Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Biodynamic and Organic Wines to celebrate Earth's Day

Biodynamic Wines, what a fascinating topic! Each day, each of us do our share to help mother Earth, we recycle, we try to eat organic produce and fruits, maybe we drive electric cars, shouldn't we drink Biodynamic or Organic wines? 


Let me start by saying that everyday I see more and more wineries switching to sustainable approaches to viticulture, thinking long term and taking responsibility, fully becoming aware that what we do to our land today will affect future generations. 

 

But, before we start exploring Biodynamics, it’s important to distinguish between a few terms used and the differences between Conventional, Organic and Biodynamic viticulture.  So, Conventional Viticulture is basically the industrial side of viticulture, it’s what most wineries do. They have a vineyard with the purpose to make wine, in most cases it will be a monoculture, meaning only vines will be grown in these soils and whenever there is a problem, such as mildew, fungus, pests, weeds, etc, they will treat the land with your usual cocktail of chemicals: pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc.  This is not only bad for mother earth but also for us, since we are putting in our bodies all these chemicals! 

Then, we have Organic Viticulture and here, no chemicals or synthetic products are allowed to treat the vineyards, however they still use copper, sulfur and other vegetable-based products. The Organic certification is very regulated, each country sets a series of rules that wineries need to follow to be certified as such, and here we need to distinguish between wines made from organically grown grapes from organic wines. So, in the first case the grapes will be grown without any chemicals but in the winery, the winemaker will continue adding additives and using all the processes like they do in conventional winemaking. Now, Organic wines are different, since they will use organic grown grapes and also reduce or eliminate non natural additives. They will still use sulfites (in lesser amounts) and natural additives and yeasts, though in some cases, lab created yeasts will be also allowed. Organic Viticulture uses IPM or integrated pest management, which allows beneficial/ predatory insects in the vineyard to naturally control pests affecting the vines and the planting of cover crops like peans, beans, etc , also used to benefit the biodiversity of soils and to prevent the erosion that takes place in monoculture farms. 

And then, finally we have Biodynamics, which is considered to be an extreme evolution of Organic farming. Biodynamics is a holistic approach that considers the vineyard a living, breathing and self-sustaining organism, connected to the ecosystem and the cosmos. In a way Biodynamics is like a “super organic” category. Contrary to what people think the philosophy of Biodynamic farming appeared first and not the other way around. Organic farming came from Biodynamic farming. And though Organic viticulture is still much better than Conventional Viticulture, it’s considered by purists (by biodynamic farmers), a watered down version of Biodynamics

 

Now, the Biodynamic movement was founded by Rudolph Steiner, (his picture on your left).

An Austrian scientist, poet, philosopher, visionary, creator of, among many things, the Waldorf education system, and father of the Anthroposophy's spiritual movement. He foresaw the troubles that the use and abuse of chemicals was doing to the soils, and came up with a more natural solution to resolve all type of farm ailments. He was convinced that the industrialization of agriculture would eventually cause the self-destruction of humankind and in 1924, he offered a series of 8 lectures to farmers and agriculturists, in Poland. Unfortunately he died a year later, without having much time to practice Biodynamics. However his many followers did, such as Dr. Ehrenfreid Pfeiffer, whose book “Biodynamic Farming and Gardening” was published in 1938. Pfeiffer immigrated later to American where he continued his research and was able to spread the word to a wider audience. Also, important is the work of Maria Thun, who created the Biodynamic calendar, which was published for the first time in 1963 and is still published/used today. This calendar sets up a schedule of activities to do in the farm/ vineyards, where days are divided into 4 different categories: flower, root, leaf and fruit days (it is known that Biodynamic winemakers prefer to conduct wine tastings exclusively on “fruit days” since these are the days when wines are supposed to taste better). So basically, planting, pruning, harvesting, spraying, etc, are done at different times during the year,  following the lunar and planets cycles which was the cosmological vision of Steiner, aligning the vineyards to the rhythm of nature.


Biodynamics started first as an agriculture movement, but it was not until the 1980s’ that we started seeing biodynamics applied to viticulture. The movement grew momentum first in France, with winemakers such as Nicolas Joly who dedicated his life to promoting Biodynamics and from there, it spread to all over the world. Nowadays, we can find Biodynamic vineyards in countries such as Argentina,  Austria, Chile, Germany, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, UK and of course, the US (California). 

