Once seen as a niche product, consumption of organic wine is now growing faster than that of conventional vintages. Last year, the market for organic wine increased by 3.7 percent compared to 2 percent for the non-organic product. So what’s brought it about? Partly, it’s the increasingly sophisticated products making it onto the shelves.
Producers such as Jean Pierre Fleury, Monty Waldin and Jean Bousquet are making innovative and delicious wines as good as or better than anything made by conventional vintners, and a growing awareness of the environmental consequences of conventional vintages is making itself felt. Then, there’s the perception that organic wine is healthier and results in fewer hangovers. While the veracity of the latter largely depends on how much you quaff, it’s true that fewer pesticides means fewer chemicals in your glass and a correspondingly healthier product. But with so many marvellous organic and biodynamic wines out there, which do you choose? Here are a few of my favourites.
For a chance to win one of three bottles of Fleur de L’Europe Champagne, worth £29.95, click here.
AOC Champagne Fleury Vintage 1995 (France)
Why it’s good: Jean Pierre Fleury was the first producer in Champagne to go biodynamic back in 1992. The 1995 vintage has a firm structure with remarkable freshness, a sparkling intensity and great longevity. It’s simply one of the finest champagnes available and was the gold trophy winner at the International WINE Challenge in 2008.
Cullen Mangan Margaret River 2009 (Australia)
Why it’s good: Produced on a biodynamically certified and forward-thinking estate, this is a wine that offers immense elegance and freshness. Matured in French oak barrels for 12 months, the unusual single-vineyard red blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot has intense mulberry and blackberry flavours and fine-grained tannins. It’s very drinkable now but if you can wait a bit longer, it will be even better in a couple of years.
The Millton Vineyards Te Arai Chenin Blanc 2008 (New Zealand)
Why it’s good: Pioneering, passionate and talented biodynamic producer, James Millton makes the superb Te Arai Chenin Blanc on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Slightly dry and refreshing, it has hints of pear, quince and honey. So good is this wine, it features in Neil Beckett’s 1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die: quite a recommendation.
Gigondas 'Terre des Aînés' Montirius AC 2004 (France)
Why it’s good: A distinguished combination of Grenache and Mourvedre grapes, 'Terre des Aînés' is rich and full-bodied with a bright, berry tang. Unusually elegant for a Rhône heavyweight, it has power and sophistication in spades.
Stellar Fairtrade Heaven-on-Earth Sweet Muscat (South Africa)
Why it’s good: An excellent sweet wine, which is both organic and Fairtrade, Heaven-on-Earth represents fantastic value for money. Its constituent Muscat D’Alexandrie grapes are partially dried on beds of straw and local Rooibos tea, before being gently pressed and fermented. Heaven-on-Earth is a real local speciality and an artisan wine with a big personality and memorable flavours.
Domaine Josmeyer La Kottabe Alsace Riesling 2008 (France)
Why it’s good: The Meyer family converted this quality 28-hectare estate to organic and biodynamic culture towards the end of the 90s. Their 35-year-old vines create a mineral scented Riesling in a drier style than you would usually expect from Alsatian wines, replete with hints of citrus and spice. The spiciness of the wine is underpinned by a firm backbone of crisp apple acidity. Delicious!
Jean Bousquet Malbec Reserva 2008 (Argentina)
Why it's good: The Jean Bousquet estate is committed to producing world class wines by applying both French (the owner is from a third generation French wine family) and Argentinean know-how in the winemaking process, using the exceptional local terroir [soil] and 100 percent organic grapes. This deliciously smooth, award-winning Malbec is proof that they have succeeded.
Rueda Sauvignon Blanc Palacio de Menade 2009 (Spain)
Why it’s good: An award–winning white with intense tropical and citrus fruit flavours and great balance. Well structured and elegant, this is a refreshing, clean and uplifting take on the classic Sauvignon Blanc.
Coyam Emiliana 2007 (Chile)
Why it’s good: From one of the largest biodynamic vineyards in the southern hemisphere, this Chilean red has become a cult wine. Winner of the first ‘Best Wine of Chile’ competition with the 2001 vintage, it features a blend of five grape varieties (Syrah, Cabernet, Carmenere, Petit Verdot and Mouvedre), aged in oak for 13 months. The resulting wine is big, with soft, spicy, berried tones that are positively gluttonous and long lasting. There are hints of blueberry and dark chocolate too, wrapped in gentle well managed tannins.
San Polino Helichrysum Brunello di Montalcino 2004 (Italy)
Why it’s good: Bottled in 2007, this wine is made in tiny quantities from old-fashioned, low yield Sangiovese vines grown only on one particular hillside. It’s certainly not cheap but if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle you’ll understand why. Hugely complex with leather, spice, plum, cherry and chocolate notes all knitted together with a lively acidity. It has been described as an ‘opera of wine’ - a couple of sips will show you why.
Green Business: Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard
From biodynamic farming methods to persuading people to give English wine another try, the Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard's Roy Cook is transforming the British wine industry
|HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Growing green grapes and bottling sustainable wine in India
Viticulture is growing at a rate of knots in India, and the country's largest winery is leading by environmental example
What is biodynamic wine, and which bottles should you pick?
Its principals may seem strange but biodynamic winegrowers are in a league of their own when it comes to caring for soil, plant and planet. Plus, 10 wines to try in 2010
Behind the Label: better booze
If you don't know what's gone into making your drink, stick to organic beer and wine this Christmas, says Pat Thomas
Monty Waldin on biodynamic wine
Unsustainable and bad for the environment, industrial viticulture leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Pesticide-free and weed-friendly, biodynamic wine holds the key to an organic revolution.