As I admitted a few weeks ago, one of the results of my month-long sobriety is that I’ve become a bit of a fancy pants when it comes to wine. Since I got back on the sauce, I’ve not only been trying to drink better wines, but also cleaner wines that are responsibly made.
Organic wines have been cropping up more and more these days. These wines are made using organic farming and harvesting practices – no pesticides and such. You’ll notice that wine stores have started putting green tags or labels on some of these bottles. If they don’t, you can simply ask the wine buyer at a store.
Foragers is an amazing little store around the corner from my apartment. In addition to grocery and restaurant components that specialize in local and organic produce, they recently branched out into wine. I’ve tried a bunch of bottles from the shop, but I decided to go straight to the source to get some more information about what to look for in organic and biodynamic wines.
Drew, the wine buyer at Foragers, said that the back label is your best source of information for how a wine is made. There are a few different certifications to look for. Of course there’s certified organic. But a lot of smaller vineyards and wine makers won’t be able to afford official certification, so it’s important to read the back of the label where some will explain cultivation and biodynamic processes. Two other things to look for are SIP certification, which speaks to sustainability, and Demeter, which is the main marker for biodynamic wines.
Biodynamic wines have no added sulfites, sugar or other additives. You can also safely assume they’re organic, even if they don’t have the certification. It means that the vineyard is harvested sustainably and according to the lunar calendar. Usually, biodynamic vineyards also have a working farm nearby, as the wine production is weaved into the overall sustainability of the operation as a whole.
If you don’t see a certification and don’t have time to browse, you can seek out wines from two specific importers that Drew recommended. Jenny and Francoise specialize in French wines. In general, the Loire valley was one of the first regions to really catch onto the organic trend. Louis-Dressner is another one to look for. The importer is named on the back of the label, and if you see either of these two, you’re pretty surely selecting a more natural wine.
Sulfites is a delicate topic. All wine has some degree of sulfites naturally. But generic winemakers will add more to make their bottles last longer on shelf. It’s a stabilizer. Some people are very sensitive to these and claim to have allergies to red wine, although red wine actually has less sulfites than white. One thing people are probably reacting to in red wine, says Drew, are the tannins, which is another stabilizing agent.
If you’re looking to branch out into some more natural options for your grape juice consumption, Drew has put together a list of some of his favorites from the shop along with some other helpful information below. And good news for you non-New Yorkers! Foragers will be launching an online wine shop in the coming months. Makes sure to check in with them in May!
Jenny and Francois are great distributors of organic and biodynamic wines from France. If you’re unsure of the certification on the back of the label, look for their name and you can assume that it’s a pretty clean bottle.
2. Tangent Albarino, $18
The classic Spanish white grape grown organically in California’s Edna Valley and is certified sustainable through SiP (Sustainability in Practice).
3. Domaine du Mortier “Dionysos”, $25
This is one of our favorite reds in the shop from the Loire Valley in France. Loire Valley is one of the regions that has pioneered the use of organic and biodynamic farming and is generally a good place to look for these natural types of wines in a wine store or on a restaurant wine list.
This was one of the natural wines from Jenny and Francois, which actually says “No Added Sulfites” on the bottle. This wine is super fresh and dry with soft bubbles and a clean minerality. It’s one of our spring and summer favorites.
This one is not technically Biodynamic, but Iit is one of the more popular organic wines in the shop and a great value.
6. Montinore Pinot Gris, $17
Demeter-Certified Biodynamic wine from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their website has good information on all their wines (we also carry their Borealis and Reserve Pinot Noir).