Cover photo: Kim Lightbody / Jacqui Small
The world of organic and biodynamic wine can seem surprisingly complex and, at times, confusing or even impenetrable, and for those looking to delve into its mysteries, Jane Anson's new book ``Wine Revolution'' provides a fascinating key. It's highly readable as well as being an excellent reference book, packed with information and driven by anecdotes and the personalities of the winemakers behind the labels.
As she points out early on in the book, consumers who pay attention to whether or not their food is organically grown rarely ask the same questions about their wine. While they are swayed by the back story of how wines are made and the conditions in which grapes are grown, purchasing decision rarely revolve around whether or not a wine has a label certifying its organic or biodynamic credentials. Even holidaymakers on trips driving through vineyards will not typically base cellar-door purchases on whether or not a grower is organic.
A Bordeaux-based writer and critic for Decanter magazine, Jane Anson has crafted a narrative spanning the globe from Champagne to Oregon by way of Alsace, Burgundy, Catalonia and China. Some producers cited are already well-known for high-quality wines, but not necessarily associated with the organic or biodynamic movements. Others are less familiar names.
Aubert de Villaine at Burgundy grand cru vineyard Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Chateau Lafleur on Bordeaux's Pomerol plateau and Louis Roederer Champagne all have a long-established reputation for quality of the highest standard, and demand that outstrips supply, without the need to market themselves as organic or biodynamic.
De Villaine has been biodynamic since 2006, although only certified as such this year, while more than 40 percent of Louis Roederer's 240 hectares (590 acres) of vines are farmed biodynamically, including all the grapes that go into its flagship Cristal label, which aims to be certified by 2020. As for Lafleur, she describes it as ``artisan winemaking at its best.''
In the section on Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, there is a comment from Ivo Jeramaz, nephew of founder Miljenko (Mike) Grgich, that reflects the natural approach to winemaking.``Great wine is made in the vineyard,'' he says. ``The flavours are in the grapes, so why would we ruin that with aromatic yeasts or too much new oak? The job of a winemaker is not to create wine but to preserve the authenticity of those flavours from the vineyard.''
Scattered through the book, the rollcall of winemakers who have signed up for organic or biodynamic methods is impressive. Athenais de Beru in Chablis, Peter Jakob and Peter Bernhard Kuehn on the Rhine, Alexandre Bain and Nicolas Joly in the Loire, Veronique Drouhin in Oregon, Stephane Ogier in the Rhone, Olivier Humbrecht in Alsace and Lilian Carter, who travels between vineyards in Melbourne and Xinjiang, all populate these pages and bring to life the challenges and rewards of seeking to produce wine in a sustainable and natural way.
There are also interesting food pairing suggestions, many from sommeliers and producers, and original wine-based cocktail recipes, but the heart of the narrative is the array of personalities whose wine is based on respect for the soil and natural processes in the winery. It makes for a heart-warming Xmas read.
Wine Revolution by Jane Anson is published by Jacqui Small, priced at 25 pounds in the U.K. and $35 in the U.S.