 

In 1997 Demeter was created. Demeter is the body/ organization that certifies Biodynamic vineyards and farms.  First, Demeter regulated Biodynamic viticulture but later also stipulated regulations for Biodynamic winemaking, specifying the type of additives allowed in any wine certified as such. For example, the use of sulfur dioxide is always less than what is allowed in Organic winemaking and almost half the usual amount allowed in Conventional winemaking. Another difference is that Biodynamics allows the use of natural/ indigenous yeasts only, lab created yeasts are forbidden; the stabilization of wines can happen only by using bentonite or cream of tartar, and biodynamics doesn’t favor the use of machinery in the vineyards, no chemical stabilization of tartrates is allowed, or the addition of must concentration or enzymes, either. 


Returning to Biodynamic viticulture, the vineyards here, are treated with the natural preparations that were formulated by Steiner himself. Remember that he believed that the farm/vineyard was a closed system and that all maladies had to be resolved/treated using natural products easily found inside of it. Almost a 100 years later, different studies have shown that biodynamic soils have healthier humus, top soils and subsoils than certified organic vineyards.  

Without giving the specifics of each formula, let’s take a look at some of these preparations. Steiner created a total of 9 preparations, 3 sprays that he recommended to be used 2- 4 times a year and 6 preparations that are used as compost.

The first spray is known as BD 500 or Horn Cow Manure: he chose cow manure for its texture, though sheep and horse manure could also be used. Cow manure is filled into cow horns and buried in the soil during winter, when according to Steiner the earth breathes in. It is then dug up and mixed (dynamised) with water, creating a spray that is used during spring and summer, when according to Steiner the earth breathes out. This spray is good for soils, subsoils, roots,  bacteria and worms that live in the soil. It also regulates lyme and nitrogen content.

The second spray is called BD 501 or Horn Silica: Ground Silica (quartz) is introduced inside cow horns and buried in the summer. Then again it is dug up and dynamised (mixed with water) and sprayed to the vines instead. (This second preparation is for the upper part of the plants: shoots, leaves, etc). This spray improves photosynthesis, promotes better plant absorption and assimilation of carbon dioxide, it also encourages ripening. It is usually sprayed. 2-4 times a year before flowering and later before the harvest. The last spray is called BD 508 is a horsetail preparation. Horsetail is an herb that has antifungal properties and balances the watery elements in plants and soils helping them become resistant to pests and diseases. This preparation is usually sprayed when upcoming humid weather is about to happen. The last 6 preparations BD 502-507 use different flowers and herbs as ingredients such as: Yarrow, Chamomile, Stinging nettle, Oak Bark, Dandelion and Valerian. These are used to make composts that have different restorative properties to the soil.

In February, I had the pleasure of virtually attending the first edition of Hopwine dedicated to Organic and Biodynamic wines. I received my mini bottles at the beginning of March, so here are some of the wines that impressed me. It’s important to keep in mind that this is still a very small (boutique) category, according to the latest statistics only 4.5 % of all vineyards in the world have these types of certification.*

*Certified Biodynamic (Demeter or Biodyvin)

Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot (Burgundy) imported by T. Edwards Wines.

Cote de Beaune Les Pierres Blanches 2018

Cotes de Beaune La Grande Chatelaine 2018

Bourgogne Haut Cotes des Nuits Sous le Mont 2018

Beaune Lulunne 2018

 

Domaine Hurst (Alsace)

Riesling VV, Alsace Grand Cru, 2019

Auxerrois LIEU-DIT Rotenberg 2019

Pinot Noir VV 2019

 

Weingut Sepp Moser (Austria)imported by Williams Corner and Barrel Down Selections.

Reserve Grüner Veltliner Ried Gebling 2019

Reserve Riesling Ried Gebling 2019

Niederösterreich Diagonal Sauvignon Blanc 2018

 

Domaine Kirrenbourg (Alsace)

Alsace Grand Cru Schlossberg K  Riesling 2018

Alsace Muscat Vendanges Tardive 2018

Mathieu 2018 (Pinot Noir)

Roche Calcaire Bio 2018 (Pinot Noir)


*Certified Organic (Agriculture Biologique, HVE)

Aquila del Torre (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia)imported by Vintage59

At Friuliano 2018

At Riesling 2017

 

Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard (Burgundy)

Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chaumes 2018 (Chardonnay)

Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Boirettes 2018 (Chardonnay)

Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Masures 2018 (Chardonnay)

 

Milenico (Ribera del Duero, Spain)imported by The Organic Cellar.

Dos Mundos Rosados 2020 (Tempranillo)

Socastillo 2016 (Tempranillo)

Valdepila 2015 (Tempranillo)

 

Severin et Gilles Chollet (Loire Valley)

Pouilly Fume Tradition 2020 (Sauvignon Blanc)

Pouilly Fume Les Sables 2020 (Sauvignon Blanc)

Pouilly Fume Les Caillotes 2020 (Sauvignon Blanc)


To find these, make sure you visit wine-searcher.com. Keep in mind that some of these producers are looking for importers/ distributors in the U.S, so not all of them are currently available in the U.S.

