Organic. Never has such a harmless looking word inspired more debate. In the veggie aisle, the fruit bin, the cotton gin and yes, the vineyard, the benefits of and drawbacks of "organic" are debated. There are a growing number of organic wines out there for us to sip on. My own curiosity finally got the best of me and I decided to give some the old Winey try.
I was mostly intrigued by the idea of "no added sulfites". Here in the good old USA, a wine is organic if you don't add sulfites (aka sulfur dioxide, a preservative widely used in winemaking and many food industries). You can grow your grapes organically (which can mean no unnatural fertilizer, chemical sprays, etc) but to label your wine organic, you have to not add sulfites. This is a rough definition of it all, but it's as far as my science fearing mind is going to travel for this post.
Sulfites often take the rap for the infamous "wine headache". (This too can be debated long and hard, so let's just say there a ton of things that can give you a wine headache: tannins, alcohol and drinking the entire bottle in one sitting. You KNOW there've been nights when you've done this, so stop judging.) So I wondered how a wine would taste if these little preservatives weren't added. Different? Better? Worse? No big deal?
My first foray into organic sipping came with a bottle of Frey Vineyards Natural Red Wine (NV, 12%, Mendocino Co, CA). Frey was one of the first organic winemakers in California, so their pedigree was pretty strong. This wine was a pretty purple color and is medium bodied. The nose was cherry and raspberry. Oh that the taste lived up to the bouquet! You could taste the raspberry and then boom! It was gone in a flash. I really, really wanted it to hang around longer. But it didn't. It simply gave way to a nasty dryness in my mouth. A dryness that overpowered any flavors that might have tried desperately to hang on. Big disappointment here. My first organic wine and it was...icky (technical Winey Mom term).
But hey, I've had icky wines before. Just because this was organic didn't mean that was why it was icky. So, being the Winey trooper that I am, I headed out for a different organic red to try.
I found Our Daily Red from Orleans Hill Winery (2011, 12.5%, American Canyon, CA). This wine is also vegan friendly, should that matter to you. The California Table Wine is a blend of Syrah, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. It starts out with a nose of plum and cherry and a hint of something green - I came up with celery. The taste (after much oxygen - don't try to sip this without aerating it in some way) was of warm sour cherries with a sharp taste of tin foil above it all. I have nothing against tin foil. I just don't like it in my wine. But there it was, a sharp metallic tang that kind of just lived above all the other flavor. The wine felt thin in my mouth, and finished with lots of tannins. They were woody, but not overpowering or as drying as the Frey wine was. Better...but still....not great. Not a wine I'd buy again. It was just kind of wimpy and thin and forgettable.
I realize that I am lumping organic wine into one opinion based on only two bottles. And, admittedly, I didn't try a white organic, but to tell you the truth, I'm a bit scared to. Two consecutive bottles of wine that you don't like can cause a Winey Mom to avoid the genre altogether.
So I'll ask all of my Winey Friends out there: is there an organic wine (white or red) that I should be trying? Is there hope for curing my current fear of such wine? I will take and and all suggestions.. but until then...I'm opting for the sulfites. ~clink~