When people come into the Whole Foods in Venice looking for organic wines, we usually point them to the organic aisle. The problem with this is that while all these wines may be made from organically grown grapes, they may not be very good It takes more than just using "organically grown" grapes to make a good wine, and even the term "organic" can be misleading, as each producing country has its own standards.
There are however, higher standards that a wine can be held to that involve not only how the grapes are grown but how the wine is made.
To help direct customers to such wines I have begun labeling wines with a "snob" tag. S.N.O.B. stands for sustainable, natural, organic, or biodynamic. Sustainability involves water conservation, reduction of cleansing chemicals and minimal energy usage in wine production. Natural wine prohibits the addition of coloring agents, sugars or acid and minimal addition of sulfites. Biodynamics is a system of farming methods that work with the lunar calendar and involve creating a life system on a farm that is in tune with the natural cycles of life.
Biodynamic standards are even stricter than what is considered organic, while also involving principals of natural winemaking and sustainability. People will often talk about the health benefits of wine but neglect to address the health of the vines, or the relationship they and the farmer have to the soil, and the environment.
Fortunately there are organizations that are dedicated to monitoring and upholding these standards. Demeter is an organization, based on the biodynamic principals of Rudolf Steiner, that began labeling products that met these standards as early as 1928.
A winery that follows these practices here in California is Bonny Doon Vineyards. Owner and winemaker Randall Graham is known for his playful wine names and imagery, but he takes winemaking very seriously. A recent addition to the Doon wines is the Clos de Gilroy, named in honor of the garlic capitol of California. A blend predominately of Grenache, with a touch of Cinsault and a wink of Syrah, this wine delivers a mouthful of fruit with a long sleek finish. Raspberry and black pepper arrives wrapped in candied rose petals on a bed of silky smoky strawberry jam. This is a perfect example of how a wine that makes very little impact on the earth can make a tremendous impact on the palate.
Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy, retails about $16.
Los Angeles resident Michael Newsome, a wine buyer for Whole Foods and a Certified Italian Wine Specialist, joins us every Tuesday for an exploration of California wine. See his previous posts here.
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