Tag: Organics

Pig in the House Organic Chardonnay 2016

I still rather like this label design.  The “Pig in the House” is an organically grown chardonnay from Cowra in New South Wales.  In the glass, there are aromas of lemon and meal.  The palate is mid weight, the length good, the acidity racy and refreshing and the flavours youthful reminding of lemon and nectarine.  A well made chardonnay that will suit current drinking.  Rating: Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $25. Source: Sample.

Organics that are inorganic

An interesting anomaly of organic viticulture is its treatment of copper.  Gladstones in Wine, Terroir and Climate Change (2011, Wakefield Press) summarises it well at p89:

‘Organic’ viticulture, as it has been formally defined, authorises only traditional forms of disease, pest and weed control, using products deemed to be natural and eschewing all that have been artificially synthesized.  The contradiction lies in the fact that chemically the chief sprays and dusts allowed (copper compounds and sulphur, for fungal disease control) are inorganic, whereas the prohibited synthetic compounds are all or principally organic, i.e. carbon-containing.  Nor is distinction possible on the ground of toxicity.  For instance toxic build-up of copper in the soil has long been reckoned a problem in Bordeaux, while sulphur applications can be toxic to useful microfauna and can hasten soil acidification.

It seems to me the definition of organic requires a bit of tidying up.  While I am not a copper or toxicity expert, from what I’ve read it’s not such a good thing in quantity.  A French winemaker quoted in this article from UK wine magazine Decanter has a similar idea.  The article reports that the winemaker is dropping a French organic certification to reduce copper build-up in his soil, and considers that some synthetics instead give a better overall environmental outcome.  A sensible debate appears underway.

Poggerino Chianti Classico 2013

This is an excellent release of Poggerino’s Chianti Classico, a producer I have returned to again and again over the years.  The estate is organic and has only 11 hectares under vine.  The 2013 vintage tasted here reminds of why I liked the producer in the first place.  And despite my musing the other week that I hadn’t seen much organic Chianti, it turns out I have been drinking it for years and just didn’t know it.  Not the worst outcome really.  Poggerino’s 2013 Chianti Classico (sangiovese) has aromas of cherry, earth and tar.  The palate has towards long length, lovely firm tannins and is in balance.  Recommended.

Rating: Good to Very Good
Abv: 13.5%
Price: $32
Vendors and website: http://poggerino-chianti-italy.com/winery/
Tasted: 2016

Poggiotondo Organic Chianti 2014

Organic Chianti.  Not something I’ve seen before, I think, but why not.  The aromatics are pleasingly typical of sangiovese in its Chianti guise.  Dust, earth and ripe black cherries.  The palate is mid weight, textural and savoury.  Lovely Chianti for $20.

Rating: Good
Abv: 13%
Price: $20
Vendors and website: http://www.poggiotondowines.com
Tasted: 2016

Lowe Organic Zinfandel 2012

An Aussie zinfandel.  Now, you don’t see too many of those.  It’s the same variety used in Primitivo in southern Italy.  I recall from my earlier WSET studies being presented with archetypal zinfandels from the Napa Valley – 17%abv and full of spiky chocolate and raisins.  Too much.  Then while over in North America, I tried a few, and my conclusion was very different.  A couple of zinfandels from Caymus Vineyards in the Napa Valley in particular had a balance and texture that I was very impressed with (see the 2012 and 2011 reviews).  The Napa Valley producers seem able to get a texture into their tannins that I don’t see so much here.

This particular zinfandel is a really good one from Lowe in Mudgee.  The alcohol has been pared right back to 13.1%abv, which is quite unzin, but works here.  It has aromatics of chocolate, licorice and currants.  The palate has long length, is not quite full bodied and has a lovely balance to it.  Fresh for a zinfandel, this is an enjoyable release.

Rating: Very Good
Abv: 13.1%
Price: $75
Source: sample
Vendors and website: http://www.lowewine.com.au
Tasted: 2016

Lowe Tinja Preservative Free Organic Shiraz 2015

I was fully prepared not to like this wine, expecting it might be more about being preservative free, than about being good wine.  Not so though.  I loved it.  Like walking into a winery, it has fresh, estery aromatics of blueberry and cherry.  Almost Beaujolais like.  The palate is not so much about depth or power or even varietal typicity, but more about freshness and clean gluggable wine, with lovely cherry and blueberry flavours.  An enjoyable release.

Rating: Good
Abv: 12% 
Price: $22
Source: sample 
Vendors and website: http://www.lowewine.com.au
Tasted: 2015

Not treating vines; some limits of biodynamics?

I read with interest the other day the issues involving a Burgundian winemaker, Emmanuel Giboulot, and the French authorities.

Act 1 has Giboulot following biodynamic practices, and having done so for 40 odd years.  Biodynamics excludes the use of conventional pesticides.

Act 2 sees the spread of an incurable vine disease, flavescence dorée, which appeared in the Armagnac region in 1949, but by 1992 had made it to the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Côtes du Rhone.  The disease has no cure, and I understand advances towards Burgundy.  You can read more about it here.  Insecticide sprays can reduce leafhopper populations which are believed to be a conduit for the disease.

Act 3 has French authorities ordering the spraying of grapevines as a preventative measure.  Giboulot appears not to comply.

It reminds me a little of a discussion I had with Michael Glover of Bannockburn last year.  Michael really doesn’t like to irrigate, but faced with the serious heatwave of 2009, had to use some limited irrigation to save his vines.  Do you choose purity of method or existence?  Without water, the vines would die.  With water, they live.  Serious winemaking is about expressing the seasons, but what if the season would kill the vine?  There is a tension between puritanism and pragmatism.

More generally, I think we need to see more discussion of the merits of biodynamics compared with “regular” organic viticulture (as opposed to “conventional” viticulture) for the biodynamic argument to convince.  As a consumer, since I have observed a correlation between biodynamics and wine quality, I am sympathetic to the method on quality grounds.  However, whether that’s causal, or because such winemakers and viticulturalists are otherwise highly diligent and so would have made good wines anyway, is something I simply don’t know.  It seems to merit systematic study.

Perhaps the flavescence dorée case is not so clear cut, since the absence of effective controls suggests that it is not yet fully understood.