April 21, 2010

The Grape Escape: Organic wine: red, white or green

Organic food is trendy, and it’s good business. Organic foods make up 2 percent of all national grocery sales, according to industry stats, which show sales gaining at 20 percent annually.

But organic wine doesn’t show the same traction, comprising only about 1 percent of the domestic wine market.

Personally, I’m all for organic foods, but organic and biodynamic wines haven’t made a similar case with me. This may be because the artisanal wines I usually favor don’t make heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides anyway.

In extensive sampling, I simply don’t find a difference in the glass between organic wines and their non-organic competitors. Still, organic wine sales are increasing, pulled along by the “greening” of America. Accordingly, strict new federal organic wine laws went into effect in 2007, governing such matters as label language and the addition of sulfites. (I shall rant about sulfite hysteria another day. You have been warned.)

Let’s relax this week with a glass of hearty organic red wine from France. Curiously, its back label tells the regulatory tale in French, not English: “Vin issu de raisin de l’agriculture biologique,” which I make out as “Wine made from grapes of organic agriculture.” Now you know why my wife will never let me order in French at Le Relais.

Perrin 2007 “Nature” Côtes du Rhône
($12.99)
Its ruby color is almost too dark to see through. Black cherry and mixed berry aromas and flavors add a whiff of freshly ground black pepper. Tart, zippy acidity and tannic astringency provide a “chewy” mouthfeel. A winner at the dinner table, it’s a versatile match with red meat, sharp cheese, roast chicken or pork. It was splendid with leftover lechon asado from Havana Rumba.