Bio Picks: 10 top eco-wines

Bio Picks: 10 top eco-wines

Eco-wines that taste so good your guests will never know they’re saving the planet

(Illustration: Brian Rea) 

I’m all for protecting the environment, but when it comes to wine, what I care about most is taste. Fortunately, there’s good news on the eco-friendly front. Like organics, biodynamic wines are free of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, but the eco-balanced regimen is even more stringent. One of biodynamic vintners’ main aims is to strengthen the soil and, therefore, the vines. They bury cows’ horns filled with compost material in the soil and take cues from lunar cycles for planting and pruning. The techniques might sound paganistic, but such meticulous attention often results in better tasting wine. I’ve also found that biodynamic wines offer unparalleled expressions of terroir. The best I’ve tasted was a famous Loire Valley chenin blanc made by French biodynamic proponent Nicolas Joly. The Coulée de Serrant is a sinewy, incredibly intense wine that radiates flint and oyster shell—there’s no question that it comes from chalk soil vineyards in a maritime climate on the banks of the broad Loire.

The quality of green wines, whether biodynamic, organic or sustainable, is decidedly on the rise. Thanks to consumer interest, winemakers are investing in labour-intensive growing practices, and it’s paying off as the wines continue to improve. Organic wine sales at the LCBO’s Vintages stores increased 13.5 per cent last year, despite the recession and the generally high price of organics. In fact, Ontario is becoming something of an eco-wine hot spot. At the BioVino expo this spring, Toronto played host to a who’s who of international organic and bio­dynamic winemakers. And the selection of conscientious bottles in this town has never been better. Here are my green picks.

Domaine Barmes Buecher 2007 Rosenberg Gewurztraminer
$28.95 | Alsace, France | 94 points
This biodynamically grown masterpiece was the top-scoring white at Toronto’s BioVino competition in April. Heady with scents of lavender, tangerine, lychee and honey, it’s massively rich and a touch sweet. The structure is still well honed and seamless, with flavours lingering into next week.
thelivingvine.ca.

WHITE

Cono Sur 2009 Viognier
$9.95 | Colchagua, Chile | 90 points
Chile’s warm, dry climate is ideal for organic growing—so much so that some vintners are suggesting it could be the first all-green wine nation. Cono Sur, a leading organic producer, offers great value with its mid-weight and zesty viognier. With lovely aromas of spearmint, star fruit and pepper, it’s an excellent pick for summer entertaining. LCBO 64287

Domaine Weinbach 2007 Riesling Cuvée Sainte Catherine
$73.50 | Alsace, France | 97 points
Weinbach, my favourite Alsatian producer, will be certified biodynamic in 2011 (the process takes years). Its riesling is voluptuous, with exquisite aromas of apricot, honey, moss and riesling’s unique petrol scent. It’s off-dry, fleshy yet refined, with outstanding length.
By the half-case from liffordwineagency.com.

Meinklang 2008 Grüner Veltliner
$16.95 | Burgenland, Austria | 91 points
From the humid shores of Lake Neusiedl,
Mein­klang biodynamically farms several crops, with 300 cattle providing soil-enriching compost. This wine bristles with grüner’s peppery character, plus apricot, lemon peel and candle wax. It’s dry, with mineral precision—a classic of the genre. thelivingvine.ca.

Tawse 2007 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay
$42 | Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara | 92 points
Tawse isn’t yet certified, but it farms organically under the guidance of Burgundy-based consultant Pascal Marchand. Featuring grapes from 25-year-old vines, this powerful chardonnay is sturdy, compact and complex, with well-integrated flavours of poached pear, peat smoke and almonds. tawsewinery.ca.

PINK

Southbrook 2009 Cabernet Rosé
$18.95 | Niagara-on-the-Lake | 88 points
Southbrook is the first certified biodynamic winery in Niagara, a difficult region in which
to go green due to the rot- and mould-inducing humidity. This bright pastel pink rosé has piquant aromas of redcurrants, fresh herbs and pepper. It’s spry, almost spritzy, with a blush of sweetness. Vintages. LCBO 149203

RED

Bonterra 2006 Syrah
$19.95 | Mendocino County, california | 89 points
California’s largest producer of organic wines has fashioned a well-structured syrah. There’s subtle black cherry, licorice, herbs and charry notes. With firm acidity and tannin, it’ll age well. Best 2012 to 2016. Vintages. LCBO 573709

The Sadie Family 2007 Columella
$99 | Swartland, South Africa | 92 points
From crumbled slate and granite soils in the
hot Swartland region, this organically produced syrah-based red has great tension, with compact notes of currants, herbs, pepper and dusty earthiness. Outspoken naturalist Eben Sadie was named South Africa’s winemaker of 2010. Best 2012 to 2020. thelivingwine.ca.

Seña 2006
$79.95 | Aconcagua Valley, Chile | 95 points
I’ve tasted the 2006 Seña, one of Chile’s icon reds, three times this year, and each time I’ve been amazed by its power and poise, a rare combination in a wine this big. It blends the six Bordeaux varieties to create exceedingly pure aromas of cassis, with background notes of herbs, juniper and smoke. By the half-case from liffordwineagency.com.

Western Range 2007
Julimar Organic Shiraz
$24.95 | Western Australia | 90 points
Not as exuberantly fruity as many Aussie shirazes, Western Range is concentrated with notes of chocolate, eucalyptus, cassis and moss that stay focused on the long finish. 2011 to 2014. Vintages, June 12. LCBO 165951