Manic organic; eating & drinking

THE VALUE of organic consumables sold in the UK has increased sixfold in a decade, and is expected to be worth pounds 500m by next year. Wine makes up an insignificant portion of that figure, and I'm not surprised. It takes a lot of determination to go certifiably organic. You have to make the transition gradually, and end up in complete conformance with the labelling laws and certification standards that apply where you (a) make and (b) sell your wines. If you disagree with the standards, and there are legitimate areas of disagreement, tough luck.

I'm often asked what organic wine is, and whether it's better than non- organic. The second question is easy: organic methods will not by themselves make better wine. Quality depends on skill in growing grapes and vinifying them; the job can be done well with chemical inputs. It can also be done badly. The first question is much more complex. An organic wine is any wine whose makers are allowed by law, and by the local certifying body, to call it by that name. But EU laws differ from American laws. The winemaking countries of Europe have several organisations, each with different standards, that certify producers and (in theory) monitor their production. And some of the best producers using organic methods (such as Mas de Daumas Gassac in Herault and Domaine de Trevallon in Provence) operate outside certification systems. It's all a bit of a mess.

A good new book by Monty Waldin, The Organic Wine Guide (Thorsons, pounds 8.99), sets out to provide guidance for the organically perplexed. It's genuinely useful, especially in explaining the basics and as a shopping guide. Waldin does not make extravagant claims: he sure as hell doesn't think that all organic producers make good wine. And he elucidates the mysterious regimes of Biodynamics, an offshoot of organics that sounds like moonshine but produces some great wine. Or you might prefer to put your nine quid towards the cost of Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine (pounds 40), which has just been published in a new edition. Matters of organicity are dealt with here in all their complexity, and with a well-informed scepticism that's preferable to waving the green flag.

If you're serious about investigating the possibilities of organic wine, the best places to go are the mail order specialists Vintage Roots (0118 976 1999) and Vinceremos (0113 257 7545). But please remember that you're not necessarily buying better quality. Think about the flavours in the glass, not just the residues.

Here's a small sampler of good organics to come my way recently. Majestic's new list sticks a green triangle next to each organic wine, which go up to the outstanding Chassagne-Montrachets from Fontaine-Gagnard (from pounds 19- pounds 24). More affordably, their Sauvignon de Touraine 1998, Domaine des Maisons Brulees (pounds 4.99) is a grassy quaffing wine of velvety texture. California's Fetzer is the most widely distributed of organic wineries, and their Bonterra Viognier 1998, North Coast (pounds 9.99, Oddbins) is a complex, peachily appetising example of the grape. All their wines are good, especially the Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Even more worth it, but only if you store the bottle for a good few years, is Chateauneuf-du-Pape "La Bernardine" 1997, Chapoutier (pounds 17.95, Waitrose). There's some discussion about how closely this inconsistent house adheres to organic principles, but who cares? This wine's massive, closed, exceptional - expensive but not overpriced. Another five years should show what it's really made of.

I have to admit that the whole issue of organic wine seems a bit of a red herring. Do I want to drink wine that's loaded with pesticide residues? Of course not. But for every certified organic producer, there may be several others who would qualify as Nearly Organic. No good winemaker uses more chemicals than he or she has to: good management in the vineyard makes them unnecessary. If you buy carefully made wine, you don't need to worry too much about whether the label displays the O word.

Sort of organic

First, a pair of wines made by Biodynamic methods: Montirius Vacqueyras 1998 and Montirius Gigondas 1998, pounds 9.99 and pounds 12.99 respectively from Tesco. The Vacqueyras is red-berryish; the Gigondas is ample and concentrated. The Gigondas is found only in Wine Advisor stores, the Vacqueyras in just 85. Montirius will be certified organic as of 1999; watch this green space. Trying to be organic: 200 Tesco stores are selling Smithbrook Chardonnay 1998 (pounds 7.99), from a Petaluma-controlled estate "using biological pest control wherever possible". This Chardonnay is exemplary, sweetened by French oak but with toe-tapping acidity and loads of pineapply, tropical- fruit flavours.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders