Sunday, November 1, 2009

Green without tears: the wines of Organic Vintners™

Organic Vintners™ (, based in Boulder, Colorado, carries a solid, internationally sourced book of 100% certified organically grown wines, no exceptions. That is to say, not even so-called “sustainable” wines, with their more nebulous (i.e. just theoretically “organic”) standards, make it into OV’s porfolio. For more on the differences between organic and sustainable viticulture, re War Between the Greens.

But there are other really cool things about their wines:

• Organic Vintners’ guaranteed quality standards are pretty darned good (keep in mind, these are not sloppy, funky unsulfured wines, but wines made from organically grown grapes). As someone who has been buying and selling wine professionally since 1978, I can say that their collection of imported and négociant style wines is as good or better as any others’.

• The bulk of their wines retail between $10 and $22; totally dispelling the myth that certified organically grown wines are more expensive.

• OV ships to your door in nineteen states (including within Colorado) plus D.C.

• If you’re a vegan, OV is for you because they go through the effort to make sure that almost all of their wines are fined or filtered without the use of any animal product.

• If you are sensitive to sulfites, it’s good to know that standards for wines made from organic grapes specify that added sulfur does not exceed 100 parts per million (note: at least a little added sulfur is necessary to stabilize wines of dependable quality).

Enough of that, let’s talk about the wines; in order of my favorites (with approximate retail prices, which will vary among markets), and all qualifying as vegan:


Organic Vintners, Pinot Noir 2007 (Mendocino, California; $22) – Even at $22, this is a steal; a pinot of fresh, lovely varietal purity, expressing kirsch-like black cherry fruitiness in the nose, with suggestions of strawberry and fresh plucked sprigs of peppermint. On the palate, neither big nor light-weight; but rather, velvety smooth in a light-medium body, amplified by juicy, spiced berry flavors, unimpeded by soft tannin.

Château de Bastet, Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Spéciale 2007 (France; $23) – You’ll find a number of $12-$16 Côtes du Rhônes on the market these days; but as pricey as the Château de Bastet may seem by comparison, this is an exuberantly rich, perfectly rounded, certified Biodynamic® estate bottling, with an elevated sense of terroir: namely, the mix of pepper spiced strawberry, floral/violet and distinctly smoky qualities (despite the unoaked élevage of this 50/50 syrah/grenache blend), wrapped in a round medium body, neither light nor heavy in its earthen berry flavor.

Nuovo Mundo, Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2008 (Maipo Valley, Chile; $17) - A purplish ruby colored 50/50 varietal blend, showing the qualities and characteristics of both grapes: the blackberry/toffee-like density of the malbec on top of the dried berry as well as leafy green, chamomile tea-like complexity of cabernet. On the palate, the wine is medium-full and thickened by rounded tannin, without tasting heavy; the leafy notes taking on earthy, mulchy qualities, and the blackberry flavors turning cassis-like towards a medium intense finish.

Almagre, Tempranillo 2007 (Rioja, Spain; $16) – The joy of many of Spain’s reds made from the native tempranillo grape (this bottling blended with 10% mazuelo, a.k.a. cariñena) is its deep, multifaceted, yet consistently smooth, balanced character. Here, a bright, fragrant berry aroma (raspberry/strawberryish) is tinged with earthy, brown kitchen spices (suggesting cardamom, allspice and vanilla bean). The spiced berry qualities are soft and round on the palate, finishing with a flavorful ease.

Can Vendrell, Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo 2006 (Penedès, Spain; $15) – After an initial whiff of sulfides (which volatilize fairly quickly with swirling in a large glass or decanter), a handsome nose of blackcurrant/cassis-like berries and tobacco-like smoke predominates in the nose; the wine’s medium weight body buoyed by a nice balance of silken texture, soft underlying tannin, and fresh, zesty edge.

Ventura, Malbec 2007 (Lontué Valley, Chile; $10) – You won’t find a lot of Chilean malbecs around; nor any from anywhere at this ridiculous price. But forget the bargain fare, because this wine stands up just fine as a malbec of any class, with its plump, fleshy, well ripened, sweet blackberryish fruit; its medium-full body grounded by firming medium tannin and the caramelized, meaty qualities of the fruit on the palate.

Pircas Negras, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Famatina Valley, Argentina; $12) – This is a soft, slightly fat style of cabernet sauvignon, but well within scale: its moderately intense mix of red berry and black licorice flavors having a clean, honest, unfettered sense of immediacy – plenty enough to fill an easy textured medium body.

Giol, Merlot 2008 (Veneto, Italy; $17) – If you’re into the fruit-forward qualities of merlot, here’s a screwcapped bottling of organic/vegan lineage: bright red cherry aroma encased in soft leather and scrubby, dried herb bunch notes; the zesty fruit and easy tannin/body tinged with tobacco-like qualities on the palate.


Pircas Negras, Torrontés 2009 (Famatina Valley, Argentina; $12) – Torrontés makes such effortlessly flavorful wines, its reputation as an obscure, second-fiddle member of Vitis vinifera (the European family of ultra-premium grapes) seems almost absurd. Everything you want in a white wine is here: a fine balance, and intense complexity of fragrances, and a mouth-watering fruitiness underlined by zingy acidity. In this case, a floral, tropical nose suggesting tropical flowers, lemon-lime freshness, floral Asian spice, and hazelnut-like tones; followed by a lithe, airy, lightly tart, easy body lifting the barely off-dry fruitiness (just whispers of sweetness), which finish with a gingery, white pepper-like spiciness.

Giol, Pinot Grigio 2008 (Veneto, Italy; $17) – Classic perfumes of lavender, citrus and stone fruit (nectarine/apricot) in the nose, and properly light, smooth, lemony dry, crisp edged and balanced on the palate.

Ventura, Chardonnay 2009 (Lontué Valley, Chile; $10) – A tropical fruit aroma is at first pineappley, and then suggestive of mango, peach, and white flowers. So if there ever was a backyard/hammock-appropriate chardonnay, this would be it (or a way of enjoying a bottled fragrance of summer in the winter). Dry and light-medium bodied; the tropical fruit qualities moderately crisp, fresh, and lively.

Nuevo Mundo, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2009 (Maipo Valley, Chile; $16) – Floral, perfumed nose of violet and grapefruit, with a leafy green herbiness peeking out from underneath; extra-dry, light, lemony tart edged varietal qualities on the palate.
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