Organic wine tasting

Meinklang unpruned vine

Friday 8th July


£15 until July 5th

£17 afterwards

@The Greenhouse

42-46 Bethel Street

Norwich NR2 1NR

The practise of tending grape vines and producing grapes has its own name: viticulture. Distinct from agriculture. In our age of specialisation, the people who fill our glasses are separate from the people who put food on our plates. And yet, the two practises have symbiotic land requirements: better soil for food, poorer soil for grapes. A happy circumstance that the best wine grapes come from least fertile soils.

But with the intensification of agriculture came the monoculture, and a diversity of sowings was replaced by mechanised planting and harvesting of specific crops. And so wine became a cash crop, a luxury item, and not a naturally fermented local fruit brew. The grape growers were separated from the farmers.

But there remains resistance to the industrialisation of viticulture – and that resistance, though far from prevailing, is growing. Meinklang, a family winery based in Burgenland, on the border between Austria and Hungary, are a good example of a diverse biodynamic farm.

They grow old strains of grain. They keep rare breed Angus cattle, and so have a good source of manure-based compost. This saves the carbon emissions of transporting weighty fertilisers; and for wine enthusiasts, this helps build the unique sense of place, or terroir, that their wines exude. The cattle graze, and their output becomes input for the farm, minimising the need for external inputs (“closed loop) agriculture), and renewing the soil fertility.

Meinklang grow diverse grape varieties, which they vinify separately. We’ll try five of them on the 8th. You’ll recognise Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and perhaps Grüner Veltliner; but perhaps you’re less familiar with Zweigelt? And few places produce Icewine from Traminer (parent of Gewürtztraminer).

The Pinot Gris and the Zweigelt are both made from ‘wild’ vines. These are as natural as vineyards get. Vines are customarily pruned each year, but these vines have been left unpruned, encouraging the vines to find their own equilibrium. The resulting berries, whilst labour intensive to pick (usually vines will be trained into fruiting zones along a wire) are thick skinned, but full of extract; and more extract means greater intensity of flavour.

The natural approach continues in the winery, where only the natural yeasts of the vineyard are used to start fermentation. And after fermentation is complete, only low dosages of sulphur dioxide are used, meaning a minimum of preservatives go into the wine.

The Pinot Gris, indeed, is made without any added sulphites. This is a tricky thing to do with a white wine, as they are usually fermented off of the skins, meaning the antioxidants, and their natural preservative qualities, don’t make it into the wine. But more natural winemakers are starting to give their white wines time on the skins, to utilise this natural preservative. It imparts an orange hue, and adds more texture to the wine.

Icewines are produced in exceptional years and in small volumes. The Traminer grapes involved here were picked in temperatures of minus 7 degrees. Icewines involve pressing grapes gently whilst still frozen, so the water content doesn’t make it into the wine, leaving us with a concentrated elixir.

Note: There will also be a potted version of this tasting from 12 till 1pm on the 8th, called ‘Lunchtime Tippling with Tom’. Taste three wines for £6. Food isn’t included, but lunch is available to buy in the café afterwards. Reserve your place by email, or in the Greenhouse shop.

On the menu:

5 biodynamic wines from Burgenland, Austria.

Grüner Veltliner 2014

11% vol. Shop price £11.50

served with Norfolk cucumber & bronze fennel

Pinot Gris ‘Wild Vine’ 2013

12% vol. Shop price £16.85

served with spiced, roasted cashew nuts

Pinot Noir 2013

13% vol. £13.95

served with new season beetroot

Zweigelt ‘Wild Vine’ 2012

13% vol. £19.40

served with roasted pepper & walnut dip

Traminer Ice Wine 2012

15.5% abv. £19.95 for half bottle

served with Norfolk strawberries

All foodstuffs organic. Fruit and veg from Folland Organics, Row A, Norwich Market. Other food from the Greenhouse shop. Served with organic bread from the Timberhill Bakery.

Feedback from our ‘Affordable, Discerning, Organic’ wine tasting:

‘Excellent selection of wines’

‘Awesome – liked the wine pairings’

‘Very friendly and informal – a really lovely, conversational evening’