Somebody asked me recently if organic wine was any good. “Not necessarily” I swiftly replied. Indeed I went on to explain that I have tried some pretty awful organic wines in the past few years but the bad ones do tend to be at the very lowest end of the market and the exception. That got me thinking about how best to explain why being organic does not make a wine ‘good’ and so after a brief stroke of my chin I came up with the following analogy.
Organic wine used to be something of a fringe thing. Consumed mostly by hardcore health enthusiasts and environmental types it was frowned upon and even ridiculed by both mainstream consumers and the industry and had a bit of a reputation in the past of being rather unpalatable and quirky. It is, however, with great pleasure, that I can categorically say those days are well and truly over. Organic and biodynamic wine making has very much come of age and I would go so far as to say that of all the wines I have tried in recent months at trade tastings, most have been pretty decent, many have been lovely and there have been quite a few outstanding ones shining through. It has to be said that biodynamic wines seem to have a higher average rating in my mind and there have only been a couple I have tried that I did not feel able to list.
These two categories of wine are also often lumped in with ‘natural’ wines, which have even less intervention but it has to be said that natural wines are, on the whole, ‘challenging’ shall we say and not palatable to the average wine consumer. They represent the more extreme and one might say, experimental, end of the market and most are definitely for the more adventurous wine enthusiast, which is not really our market.
So anyway, onto the analogy. I thought the best way to make the lady in question understand that organic is simply a way of producing wine and does not necessarily result in a good wine was to ask her to imagine 2 artists. One was environmentally diligent and used only organic canvas and natural paints with no additives. The other artist was less diligent and simply bought the best quality paints and canvas available irrespective of how they were made and what they might contain. Off they go and both paint a picture. Which one is best I asked her? She puzzled for an instant and then smiled as it dawned on her.
Clearly being diligent about how you do something does not make you produce a good product. Wine making is a craft often underpinned by skill, experience, knowledge and most of all passion as well as a need to understand your terroir and how to get the best from it. If that passion extends to ensuring that what you do does not harm the environment or those who consume your wine then that is a very positive bonus but ultimately you need to know how to make a good wine first and foremost.
Fortunately organic wine is now so popular that many smaller, independent wine makers have already made the transition or are considering it. There are so many fabulous organic and biodynamic wines available now and more importantly in every price bracket. The only footnote would be to say that to produce a really nice organic wine is, on the whole, more labour intensive and so generally organic wines will be slightly more expensive and that principle escalates even more with biodynamic. Finding a really nice organic wine under £10, which seems to be the maximum price for your average, every-day, supermarket wine drinker is not easy. We have tried many and have only found a few that we felt good enough to list.
The search continues…
We will be expanding our wine list very soon to include quite a few additions in the sub £10 category so stay tuned.