It’s Not Easy Being Green

Issue #18 September, 2020

Every month down here in the cellar we pour ourselves a healthy glass or two. This month, let’s have ourselves an even healthier pour of wine made using the greenist of practices. That is, wine of the organic variety. And with this month marking National Organic Week in Canada, why not?

At risk of getting lost down the ‘organic’ rabbit hole, here is a fairly basic idea of what is, what sort of is, and what isn’t, ‘organic’ wine. 

So fasten your Birkenstocks, here we go.

Certified Organic wine is made from grapes grown excluding the use of artificial fertilizerspesticidesfungicides and herbicides.

Producers often fertilize with compost, compost teas, green manure, and cover crops. They also rely on mechanical weeding, mowing around the vines, mulching, and companion planting.

To avoid using insecticides many organic wineries let chickens (I assume organic ones) graze under their vines. And growers handpick worms off leaves. Plus, certified organic wine doesn’t use genetically modified organisms and in some wine producing countries, it cannot contain sulphites. 

Still with me?

EU symbol denoting Organic

Wines that show ‘Made with Organically Grown Grapes’ somewhere on their label, are not quite the same as ‘certified organic wines’. They’re often processed using the same equipment and in the same facility as conventional wine. So they’re kind of organic, sort of.

In wine produced within the European union, the addition of sulphites, used as presevatives, are allowed in organic wine, but at lower maximum levels than in conventional wine production.

The strictest interpretation of “organic wine” comes from the USDA. They ensure organic wines have grapes grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and that all additional ingredients are also certified organic.

EU symbol denoting Organic

Additionally, their organic wines cannot have any added sulfites. That’s mostly a good thing, except that it slightly reduces the shelf-life of your bottle. There’s a solution for that; don’t hold on to it, drink it.

Speaking of sulphites in wine, many wine tippers have wondered if they are to blame for headaches. Apparently, scientists have found no evidence of this. I read recently that tannins could be the culprit. They are found in the skin of grapes, particularly red grapes. They give wine substance and flavour and contain antioxidants. But they also spur the release of serotonin, which can cause headaches in some of us.

Okay, well I think it’s time to come up for air. That wasn’t a rabbit hole, it was an abyss!  Who’s ready for some wine?

Have a seat around the old oak tasting table. I’ve set out some granola and bean sprouts to munch on while we sip some tasty organic wine. 

Welcome back to the cellar.

I Giusti & Zanza Vigna Vecchia 2015
Tuscany, Italy
750 mL  bottle VINTAGES#:  13456
$24.95

Our first red features entirely Sangiovese grapes grown organically under the Tuscan sun in the north of Italy. Looking at a glass of this wine is like peering into a deep, dark cave but with an aromatic welcome mat out front. And an enticing welcome it is, with the scent of a leather satchel loaded with ripe fruit. This is a cave of goodness called Giusti & Zanza Vigna Vecchia 2015.

With your first sip, you’re greeted with tastes of wood smoked hickory, roasted plums and licorice. Yes this bottle is a little over our $20 threshold, but I think the ‘O’ factor perhaps justifies it. 

As much as I’d like to remain in this wonderful Tuscan cave a little longer, we must turn our attention to a bottle from Chile. 

Novas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Organic
San Antonio Valley, Chile
750 mL  bottle LCBO#:  553800
$15.95

Last month we enjoyed the Pinot Noir brother of this crisp white. Novas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Emiliana Organic Vineyards in San Antonio Valley, Chile. 

Emiliana is one of the foremost producers of certified organic and biodynamic wines in the world. Chickens are used here for pest control. Alpacas and horses live alongside the vines to encourage biodiversity. 

One of Emiliana’s alpaca workers  

There are also nurseries and biological corridors of native plants and trees, and cover crops of grasses and flowers between the vine rows.

This wine is a pale, pale yellow. It’s certainly dry and fresh with mild flavours of citrus. I could swear there’s some peach in there too. Or maybe that’s just a waft of alpaca.

Moving on now to a popular bottle from Argentina. 

Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec Organic
Mendoza, Argentina
750 mL bottle LCBO#: 160952
$14.95

I’m a big fan of Malbec for it’s raw and full-bodied characteristics. But this one seems a little less bold than I expected. For me, it’s a little introverted. That said, sometimes introverts have the most to say.

Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec is a deep ruby colour and rich looking in the glass. And it is tasty and spicy, with flavours of red berries; raspberries in particular. 

So, if you want a tasty small ‘m’ Malbec, this would be a good choice.

Well, that brings us to the end of our organic adventure. The good news is there are many other organic producers and wines out there for us to explore. And we will boldly go there in future issues.

As Jim Henson via Kermit the Frog so poignantly sang, ‘It’s not easy being green, so here’s to the wineries and the winemakers of the world who choose perhaps the more difficult path; to create their wine in ways that are good for us and respectful of the earth in which they grow their grapes.

See you back in the cellar in October for a special Halloween themed get together featuring scary wines. 

Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer. 

Jim

If you’re enjoying my wine meanderings, I’m really glad. And please let me know your thoughts or tell me about any great wine you’ve discovered. Of course, if you know someone who might like to join us in the cellar each month, send me their email or they can contact me at: roamingbuffalo44@gmail.com 

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