Wine Tasting – A Purer Form of Fun 2014
A tasting without added sulphur
42-46 Bethel Street
Norwich NR2 1NR
Aromatic, flavoursome, sensual, intoxicating… wine is a great pleasure. It can also be the source of great pain. If you suffer from migraines or asthma, chances are you rarely partake; less clinically precise issues may also mar your experience of the fermented grape… “wine headaches”, sinus problems, other respiratory issues, stomach upset, sneezing fits…
Hangovers are less punitive if you drink organic. Grapes are one of the most heavily sprayed agricultural crops, owing to their thin-skinned, delicate and sweet characteristics. In 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture found traces of 34 pesticides on a sample of Chilean grapes. If you’re concerned about the effect pesticide exposure has on your body, and on your environment, drinking organic wine is a logical step.
But clean raw material, whilst being a very good start, isn’t the whole of the story. The wine making process has its own issues. Over 60 additives commonly used in conventional wine are outlawed by organic standards. The absence of mandatory labelling on wines veils the issue, but one additive is ubiquitously used and much discussed. Liberal additions of sulphur dioxide may cause, or at least exacerbate, many of the maladies listed above.
Organic wines have lower levels of added sulphur dioxide than conventional wines, but levels vary depending on the climate, the volume of production, and the preoccupations of the producer. Most organic winemakers want to produce wines as naturally as possible, and an increasing number of well made and affordable wines are now being made without the addition of sulphur. We stock 11 of these in a separate, labelled section in the Greenhouse shop, and we will be sampling five of them at our next tasting.
We are cautiously optimistic that the weather will allow us to make use of our organic courtyard garden for an outdoor tasting. This backdrop calls out for a summer treat, so we’ll begin with Castello di Tassarolo’s Gavi Frizzante Sparkling Spinola, for those keen on Piedmont but tired of Prosecco. We will follow it with another crisp Italian white, the tangy green apple flavours of Cristina Menicocci’s Trebbiano Rhesan. Then over to Spain for Albet i Noya’s Xarel.lo Nosodos, a richly aromatic wine, with an interesting texture, hints of peach and pineapple on the palate, and a touch of sea salt hinting at its Mediterranean origins.
As the evening draws on, we might want a little warming up, and the vigorous, robust character and brambly blackcurrant notes of Stellar Organics’ Cabernet Sauvignon should relight our internal fires. Then back to Piedmont for Erbaluna’s Rosso ‘Elia’, a biodynamic blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera. This estate produced the Barolo we unveiled at last year’s Finer Things tasting, but this is a more affordable pleasure. And what a pleasure it is – rich, chocolatey and full-bodied, this purple nectar is a liquid riposte to those who claim no-added-sulphur wines have fruit but lack depth.
Our wine tastings are relaxed and sociable affairs. We will taste and feedback as a group, whether you come alone or with friends. Please book your place in advance, either in the Greenhouse shop or online, and eat beforehand. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, we think you’ll enjoy the vivacity and variety of the organic wines on offer.
The evening’s wines in full:
1) Gavi Frizzante, Sparkling Spinola
Castello di Tassarolo, 2013
12% vol., £12.95(shop price)
Piedmont, Italy. Grape variety: Cortese.
2) Trebbiano Rhesan, Cristina Menicocci, 2011
12.5% vol., £10.65. Lazio,Italy.
3) Xarel.lo Nosodos, Albet i Noya, 2012
13% vol., £12.50.
Penedès, Spain. Grape varieties: Xarel.lo / Chardonnay
4) Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellar Organics, 2011.
13% vol., £8.75. Namaqualand, Western Cape, South Africa.
5) Rosso Elia, Erbaluna, 2011
15% vol., £13.50.
Piedmont, Italy. Grape varieties: Nebbiolo / Barbera
Feedback from previous Greenhouse wine tastings:
‘Very good and enlightening’
‘Pleasant and relaxed approach – v. informative’
‘Great fun – interactive and good to meet new people.’