ripe, slightly tropical fruit aroma with creamy oak embellishments; medium-full, crisp and fruit-forward on the palate; finishing soft and lush.
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 qualities, finishing smooth and stony dry.
2007 Meinklang, Grüner Veltliner (Austria; biodynamic) – This would not be the biggest, most complex Grüner Veltliner you might find on the market; but ounce per ounce (just $12 retail), you won’t find a better buy; fresh lemon and lime on the palate, with a distinctive flintiness in the nose and on a light, breezy palate; finishing lightly tart, utterly fresh.
2007 Organic Vintners, Mendocino Pinot Noir (California; organic grapes, vegan) – Totally clean, lush, pure, sweet berry jam aroma with vanillin oak and peppermint leaf nuances; unabashedly soft, lush, juicy qualities on the palate; ready to drink now, while still young, plump and
2005 Parducci, True Grit Mendocino Old Vines Petite Sirah (California; organic grapes) –The Mendocino Wine Company (owner of the Parducci as well as Paul Dolan labels) applies both organic and biodynamic growing regimes. The color here is black and blue, and the nose deep and intense; studded with blueberry, blackberry, roasted coffee, toasted oak and sweet, balsamic-like nuances. Thick, bouncy, juicy qualities on the palate; the aggressive fruitiness wrapped in vanillin and dill-like oak, plumped out by slightly chewy, wham-bam tannin.
2004 Saracina, Mendocino Syrah (California; organic grapes) – A literal larder of twiggy herbs, hard spices, violets and liqueur-like blackberry sweetness in an aggressive nose, filled out by toasty oak; dense, full throttled weight and tannin, punching out sinewy, smoky flavors, finishing with more bang than finesse.
2006 Ceágo, 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 Casa Barranca, Arts & Crafts Red (Central Coast, California; organic wine) – Proof positive that zero-sulfite wine can be fresh and clean on top of unfettered; classic Merlot fruitiness and framework (blended with 25% Cabernet Sauvignon); plump red fruit and smoky oak nuances in the nose; perfectly rounded, fleshy, velvety feel on the palate, finishing with a luscious, drink-now fruitiness.
2006 Ventura, Syrah (Lontué Valley, Chile; organic, vegan) – Sweetly floral, violet-like nose punctuated by peppercorn spice and a whiff of leafy herbiness; on the palate, rich, round and easy medium-full body, with good flesh and fruit-forward qualities.
2006 Nuevo Mundo, Cabernet/Carmènére Reserva (Maipo Valley, Chile; organic grapes, vegan) – Dense, purplish ruby and a rich, juicy, spiced berry nose with jalapeño-like potency; medium-full, fleshy feel with rounded tannins at the center, carrying the sweet berry and peppery flavors into a pliant finish.
2008 Pircas Negras, Malbec (Famatina Valley, Argentina; organic, vegan) – Big nose, bursting with brambly raspberry/blackberry fruitiness; snappy feel and medium weight, the luscious fruit driving through a lip smacking finish; and finally, to boot, a stupidly good (about $12) price.
2007 Weingut Michlits, Pinot Noir (Burgenland/Osterreich, Austria; biodynamic) – Lovely, lush, juicy nose, redolent of fragrant wild strawberries; burst of juicy, persistent Pinot Noir fruitiness on the palate; soft yet firm and lively with acidity – like a black haired waif in skintight dress – without being lean, rough, hard, or tart.
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.
2006 Meinklang, Zweigelt (Austria; biodynamic) – Bright, purplish pigments and sweet raspberry/blackberry nose, direct, expressive, and fairly intense; soft, fruity entry couched in soft tannins, the flavors finishing fresh and easy.
NV Organic Vintners, Tinto (La Mancha, Spain; organic grapes, vegan) – 100% Tempranillo; richly aromatic, with black fruit and licorice, with an earthy, smoked meatiness; rich, soft flavors propped up by moderate, rounded tannins, finishing long, almost sweetly fruity.
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 San Vito, Chianti (Toscana, Italy; organic grapes, vegan) – 100% Sangiovese; super nose of honeyed red berries and a pungent, earthy smokiness, suggesting fresh, oily, extra-dark roasted coffee beans. On the palate, the strawberryish fruitiness punches through the smoke, zapping the palate with fresh, easy, buoyant qualities.