This month witnesses a drive to spread the word about the many benefits organic food and farming can bring to our climate, nature and our health. Here, Times Drinks Editor James Viner raises his glass to Mother Nature with four first-class organic wines
Organic wines are on the up. Though tricky and risky in a cool climate such as ours is generally, it’s certainly possible to make organic wines (see my two sparkling picks from East Sussex below).
Organic vitiviniculture avoids the use of man-made synthetic chemical fertilisers, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides to promote soil health, wildlife and biodiversity. In the EU, organic wines may contain (naturally occurring) sulphites but with lower maximums than conventional, non-organic wines.
All organic food sold in the EU must be certified by registered certification bodies.
Soil Association Certification Limited is the country’s oldest and biggest organic certification organisation, licensing around 70% of the organic food and drink products on sale in the UK.
According to its Organic Market Report 2022, the UK organic market has attained its tenth successive year of growth, increasing by 5.2% in 2021 to around £3 billion.
From a top-flight food-friendly Tuscan red to a fruity Italian Prosecco, here are four of the best wines produced from organically grown grapes. Cheers!
1 . Organic Prosecco
Castellore Organic Prosecco NV, Italy (£7.99, Aldi, 11%)
Not all Prosecco – made in tanks and bottled young – stimulates my taste buds, but this water-white, crowd-pleasing organic one is most elegant, fruity and fairly dry, with an apple orchard and peachy character, and gets my vote. Charmingly frothy and vivacious party pop. It will have many fans and is especially good in a (non-organic) Campari or Aperol spritz. Joyful organic consumption without pretence.
2 . Luminous organic white wine
Villa Maria Organic Earth Garden Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Marlborough, New Zealand (£11.50, Tesco, 13.5%)
Environmentally-responsible Villa Maria has cultivated Sauvignon Blanc organically since 2010, acquiring BioGro certification in 2012. BioGro is New Zealand’s leading and best-known certifier for organic produce and products. Every grape used to make Villa Maria’s Earth Garden range is grown in pesticide-free vineyards and untreated, pesticide-free soil. Nab this lime, grapefruit, just-mown grass, pea shoot and passionfruit gem. The flavour-packed palate is lively, gently textured and balanced; the finish crisp and long. Would go well with end-of-season summer salads, roasted white meats, fish, shellfish and mild, creamy cheeses. Delightful organic wine and a revitalising drink, with or without food. Vegan-friendly, too.
Did you know?
Spain, France and Italy – the world’s biggest wine producers – also produce most (75%) of the world’s organic wine. Italy has the top proportion of organic vines compared with the total area devoted to wine growing and Sicily has the biggest organic vineyard area in Italy. Look out for characterful inexpensive organic Sicilian wines from Azienda Agricola Cortese.
3 . Cheers to the first port to be made entirely from fully-certified organically-grown grapes
Port lovers can embrace Organic September with a bottle of Fonseca Terra Prima Organic Reserve port. Made by Fonseca, the Fladgate-owned port house founded in 1815, this velvety, opulent, lip-smacking, organic reserve port will woo you with lashings of sweetly spiced plum, red cherry, blueberry, loganberry and rose petal-scented fruit. A wonderful drop. This bottle is accredited as being derived from organically-grown grapes by Socert, the Portuguese certifying body which is part of the European Ecocert certification system. As well as committing to creating organic wines, Fonseca is also a founding fellow of the Porto Protocol, which is a mission by all participants to pledge to pursue the next steps to reduce the impact of climate change. Pair with organic, tangy Cropwell Bishop blue Stilton.
4 . Top-tier organic red fine wine from Tuscany
Berry Bros & Rudd Brunello di Montalcino by Fattoria La Màgia di Fabian Schwarz 2017, Tuscany, Italy (£35, Berry Bros & Rudd bbr.com, 14.5%)
One of Italy’s grandest and longest-lived wines, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, is made in Tuscany from Sangiovese – like Chianti. But in Brunello’s case, it is 100% Sangiovese ‘Brunello’, a local strain or clone of Sangiovese. Fattoria La Màgia is one of the most noteworthy producers in the storied appellation. This is complex and enchanting organic drinking with tangy acidity and savoury tannins shaping black cherry fruit, raspberries, tobacco, violets and cinnamon with a splash of tar and leather. The longer it is open, the more it unfurls (no amazement there), but it does suggest that time in the cellar will be its friend. Otherwise drinking it now will deliver much gratification, if you use your decanter and have something substantial at the table – perfect with bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak), grouse and roast duck with roasted root veggies. Has the X-factor. Full organic certification since the 2012 vintage. Sensational.
Interested in local organic sparkling wines?
Disease pressure in the UK is great so making organic winemaking a risky business. Kudos therefore to these two outstanding local producers who show that it’s possible to make high-quality organic wines in the UK:
Davenport Vineyards Blanc de Blancs 2015 sparkling wine (£32.50, davenportvineyards.co.uk), E. Sussex
Oxney Organic Estate Classic 2018 sparkling wine (£38, oxneyestate.com), E. Sussex