Over the last few years, since completing The Wellness Project, my pursuit of healthy hedonism has meant less wine, but also better, cleaner wine that is responsibly made.
Luckily, organic wines have been cropping up more and more on restaurant lists, going toe to toe with the conventional heavy weights. The contents of these bottles are made using organic farming and harvesting practices – meaning, no additives, pesticides and such.
If a wine is also biodynamic, it means that the vineyard is harvested sustainably 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.
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.
For a while natural wines were also thought to be a flavor seeker’s gamble. Without a little help from laboratories to correct imperfections and irregularities from crop to crop, these bottles can often have a funky, off-putting quality. As my good friend, natural wine enthusiast, and soon-to-be sommelier, David Bruno told me: this is a big misconception.
While some natural wine makers like to experiment and get weird, if you know where to find the best bottles, natural, organic, and biodynamic wines are straight forward delicious.
SO HOW DO YOU SPOT BIODYNAMIC OR ORGANIC WINE?
Some shops have begun putting green tags or labels on some of their stock to indicate sustainable, biodynamic practices.
I got my early education in natural wines from Foragers, an amazing little store around the corner from my old apartment in Chelsea. In addition to grocery and restaurant components that specialize in local and organic produce, they recently branched out into wine. I’ve tried many 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, advised that, like packaged food, 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 (also, like food brands), 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.
If you don’t see a certification and don’t have time to browse, you can seek out wines from specific importers. Jenny and Francoise, one that Drew recommended, 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 in that part of the world. For some fantastic options from Germany, David recommends anything with Vom Boden on the bottle.
The importer is named on the back of the label, and if you see either of these three, you’re pretty surely selecting a more natural wine.
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 that are on the more affordable side along with some other helpful information below. David has also suggested some more obscure natural bottles from various islands. And finally, Bianca Bosker, the author of the fabulous wine memoir Cork Dork and this piece on the wine additive industry, has passed along a few back pocket favorites from her virtual cellar!
THE BEST BIODYNAMIC AND ORGANIC WINE BRANDS
Drew’s Picks from Foragers NYC, under $30:
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.
Tangent Albarino, $18
The classic Spanish white grape grown organically in California’s Edna Valley and is certified sustainable through SiP (Sustainability in Practice).
Domaine du Mortier “Dionysos”, $25
This is one of our favorite red wine without additives 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.
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).
David Bruno’s picks from the islands and beyond:
Though a little on the pricier side, this Vermentino is crisp and clean for those seeking to shake up their usual Sauv Blanc drinking game.
Bianca Bosker’s back pocket picks from her year of Cork Dork-ing:
An excellent white from Slovenia, from an estate where the Mediterranean and the alpine climates meet.