Regarding the taste/ flavor of these wines, critics have preferred not to express an opinion about this matter, mostly because they taste blind and therefore it’s very difficult for them to tell just by tasting, which wines come from organic or biodynamic vineyards. However, there is a study by Professor Delmas  called “Does Organic Wines Taste Better, an Analysis of Critics’ Ratings”, that was published in 2016 by the Journal of Wine Economics. According to Delmas, wines from Organic and Biodynamic vineyards got better reviews/scores. She reached this conclusion, after analyzing 74,000 California wine reviews, by the three top Wine publications: Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast. Meaning that fruit grown without chemicals have better flavors and will yield better wines. 

One of the problems that drive consumers away from these categories, besides disinformation, is the use of less sulfites. Sulfites are preservatives used to prevent oxidation at different stages in winemaking. Less sulfites in wines not only affect their ageability/ shelf life, they also give wines their funky aromas and appearance, which have created a stigma among consumers.  This is also the reason why some producers opt not to advertise themselves as biodynamic or organic on their labels, requiring us to do some research.

However, as many of us become more and more conscious about what we put in our bodies, more and more producers will follow suit. Personally, I believe Biodynamic and Organic viticulture is much easier to practice in warm or dry regions, because then diseases are less abundant here, this is why there are plenty of organic and biodynamics wine producers in California, Southern France and Australia.

Happy Earth Day, my dear winos! Cheers, Silvina.

#rudolphsteiner #biodynamics #thoughtsoflawina #winewednesday #earthday #organicwines

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Spicy Wines

Spicy wines is probably my favorite red wine category, though, I do appreciate a Power Bomb wine, (term I use to describe big and beefy reds that have high everything: alcohol, tannin, fruit and acidity). Spicy wines tend to be more moderate without losing their personality. They normally have medium to full bodies, noticeable acidity which in some cases will be high, substance from tannin, usually ripe and not aggressive and plenty of fruit as well as the extra kick that spices can provide; meaning notes of clove, cinnamon, black or white pepper, paprika, vanilla, licorice, chocolate, anise, mint, coffee, etc.

 

Most spicy wines will be very balanced, climate will determine their alcohol levels, which in some cases can be high, climate also influences the freshness of the fruit; cooler to moderate climates will give fresh fruit aromatics, while warm to hot climates will give more stewed, jammy notes.

Some of these Spicy wines are often aged in oak, enough to give them some structure, but not to overpower them. Because of this, they are a natural good match for many dishes, including those that have some spice or herbs in them:  tacos, nachos, chili or any tex-mex foods, pepperoni pizza, pasta in tomato sauce, chicken cacciatore, all types of barbecue and grilled beef, sausages,meatloaf, roasted duck, paella, and other earthy dishes. Avoid matching these wines with delicate dishes. 

 

Of all the classic varieties, Syrah is the only one that should be included in this group, especially if we are dealing with inexpensive wines that cost less than $30.  Other grape varieties that yield Spicy wines are: Barbera, Carménère, Malbec, Pinotage and Zinfandel. Let’s review their wine styles below.

 

  

Barbera

Barbera is without a doubt one of my favorite reds, mostly because it produces a mouthwatering and light to medium bodied wine with fresh fruit flavors, featuring sour cherry and strawberry but also spicy black pepper and dried herbs notes.  Young samples can be quite floral featuring violet aromas. Unless they are aged in oak, Barberas are usually very low in tannins. Best Barberas come from the Piedmont region in the north Italy (Barbera D’ Alba, Barbera d’ Asti and Nizza), though we can also find Barbera in Argentina, Australia and the US.

Carménère: 

Carménère is the jewel from Chile, it has more body than Barberas and plenty of ripe fruit. It has medium to medium plus acidity and plenty of texture, yielding a wine that is full of back plum and black currant notes, but also coffee, grilled meat, soy sauce and sometimes peppermint flavors. Its round tannins and density makes it a wonderful ingredient in wine blends featuring Cabernet Sauvignon. The best samples come from the Central Valley in Chile: Cachapoal, Colchagua and Maipo.

Malbec

If you were looking for a crowd pleaser, you have arrived at the right destination! Velvety full bodied Malbecs feature fruity notes of blackberry, plums, black cherry and mulberry but also spicy cocoa dust and licorice; with oak aging:vanilla, cedar and dry tobacco notes. Tannins are usually ripe and sweet. Best samples come from my home country: Argentina (Mendoza). Make sure to get a bottle to celebrate International Malbec Day on April 17, see some of my recommendations below.

