The Viva Guide to Organic Wine: The Best Sips That Tread Lightly on the Planet
Sunday, January 16, 2022
What do Ata Rangi, Felton Road and Neudorf have in common? These are, of course, some of the most renowned wineries in the country.
What is less known is that they are also united as organic producers. It’s an approach that has been increasingly adopted in recent years by some of New Zealand’s largest wineries, largely because they believe that avoiding synthetic chemicals allows them to produce even better wines.
Organic wine is on the rise worldwide, outpacing the wine category as a whole, with consumption expected to more than double between 2013 and 2023. As Europe dominates organic wine production , here in New Zealand, 10% of our wineries now have organic certification, while our area of certified vineyards has increased by around a third over the past three years.
Over the same period, the export value of the country’s organic wines has increased by 40%, with wine now being New Zealand’s third most valuable organic export.
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Much of the popularity of organic wines is consumer driven. The new generation of drinkers in particular, concerned about the environment and health, are turning to more natural products. Major wine companies have begun to notice the importance of the market, with some launching 100% organic ranges that allow organic wines to reach a wider audience.
In New Zealand, for example, Pernod Ricard launched its Stoneleigh organic range, while this year Villa Maria, which has been organic since 1999 and manages more than 30% of its vineyards organically, launched its organic Earth Garden wines. .
Boutique wineries still dominate the organic scene. But the types of establishments producing organic wines and their reasons for doing so have undergone a major shift. In the beginning, ethics often exceeded winemaking expertise, resulting in wild specimens that deterred some from revisiting organic wine.
Indeed, the first organic wine tasting I attended decades ago was a shock. Times have changed, as a wave of highly skilled winemakers are taking up organic farming, driven by a desire to improve quality and better reflect the individual character of their vineyards.
Science lends further support to these aspirations of quality and uniqueness realized through organic products. A New Zealand study tracked the evolution of three vineyards across the country that had been split in two: one conducted conventionally, the other organically.
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The organic halves saw no major increases in pests or disease, while the wines from each block saw the organic examples rated as good, if not better, than their conventional counterparts.
Findings that vineyard microbes influence the taste of a wine also reinforce the importance of a chemical-free approach to viticulture. Research has found that wild yeast communities in vineyards are distinct by region, while microbes in the soil can vary between vineyards in the same region.
For those looking to produce unique regional or vineyard wines that make the most of these unique combinations, disturbing or destroying biodiversity through the use of chemicals makes little sense.
I am convinced that the future of New Zealand wine is organic and that the adoption of its practices by the best and brightest New Zealand growers and winemakers will continue to take the country’s wines to new heights. This is certainly something reflected in my tastings of the latest wave of local organic releases, many of which were not only well done, but genuinely interesting and expressive.
Here are some delicious examples that I have selected.
1. Luc Lapeyre Fresh Red Wine Review, Languedoc, Vin de France 2020, $25
A delicious example from elsewhere. France has the second largest area of organic vines in the world. This high-value, spicy biodynamic blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet is bursting with light, juicy and cheerful blackberries and plums. find it on Barewine.co.nz
2. Stonecroft Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Gewurztraminer 2020, $27
Hawke’s Bay may have fewer organic vineyards than our other major wine regions, but examples like this demonstrate its potential. Slippery nectarine combines with the classic gewurztraminer characters of rosewater, lychee and aromatic spices, here seductively evoking garam masala. find it on Stonecroft.co.nz
3. Carrick Billet-Sweet Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019, $36
A lovely, fragrant pinot, made with minimal intervention; just a little time in old French barrels. With a silky texture, its pure and luminous raspberries and cherries are scented with notes of rose, chrysanthemum, thyme and a hint of exotic spices. Resellers include by CaroFine-O-Wine Milford, Gladstone Wines, Liquor Center Greenhithe, Liquorland Southgate Stonefields, Super Liquor Devonport and Mairangi Bay
4. Rock Ferry Trig Hill Vineyard Central Otago Tempranillo 2018, $45
Spain may be the largest producer of organic wine in the world, but one of its classic varietals makes an attractive, if rare, example in central Otago. This tempranillo is spicy and savory with ripe, concentrated black berries from this warm vintage, layered with notes of cocoa, licorice and bay leaf. Buy it online at Rockferry.co.nz and Greatlittlevineyards.com
5. Felton Road Cornish Point Central Otago Pinot Noir 2020, $71-$86
A beautifully fragrant biodynamic Pinot Noir from a site almost entirely surrounded by water. Lavender, rose, sandalwood, mocha, mineral and earth mingle with deep black cherry and plum in this incredibly fine-textured, fresh wine. Find it at Caro’s, Glengarry, Regional Wines & Spirits, Advintage, Decant, Nelson Liquor Merchants, Meenan Wines & Spirits, Feltonroad.com
6. Terrace Edge North Canterbury Syrah 2019, $36
Juicy red plum is joined by fragrant notes of rose blossom, black pepper, five spice and cocoa in this vibrant, velvety syrah grown on a sunny 45-degree slope in Waipara. Resellers include The Good Wine Co, Point Wines, Super Liquor Greerton, Liquor Barn, Center City Wine & Spirits, Regional Wines & Spirits, Vino Fino
7. Greenhough Hope Vineyard Nelson Pinot Blanc 2019, $32
A great alternative to the ubiquitous Pinot Gris, Greenhough makes a fine example of its parent, Pinot Blanc. It is a fresh, lemony mid-weight wine, with pure white fruit and a hint of toasted almond. Visit Greenhough.co.nz
8. Deep Down Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020, $27
A fabulous wild-fermented Sauvignon Blanc from the exciting new venture of former Seresin winemaker Clive Dougall. Balanced and textured, its elegant tropical fruit and nectarine are enveloped in lemony, chalky acidity. Find it at Star Superette, Farro, Fine Wine Delivery Company, Hamilton Beer and Wine, Wine Barrel, Cellar Ahuriri, Moore Wilson’s, Arrowtown Wine Store
9. Windrush Marlborough Pinot Noir 2019, $33
A more indulgent Pinot made by second-generation organic winemakers from a single organic vineyard from the start. Its ripe, fresh cherries are coated with notes of baking spice, earth, forest floor, dried herbs and a hint of milk chocolate. Find it at Glengarry Victoria Park, Cahn’s Wines & Spirits, By the Bottle, Black Market, Windrushorganic.com
10. Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2019, $40
The latest version of one of New Zealand’s classic chardonnays hits all the right notes again. A powerful symphony of flint, gun smoke, fresh grapefruit and ripe stone fruit, with resonant freshness and a sustained mineral note. Find it at Fine Wine Delivery Company, Caro’s, Glengarry, Dogpoint.co.nz
11. Kelly Washington Southern Valleys Marlborough Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2018, $38
Too often underestimated, Sémillon is the star of this blend of complex texture and intensely perfumed made in a concrete egg. Driven by a tight line of lemony acidity, its greengage and grassy notes are offset by rich waxy, toasty, honeyed and nougat characters. Resellers include Wine Direct, Waiheke Wine Centre, Kellywashingtonwines.com
12. Te Awanga Estate “One Off” Smoke & Mirrors Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2018, $25
An organic Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc may be an anomaly, but this “one off” is a wonderful surprise. Fermented and barrel-aged wild, it’s a riot of tangy lime, grapefruit and bergamot, with white fruits, jasmine, a hint of herbal bitters and a salty mineral edge. Resellers include Mt Roskill Super Liquor, Norwest Liquor, Hamilton Beer & Wine Company, Liquorland Orewa, teawangaestate.co.nz
This article originally appeared in Viva Magazine – Volume Five