Organic Wine Tasting
We live in an international age. We drink international grape varieties – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. Be they American or Australian, Bulgarian or Brazilian(!), our dual desires for familiarity and novelty are reflected in the international wine market. We are outlandishly conservative creatures.
Yet in an international age, Italy has retained (and exported) its nationality. And within the nation, a strong sense of regional identity, culture and diet remains. Although there are vineyards growing “international” varieties for budget export, most regions are associated with particular Italian grape varieties. There are some 350 varieties registered with Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and it is estimated that another 500 are in circulation. We will be tasting some of these on September 11th.
Gavi from Piedmont, is made from Cortese. In classic Italian fashion, it produces a dry, crisp white, high in acidity. Sparkling versions are very rare, and those made without sulphites were unheard of – before Castello di Tassarolo began making one. Henri Finzi-Constantine and Massimiliana Spinola pride themselves on making harmonious and enjoyable natural wines.
Soave, from Veneto, is usually a blend of Garganega and Trebbiano. In the wrong hands, it can be thin and acidic, but Fasoli Gino make a lusher version, ageing 20% of the grapes in oak to soften and substantiate the wine. Texture is just as important as flavour in wine, and the biodynamic Verdicchio that will follow is another wine with a broad, opulent mouthfeel, though still shaped by tangy acidity.
Wines from the south of Italy have excited the international market in the past ten years. As there are very few appellations, and so fewer regulations, governing wine production in the south, producers had more license to increase yields and vary varietal plantings. Add in the modern taste for ripe, rich reds from sunny climates, and the cheaper price of land and labour, and you have a recipe for popular, unpretentious wines at accessible prices. You have probably come across Sicily’s Nero d’Avola by now. Though unless you shop at the Greenhouse, you’ve probably not encountered one made without sulphites. Santa Tresa’s ‘Insieme’ is rather atypical for the variety – a very light, refreshing wine with minimal tannins.
Another surprising wine is Fasoli Gino’s Valpolicella ‘La Corte del Pozzo’. Valpolicella is better known for producing light , fruity reds, though the 8 months spent in large oak barrels and some bottle ageing has added depth, and a broad spectrum of flavours to this wine – clove and vanilla spice from the oak, and earthy, mushroomy flavours developing with time.
By this time, you might be expecting the unexpected. If you’re not, one last surprise awaits. Dolcetto, though popular in Piedmont, isn’t often exported. If you have come across it, you may know it as a fruity, frivolous red. But Erbaluna have created a serious wine. There’s still plenty of brambly fruit, but it is augmented by deeper, savoury flavours – tobacco, cedar and smoke.
These, of course, are the notes and perceptions of one person. If you haven’t been to a Greenhouse organic and vegan wine tasting before, they are democratic affairs, and you are encouraged to have your own opinions, cultivate your own preferences, and learn about your own palate. We taste the wines as a group, and augment their flavours (and soak up their effects) with a taster plate of organic food. This is light eating, so you may wish to eat bigger beforehand, though there’ll be plenty of organic bread on offer to bulk things up if you’re coming straight from work. The taster plate will feature organic, local and seasonal produce sourced from Folland Organics, on row B of Norwich market. Local food in an international age…
The evening’s wines in full:
Gavi Frizzante ‘Sparkling Spinola’, DOCG Castello di Tassarolo 2013
(Piedmont, 12% abv., shop price £12.95)
Soave ‘Borgoletto’, Fasoli Gino, DOC 2012
(Veneto, 12.5% abv., shop price £11.25)
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Pievalta, 2014
(Marche, 12.5%, £11.50)
Nero d’Avola ‘Insieme’ IGT, Santa Tresa 2013
(Sicily, 13%, £10.95)
Valpolicella La Corte del Pozzo DOC, Fasoli Gino 2013
(Veneto, 14%, £13.95)
Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Erbaluna 2011
(Piemonte, 13.5%, £12.45)
Feedback from ‘Wine in a Changing Climate’, our most recent organic wine tasting:
‘Fun. Social, educational, entertaining, casual.’
‘Excellent – instructive & informative. Well researched’
‘Food complemented the wine, and was really enjoyable’