Thursday, 3 February 2011
Organic, Biodynamic and Egyptian Wines
Last week I zoomed off to my first big wine tasting event of the year. It was an organic wine show in Montpellier, France called Bio Millesime. This annual event is a good starter for the year in January. The tables are completely mixed up between regions and countries, in order for people to browse and move around rather than just pinpoint certain areas. This gives the wine tasting an element of confusion, but also conviviality! IE Lots of people lost at the same time.
I have attended this wine show over the last few years and it has grown out of all proportion. This year it took up 3 halls at the exhibition centre. Organic wines are expanding rapidly.
I have been relatively ambivalent towards organic wines and organic viticulture. I have always tasted a wine and judged a wine for quality and price before categorizing whether it is organic or biodynamic. However one of the wineries that I work closely with (Domaine La Prade Mari) is converting to organic viticulture. The picture here is myself and Eric Mari the owner of Domaine La Prade Mari having a look at some very healthy grapes just before harvest last year.Sometimes organic can mean a price premium when I genuinely think that most people in a wine shop don't really care. They would rather have a delicious wine that fits their price or buying criteria. If it is organic then that is a bonus.
It is noticeable that the organic culture is very strong in the Languedoc Roussillon, as the warm Mediterranean climate and cleansing strong winds make viticulture slightly easier. However up in Bordeaux (which has a higher rainfall and higher humidity) it can be more difficult to be organic. However this is changing as two significant Bordeaux Chateaux have fully embraced biodynamics...Chateau Pontet Canet in Pauillac and Chateau Guiraud in Sauternes.
Here are some figures on organics(courtesy of Drinks Business):
Languedoc-Roussillon’s organic vineyard coverage increased by 51.9% from 2008 to 2009 , Rhône-Alpes by 50.8%, Aquitaine by 45.2%, Burgundy by 43.2% and Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur by 34.6%.
The national growth was 38.9% to a total of 39,116 hectares. Growth is slowest in the North and West, where climate makes organic viticulture much more of a challenge. Organic vineyards in the Pays de la Loire grew by just 7.1% over the same period. Alsace also showed a relatively modest increase of 13.5%.
It is interesting to see how organic culture is increasing. I was truly amazed with the quality and improvement of many wines last week. I tasted over 300 wines and scribbled notes on which wines to follow up. One of the interesting stories was from a gentleman who is the viticulturist for a vineyard project in Egypt. As I had never tried Egyptian wine I was drawn to his wines out of interest. They were particularly good quality. The white was a blend of 90%Vermentino with 10% Chardonnay, whilst the Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend worked particularly well on the reds. The wines were called 'Jardin du Nil' and they will soon be appearing in global wine markets. The story about planting vineyards in deserts where the temperature is over 50 degrees in the Summer and there is virtually no rainfall was intriguing. It was also interesting to hear that the University of Montpellier are visiting Egypt to see how the Stem Potential Technique of using water for vines is effective. The principals used in Egypt could well be useful in the Mediterranean countries if global warming persists.
This afternoon I am traveling to the Rhone valley to taste one of the wines that I found at Bio Millesime. An absolutely gorgeous wine from just near Chateauneuf du Pape. I will reveal more later if I get the deal for distributing the wines.