Wine made in the vineyard
You may have read some of the headlines about wines that tested positive for excessive arsenic. If not, a quick google search will turn up lots of results. My point is not to discuss the merits or truth of the claim, but rather to explore the alternative to those big, industrial wineries who may or may not know why arsenic is turning up in their wine. Since April is the month for Earth Day, let’s take a closer look at makers of wine who also actually work in the vineyards.
The French have a term for it—vigneron—which refers to a person who grows the grapes and makes the wine. This kind of connection with the land is almost unheard of in big corporate wineries. But, if we believe—as so many wineries say—that wine is made in the vineyard, then winemakers and perhaps winery owners should spend time there.
One of the alternatives to a vigneron is a négociant—the French word for a wine merchant who assembles the product of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result.
A third way to make wine is perhaps the most common among the new California cohort of winemakers. Winemakers take out long term leases on vineyards, hire vineyard managers whose farming practices align with their own vision for the wine and planet, and visit the vineyards regularly to stay attuned with the growing season and soil health. Dirty & Rowdy is an excellent example of this approach. See this month’s featured wine for details.
The corporate model most commonly practiced is to purchase the land, hire a site manager, and employ migrant labor to routinely apply fertilizers and pesticides. Nowadays, drones are utilized to photograph vineyards and generate data to be analyzed by distant winemakers at corporate headquarters—hardly a boots-on-the- ground or grape-in-the-mouth familiarity with the land, vines, and vintage.
Our Earth Day proposal is to drink wine made by people who get their fingers in the dirt and whose children or pets are safe to roam in the vineyards! Our selection is chock-full of Earth Day friendly wines. So drink to your health and to the health of the planet!
“My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink more wine.” ― Ernest Hemingway
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Why drink “natural” wine? The best ones have exceptional flavor, complexity, and surprise. They cause a reaction and carry you away to their place of origin. Lower sulfur addition is another reason to love “naked” wines. Sulfur can act like a seal, keeping the wine safe from microbial alteration. To eliminate it, or use very little of it (sulfur in wine is allowed up to 350 parts per million; natural-wine people only use up to 35ppm) the vineyard work must be impeccable and the cellar work, hypervigilant. The resulting beverage can sometimes have a slight acetic tang or a hint of funk. Fans aren’t bothered by these quirks, technically called “flaws,” and the wines are hugely popular across the globe. As with organic food, the demand is greater than the supply.
Wine of the Month (while supplies last):
DIRTY & ROWDY
“Familiar” Mourvèdre, California 2013
Five hundred miles of California in a glass! This wine is an argument in favor of blending different vineyards and appellations for optimal balance. Dirty & Rowdy is owned by two families who travel to remote pockets of California, searching to uncover something special from soil, sun, and soul. “Familiar” is a fresh, medium-bodied wine to pour when friends, family, and food pull you home. Notes of raspberry leaf and stem with tarragon and stone. The “Familiar” should be decanted for 45 minutes for full enjoyment! The grapes (94% Mourvèdre, 6% Petite Sirah) hail from Santa Barbara County, Redwood Valley in Mendocino, and Amador County. 100% Whole Cluster. 270 Cases. Allocated. Price: $34.99.
(Pssst! Mention reading WINE WORDS and we will give you 10% off this wine at the register!)