Pinotage

The child of Pinot Noir and Cinsault was created in South Africa and for a while was accused of being a tad rustic. Nowadays and thanks to adjustments made in the vineyards and cellars, Pinotage samples show less volatile acidity than in the past.  What they have is plenty of red fruit flavors such as cherry, raspberry, red plum (fresh or jammy) but also spicy black pepper, licorice, chocolate and mocha notes (usually from aging in heavily charred oak barrels).  Best samples come from South Africa: Stellenbosch,Paarl and Swartland. 

Zinfandel

Also known as Primitivo in Italy, Zinfandel produces a big bodied red featuring black cherry, cassis, prunes, raisins but also vanilla, black pepper, clove, anise and cinnamon notes. I consider Zinfandel a semi powerbomb, because they are usually very high in alcohol in some cases 16% is the norm, rich in overripe fruit but with low to medium acidity, and super soft tannins that are never harsh.  Best samples come from all over California but especially from the Sierra Foothills, Santa Cruz, Paso Robles, Dry Creek Valley and Lodi. Many of them are made from fruit from very old vines (50 + years old), which makes these wines super extracted and flavorful. 

My wine recommendations: Thank you to Viña Tarapacá, Global Vineyard, HB Merchants, Broadbent Selections, Kobrand, Louis Martini and Vineyard Brands for this fine selection of Spicy wines.

Massolino Barbera d’Alba 2019, $26.99

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Le Orme 2017, $17.99

Viña Tarapaca Carménère 2019, $19.99

Maquis Carménère 2018, $19.99

Taj Pinotage 2020, $19.99

Southern Right Pinotage 2019, $33.99 

Beeslaar Pinotage 2018,$54,99

Lievland Pinotage 2018,$18.99

Little Mad Bird Malbec 2019, $11.99

Weinert Carrascal Malbec 2018, $18.99

Norton Malbec 2018, $18.99

St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel 2018, $22.99

Louis Martini Monte Rosso Zinfandel 2016, $74.99

 


  

#thoughtsoflawina #spicywines #WineWednesday

Cheers! Silvina

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Burgundy Reds Decoded

Red Burgundy, how much I love you so! Yes, Pinot Noir is my favorite red grape and though I do drink wine made in California, Oregon, Chile and New Zealand, the best samples of Pinot Noir in the world speak French and come from Burgundy. Though these wines are pricier than samples from the new world, they are so unique and worthwhile!  Yet, a lot of people get confused about the different categories, so let’s make things easier for all the Burgundy wine lovers out there.


Check the triangle below that features the total production of Burgundy wines in any given year. On the base, we have Bourgogne Rouge, (which is the entry level category, this can be made from Pinot Noir grown in all of Burgundy). About 50% of all Burgundy wine produced fall in this first layer.  

 

Then, we have a step up in quality and origin, the Villages category, wine made from grapes from 1 of the 42 villages in Burgundy, some examples are: Gevrey Chambertin, Nuits Saint Georges, Volnay, Pommard, etc (see list at the end of this post). This category makes 36% of all wine produced in Burgundy. 

Then comes what I consider the creme of the crop, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. This will include all the top vineyards that were first classified in 1861. The 1er Cru vineyards are specially selected parcels within the Villages. This category makes 12% of all wine made in Burgundy.  On the labels you will recognize them because the name of vineyards will come after the name of the villages: for example: Pommard “Les Epenots”, Morey St Denis “Clos des Ormes”, Nuits St Georges “Les Cailles”. There are a total of  629 1er Crus. And finally, the best wines: the Grand Crus (single vineyards) which are 33. And how can we identify them? We identify them by their name preceded by Le/La: Le Chambertin, Le Musigny, La Tache, Le Corton, etc, also because we will only see the name of the vineyard on the label without the village , plus the words Grand Cru. Grand Crus produce only 2% of all wine produced in Burgundy. 

As we can see, the smaller the place the place where grapes grow/ appellation, the better the wine will be and the more expensive (this is due to high demand and a boutique/ tiny production).  Prices vary, Bourgogne costs $20-34,Villages costs from $35-80, Premier Cru costs $65 and up and Grand Cru $200 and above.

  

On your left, see the labels showing the different categories: 

a)The basic:Bourgogne Rouge, then b)Villages: Gevrey- Chambertin, c)then 1er Cru: Morey-Saint- Denis "Les Sorbets" then d)the best and most expensive wines in this group: The Grand Cru: Echezeaux. 

 Labels courtesy of Domaines Albert Bichot, map courtesy of Vins de Bourgogne.

