The Low-Down on Organic and Biodynamic Wine

Some winemakers prefer organic and biodynamic viticulture methods of producing wine. Several Burgundy estates have started converting to organic produce and other estates maintain selected vineyards that produce biodynamic wines.The Bordeaux region is particularly suitable for this method because the climate there produces mists that are a natural pest repellent. What this means in laymen’s terms is simply that these winemakers are not using chemicals and fertilisers during the winemaking process. Another difference between organic and non-organic wine is the use of sulphites, which increase the shelf-life of non-organic brands but can also influence the flavour. The reason the organic methods are becoming so trendy is that more and more people worldwide are becoming health conscious and environmentally aware. As a result, they are demanding to know exactly what they are consuming.

Taking it a Step Further: Biodynamic Wine

Biodynamic wine starts off as organic wine and then goes further by using agro-ecology and ecologically self-sufficient methods to cultivate it. This wine is produced with careful consideration of the earth’s natural rhythms, the moon, and the stars. Biodynamic winemakers also introduce medicinal plants like Valerian, Dandelion, and Chamomile into the process. Yes, this sounds very complicated and it is, but if a winemaker takes so much care in producing wine, the product may certainly reflect that in taste and quality.

Despite Controversy, it’s Still About Preference

In France winemaking tends to be highly traditional and anything unorthodox can unsettle wine producers and clients who are used to conventional methods. There is also controversy about sulphites. In Europe and Canada organic wines may have added sulphites – in the US this is not the case. Some may argue that European organic wines cannot even be called organic, others take more of a relaxed approach. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. It is certainly an interesting way of making wine and looking out for your health and the planet. Whether the taste is up to par, one can only find out by tasting. And, as with all wine purchases, it is vital to only deal with a reputable wine merchant.

Dreaming of a Perfect Bordeaux Vintage

Weather effect on Bordeaux Wine 2015On 18th June reported that the Bordeaux 2015 vintage has got off to a good start in the Medoc, with near perfect conditions during the flowering period (read the full article here – ). It’s great to hear that things are on track, but of course there is a long way to go. At what point can growers start to celebrate in the knowledge that everything has come together, to ensure that the vintage is memorable for the right reasons?


Staying on track

The short answer is, not until every grape has been picked right at the end of the harvest! If only our climate in the northern Hemisphere were reliable, but unfortunately there are many possible perils still to come. Bordeaux has a fairly mild maritime climate, which means that there are few problems with freezing winters but frosts in the springtime can wreak havoc. So producers will be hoping for a warm, damp spring this year to ensure they remain on track. Continue reading

What happens when a winery skips a vintage?

It was recently reported that the Tuscan Biondi Santi estate had decided to write off the 2014 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino, their flagship wine. Biondi Santi’s wines are among the region’s most prestigious and it is likely that others will follow suit after difficult conditions throughout the season.

Brunello di Montalcino vines (source: Wikipedia)
Brunello di Montalcino vines (source: Wikipedia)

The toughest vintage

A wet summer in Italy hit Tuscany particularly hard. Other regions such as Prosecco were also badly affected by rainfall. The cool summer and excessive rainfall led to outbreaks of vine diseases throughout many regions from north to south. Continue reading

In search of DRC

DRC-LaTache-Labels (Wikipedia)In spite of the global popularity of Bordeaux, a wine from Burgundy has eclipsed the first growths for the second time in a row to top Sotheby’s rankings in 2014. Although wines from Bordeaux dominated the overall sales as usual, it was a lot of 114 wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, known as DRC, that hit the headlines with a record-breaking HK$12.5 million when it was sold in Hong Kong last year, which is equivalent to US$1.6 million.

Legendary status

For many of even the most avid wine collectors DRC will remain an elusive wine – Burgundy’s entire production is tiny compared to the phenomenal annual output of Bordeaux, and so it is no surprise that the wines of this legendary estate have achieved something of a legendary status. So, what’s so special about them? Continue reading

Discovering the Rhône Valley

At the end of a challenging year across France’s wine regions, it’s great to hear that the Rhône valley has had a larger harvest than 2013, and early signs are that the 2014 wines will be ones to watch. One of the Rhône’s most renowned producers, Michel Chapoutier, has remarked that lower temperatures have contributed to the creation of wines that will demonstrate the individual character of the wines within each appellation.

Household names

Rhône valley 2014 vintage will be a good year?
Rhône valley 2014 vintage will be a good year? (source: Wikipedia)

Historically the Rhône has lagged behind Bordeaux and Burgundy in terms of the global popularity of its top wines but as prices have soared in both rival regions, many savvy investors as well as drinkers have turned their attention to the Rhône. Some of the appellations have become household names, widely associated with quality – wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be found in any British wine merchant or even supermarket. Quality is generally high but there is great variation between wines and vintages, with 13 permitted grape varieties within the appellation. Grenache is often the dominant grape in the top wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Continue reading

The Future of Wine Futures

Much has been written this year about Bordeaux’s en primeur campaign, and it is unclear whether buying ‘wine futures’ will become a thing of the past. Bordeaux négociants have suffered in the last few years as Chateaux have steadfastly refused to reduce their prices in response to demand. Is it possible that next year’s en primeur campaign could be the last of its kind?

A good deal for negociants

Future of en primeur hangs in the balance (source: Wikipedia)
Future of en primeur hangs in the balance (source: Wikipedia)

The way the system works at the moment, wine is offered for sale based on samples from the barrel offered in the April after the vintage. Historically this has been a good option for negociants to get a good deal on wines that have not been bottled yet. It’s not without risks of course, but in the past it was an exciting way of procuring the top wines before they had been released at a significantly lower price than what was commanded once they were bottled. And of course the price that the negociants pay is significant in terms of how this filters through to the end consumer.

For the last 5-6 years, negociants have shied away from en primeur – it hasn’t offered them a particularly good deal with the Chateaux retaining much of the profits. One weak campaign after another has ensured that the future of en primeur hangs in the balance now. Continue reading