Wine Blogging Wednesday #29 was a tough assignment. The interesting challenge comes from the Fork & Bottle blog, who suggested the theme of “biodynamic wines.” This was a new one for us… and when we checked with the wine manager at a well-stocked (in the affordable range) local shop it was a new term to him, too. We won’t go into the whole explanation here, as there are some great links and info at Fork & Bottle. Suffice it to say that “biodynamic” refers to a form of organic growing that is quite labor-intensive but avoids nasty pesticides and the like, and is supposed to self-renew the soil. That’s a huge oversimplification, of course, but in the long run it’s supposed to produce better grapes.
The challenging part of WBW #29 was finding a true biodynamic wine. We started by printing out Fork & Bottle’s huge list of biodynamic winemakers. We found the aforementioned wine manager at a local shop that stocks a fairly extensive assortment of affordable wines, and started going down the list. We focused on California and Australian vineyards, as they seemed the most likely to produce a hit. The only possible hits were Fetzer and Bonny Doon. The “Bonny Doon” wine was Big House Red, which we later discovered had changed owners and wasn’t necessarily produced using the same techniques as the Bonny Doon biodynamic wines. Fetzer Vineyards, though, seemed promising. When we checked their website, we found,
Fetzer Vineyards is an environmentally conscious grower, producer and marketer of wines. We make every effort to ensure that the wine you drink is of the highest quality and value, while managing our impact on the environment. A process to develop and initiate sustainable business practices was implemented in the mid-1980s. We don’t do it because it’s trendy or to make a political statement. We do it because we believe that it results in better-tasting wines and that it’s simply the right thing to do…
We are the largest grower of certified organically grown grapes on the North Coast and one of the largest in the world. 100% of our 2,000 farmed acres are certified organic through California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Our organic vineyards are farmed without the use of pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.
Biodynamic? They don’t use that terminology, but they seem to have their head in the right place. So, we picked up a bottle of Fetzer Valley Oaks Gewurztraminer 2005. (We’ve tasted a lot of dry, oaky whites lately, and we were in the mood for something a bit different.) Here’s what we found:
Fetzer Valley Oaks Gewurztraminer 2005
Maker: Fetzer Vineyards, Hopland, Mendocino County, California
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12.0 %
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Gewürztraminer means “spice grapes” in German, and this wine is a good example of the varietal. Fetzer Valley Oaks Gewurztraminer 2005 has a pleasing nose with melon, floral, and spice notes. The flavor is interesting – it starts off with strong sweet peach notes, and neatly transitions into a spicy grapefruit finish. Along the way, there are green apple and honeydew notes. The crisp acidity in the finish balances the early sweetness well.
Gewürztraminer food pairing suggestions often involve spicy foods, and the Fetzer Gewurztraminer would serve this purpose well. It would also be a fine choice to enjoy alone, and the fact that it’s not unforgivingly dry will let it appeal even to those who crinkle their nose at a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
Do organic wines taste different? Perhaps their flavor isn’t inherently different, but the commitment needed to grow the grapes in this exacting manner suggests that the winemaker might take extra care with every step of the process. We found Fetzer Valley Oaks Gewurztraminer to be appealing enough to keep our eyes open for other organic and/or biodynamic wines.