 

Now, the best reds come from the north Côtes de Nuits (see map), and some from the south in the Côtes de Beaune. Both the Côtes de Nuits and the Côtes de Beaune form which is known as the Côte d’Or, the abbreviation of Côtes D’ Orient, because all vines face east to catch every single ray of sun. 

Further south, we find good but less expensive Pinot Noir in the Côte de Chalonnaise at appellations such as Rully, Mercurey and Givry. Some of these wines will cost about $35-50. 

Remember that in Burgundy, two grapes dominate: all whites are made from 100% Chardonnay, (I will explore the whites in another post) and reds from 100% Pinot Noir, no blends are allowed.

Burgundy producers put special emphasis in the terroir where grapes grow. And this started with the monks that once lived and worked these vineyards. History tell us that the monks, besides praying all day, identified the different plots and divided them, in 3 categories: 1) vineyards that were used to make wine for the Pope (top Grand Cru), 2) vineyards to make wines for the Cardinals (Premier Cru) and 3) vineyards used to make wines for the monks, (Villages and Bourgogne rouge). In 1789, after the French revolution the estate confiscated all the land from the church and auctioned it off to farmers. Later on with the rise of Napoleon, he changed the inheritance law, allowing all children to inherit equally (before this, only the eldest son inherited in a family), these two facts caused the fragmentation of the land and vineyards. This is why, it's easier to find small tiny plots owned by several owners in Burgundy. A solution to this problem came with the figure of the negociant, who usually buys grapes from different owners and makes 1 wine from them. Nowadays, negociants have come a long way, and many of them own their own vineyards. 


One of the factors that make great Pinot Noir possible in Burgundy, is the cool climate, Burgundy is located in the north of France, only Champagne is farther north. This has proven ideal for growing both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in which has been defined as a continental climate. Soils too are very important, they are rich in limestone from the Jurassic period, clay and marl. Because Pinot Noir is just a delicate variety, wines are usually aged in second hand oak (used), to impart a touch of tannin without masking their ethereal essence.

 

Important Villages in Burgundy: (reds)

Côte de Nuits: 

Marsannay,Fixin,Gevrey Chambertin,Morey St Denis,Chambolle Musigny,Vougeot,Flagey Echezeaux,Vosne Romanee,Nuits St Georges

Cote de Beaune:

Ladoix Serrigny,Aloxe Corton,Chorey Lès Beaune,Savigny Lès Beaune,Beaune,Pommard

Volnay,Monthélie,Auxey Duresses,Chassagne Montrachet,Santenay

Cote de Chalonnaise (farther south and cheaper)

Rully,Mercurey and Givry.

Some of these will have 1er Cru vineyards in them, in which case the name of the vineyard will appear after the village.

 

Grand Crus: the Grand Crus are the top vineyards and home to some of the best and most expensive Burgundy reds. Always the word Grand Cru will be added to the end.

Chambertin Clos de Beze, Chapelle Chambertin, Charmes Chambertin, Latricieres Chambertin, Le Chambertin, Mazis Chambertin, Mazoyères Chambertin, Ruchottes Chambertin, Bonnes Mares, Clos de La Roche, Clos de Lambrays, Clos de Tart, Clos St Denis, Le Musigny, Clos de Vougeot, Echézeaux, Grands Echézeaux, La Romanée,La Tâche, La Grand Rue, Richebourg, Romanée Conti, Romanée St Vivant. 

 

Here are 3 of my favorite Grand Cru reds that I had the pleasure to taste:

Jacques Prieur Grand Cru Echezeaux 2014, $475

Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Domaine 2016, $215

Domaine Faiveley Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley 2016, $215


My wine recommendations that happen to be very affordable! Thanks to Domaines Albert Bichot and Vineyard Brands for sending these!

Albert Bichot Bourgogne VV 2018, $22.99

Smooth Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown in the Cote de Beaune. It offers redcurrant and red cherry flavors, balanced by a smoky and spicy finish.

Albert Bichot Savigny Les Beaune 2017, $48.99

Vibrant and floral, this medium red features ripe strawberry and raspberry notes and a complex, focused finish. 

Vincent Girardin Bourgogne Rouge 2018, 25.99

Elegant and juicy light red shows black cherry and raspberry jam notes. Soft dusty tannins round up the finish.   

Domaine Matrot Bourgogne Rouge 2018, $33.99

Expressive Pinot Noir from grapes grown in Puligny Montrachet and Meursault, displays notes of baked cherry, earth and spice that run through the polished finish. Cheers! Silvina

  



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#thoughtsoflawina #burgundyred #bourgognerouge #frenchwine #WineWednesday #burgundy #bourgogne.

 

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