E Wine of the Week – Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,
Let’s begin this year with a look at organic wines, a movement that’s gaining a lot of momentum and raising a lot of questions.

Monday, January 21 I’ll be at Pesto Café in Fayetteville with friend and coworker James Cripps, tasting and talking about wines. Drop by after work, around 5 p.m. and join us. Go to brucecochran.com for details.

Try a new wine this week!

Unveiling the mystery of organic wines

There’s a lot of interest today in organic wines, from consumers to winemakers themselves. As with organically grown foods, a lot of people like the idea of farmers avoiding pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. But there is a difference between organic wines and wines made from organically grown grapes.

From California to Europe and around the world, organically grown grapes are becoming increasingly plentiful. Using cover crops for weed control and soil improvement, composting, and using beneficial “predators” for insect control are some of the techniques grape growers use.

Dry climates, as in Argentina, south-central Washington State and areas around the Mediterranean, make organic farming easier. There are fewer vineyard maladies, so less spraying is needed for healthy vines and grapes. Irrigation from nearby water sources, like Andean snowmelt in Argentina and rivers in Washington State, make it possible to water the ground and the roots without getting water on the grapes, where molds, fungi and other problems can cause off flavors. This is especially important just prior to harvest.

But what makes a wine organic?  It’s more than just growing grapes without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Winemaking practices are involved, too, particularly the use of sulfur dioxide (sulfites). Sulfur dioxide can keep oxygen away from wine, control microbes and neutralize certain undesirable elements that can form during fermentation. Some people are allergic to sulfites and winemakers wouldn’t use them if it wasn’t necessary. Some level of sulfites occurs naturally.

Making really good wine in a totally organic way isn’t easy. Quality can vary, even from one bottle to the next in the same case. But growing grapes organically can and is being done on an ever-increasing scale.

In the early 1990’s Fetzer Vineyards in California launched a brand called Bonterra, which was made from 100 percent organically grown grapes. Fewer people were doing it back then. Bonterra now is its own brand, and is available across the country. Of the many grape varieties Fetzer grows, probably the Syrah gets the most accolades. It’s priced in the $15-$20 range.

Categories: Legacy Archive