Friday, September 18, 2009

charmingly organic(ally grown)

I recently checked out a blog entry by Lindsey of Flickers of Memories, which described in detail a problem I've heard many people talk about before - not being able to drink wine.
More specifically, people who get headaches or nauseous from drinking wine, which makes it very difficult  for anyone to enjoy the experience at all. I've heard every explanation in the book: allergic to wine, just doesn't agree with me, etc.
In truth, a lot of the time it can be boiled down to one of three things: pesticides, histamines or sulfites. It's pretty difficult to be allergic to wine, but it sure as heck is possible to be allergic to any of the mentioned ingredients, which are quite common in everyday wines.
So I decided to write a series of articles over the next week talking about the different types of wine that are best suited for individuals who may have never had a chance to really enjoy wine.

The first wine: organic

Let me start by saying that most wines are not organic (after all, sulfites are not an organic matter), they are organically grown. Meaning that the grapes used to create the wines were made without any pesticides or herbicides in the production. There are several natural alternatives that can be used instead, such as releasing ladybugs, dry farming, keeping owls and many others that can help to create a natural ecosystem in one's vineyard.
That also doesn't guarantee that the wine is vegan. As you may not know, wines are allowed to use certain amounts of egg whites or gelatin in the wines in order to create a proper consistency.
One organic and vegan vineyard that I know very well, since I've worked there for a year and a half, is Heller Estate Organic Vineyards in Carmel Valley. The winemaker, Rich Tanguay, is vegan, so he treats all his wines in a way that he would want them to taste.
A lot of their wines are on the more expensive side ($25 for 2007 Chardonnay, $40 for 2004 Estate Cabernet, $100 for their 2003 Meritage Celebration), but are a great option if you're vegan or have a problem drinking normal wines. A lot of people I've talked to said that they can only drink organic because they get headaches from drinking wines whose grapes have been treated with pesticides.

However, since I've worked there and have tried every single wine they have (including some of the 2008 futures), I decided to review someone else's wine. This time, I went south of the border and tried the 2008 Santa Julia Organica Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina ($7.99, Cost Plus). This wine was made with organically grown grapes, and you can instantly notice a difference. The taste is smooth, yet has a raw texture that's unique to the organic varietal.
The color is very light for a Cabernet (thought not surprising, considering it's so young), a soft burgundy with a salmon pink halo. The nose is full and sharp with notes of bright red cherry, black currant and a hint of pine needle.
The taste, oh man, it's hard to believe this is a Cabernet. It's incredibly light and smooth on the beginning, with flavors of black currant, red cherry, chocolate and raspberry ... but it finishes with a kick, a lingering flavor of salt and spice. I enjoyed it with a kalamata olive and feta cheese pizza, which actually didn't taste that bad - although, to be honest, the kalamata olives kind of killed the sweetness of the wine for a little while.
I really enjoyed this wine. It isn't one to hold on to, it's obviously meant to be drunk right away, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend anyone doing so. It's also a great way to impress your friends with all your new knowledge on organically grown wines!
Next I'll be taking the next step down the road to organic enlightenment - sulfite-free wine. Ooh ... should be interesting.

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