These days, products labelled as “organic, green, gluten free or vegan” are often confusing and have different meanings depending on whether the item is eggs, apples or grapes. Personally, in general terms, I tend to think organic wine is one that has not had pesticides or other chemicals used in its vineyard or winemaking process. If that is indeed the case, I can’t help but wonder if this extra attention results in a difference in taste too.
My curiosity gets the better of me and nose dive into some ‘research’.
The David Suzuki Foundation offers some great explanations of terms that I have interchanged. For example, when the wine label states “made with organically grown grapes”, this means that the wine is made with a minimum of 70% organic grapes. Turns out this is not the same as certified organic grapes. The term Certified Organic means that the producers use 100% organic grapes and cannot use toxic pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers that would infiltrate both the soil and the grapes.
Biodynamic wine is defined by renowned winemaker Ann Sperling (of Sperling Vineyards, Southbrook Vineyards and Versado) as, “Uber organic”. Biodynamic is organic but natural resources are used to cultivate grapes and must meet the standards imposed for organic-certified farming. This kind of wine production also takes into consideration the lunar calendar, astrology, plants, animals, insects; it’s not just about the grapes.
I admit that I find the idea of the slant of the moon’s light on a vineyard making a difference in grape-growing a little mind-boggling. In order for a winery to declare itself as biodynamic, it must have achieved the highest level of certification through Demeter Canada and maintained it for a minimum of three years. It’s no wonder that there are only a handful of biodynamic wineries across the country.
Wine Country Ontario lists wineries in Ontario that sell organic, vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian and biodynamic wines. All these labels embrace sustainable winemaking or economical farming practices. Whether the wine tastes any different with these labels depends on your opinion.
The recent release at LCBO’s Vintages is promoting several organic wines. I have a couple of recommendations from this release and also suggestions in the general list of organic wines. Many LCBO stores have an organic wine section, so have a look the next time you are in one. You might find something new from this issue to impress your vegan friends!
From the August 4 release.
Murviedro Luna Organic Brut Cava
$17.95 (Vintages #547224) 11.6% alcohol
Cava in Spain is akin to Prosecco in Italy and it never hurts to have one of these chilling in the fridge. This happens to be a Gold Medal winner at the 2017 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Whenever I see those gold labels, it’s never a risk to buy the bottle.
Cava is known for its light sparkling citrusy moussey bubbles, made from the Macabeo grapes and is always a delight for brunch, Happy Hour or to kick off a party.
Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2016
$24.95 (Vintages #172338) 12% alcohol
Southbrook Vineyards is known as the first winery in Canada to earn both organic and biodynamic certification in the vineyard. It is also one impressive winery to visit in Niagara. The architecture of this biodynamic winery is different from its neighbors and their elegant wines are always memorable.
During the release tasting, I did not get to sample this 2016, but previous Chardonnays made by Ann Sperling have been knock out delicious.
Enjoy a glass in the sunshine, unwinding while the sun goes down, with fish or chicken off the BBQ or a summertime salad.
Montes Alpha Syrah 2015
Colchagua Valley, Chile
$19.95 (Vintages #612) 14.5% alcohol
The label on the bottle of this dark blackberry nectar states “dry farmed”. What does this mean? Basically the grapes are cultivated without any irrigation in regions where there is little rain. The grapes feed off any residual moisture in the soil which deeply extends their vine roots and consequently their flavour.
I really liked the leathery finish on this wine. It would be great with any grilled chops.
Organic Wines available all year round at the LCBO
Lurton Piedra Negra Pinot Grigio Organic
$13.80 (Vintages #55674) 12.5% alcohol
This is a “pretty” soft white, dry, medium-bodied white wine. Luscious tropical and citrus flavours present loads of fresh fruit on the palate.
I picked this up on my lookout for general list organic wines at the LCBO (regularly available on the main store shelves) and it has easily become a favourite in my house.
It’s refreshing and delicious on its own or served with fish tacos, sushi, cold pasta salad.
El Abuelo Organic Tempranillo Monastrell
Almanzo D.O., Spain
$9.95 (Vintages #524520) 14% alcohol
Don’t let the price fool you. This great organic wine from Spain is full-bodied with loads of black fruit flavours.
Bone dry and smooth, it packs lots of punch at 14% alcohol but does not taste hot on the palate.
It goes well with burgers or spaghetti or just to sip in a glass.
Travel tip and wine stop in Hockley Valley, Mono, Ontario
My husband and I recently returned from a trip to the Hockley Valley Resort (North of Toronto near Orangeville) and discovered the Adamo Winery Estate. The resort offers a shuttle to the winery, but if you prefer to walk, it’s a short distance but all uphill.
The resort and winery are family owned and operated, clearly taking great pride in both their wines and the upscale resort. Have a look at the pictures online, it is indeed as lovely as it looks.
The farming practices in the 25 acre winery are both organic and biodynamic. Shauna White, Vineyard and Winery Manager, uses thermal blankets in the winter to cover the vines so that they are insulated and protected from ice and snow. This method is done instead of hilling up vines (burying them in the earth), like they do in Prince Edward County.
At the winery, the Paddock Café offers small plates of local cheeses, olives and charcuteries overlooking the 23,000 vines. It is also a wonderful photo-op beside an amazing golf course. We visited the winery 3 times in 3 days to take in the ambience and sample more wines. The Rieslings and Viognier wines were favourites with many grapes being sourced from the Niagara region.
Coincidentally, 6 years ago, I had met Shauna when I interviewed her for our Savvy Selections wine-o-month club featuring Ravine Estate Winery. Shauna was the winemaker. Needless to say, the surprise to see her again at Adamo was a delight and made for an over the top vacation.