And now for something a little different… Argentine pinot noir, Torino ’08

I don’t know what it is but recently whether knowingly or not, I’ve been encountering organic wine everywhere. I was out to dinner with fellow wineblogger, Sarah of Wine90, the other night and she spotted an Argentine pinot noir on the wine list. Now I know Chilean pinot noir’s quite well, even had some very good stuff from Cono Sur  the other day but Argentina is not my go-to place for South American pinot so it was with a bit of hesitation that I agreed to order it. The Michel Torino vineyards are located in the northeastern province of Salta, in the foothills of the Andes.  The vineyards are some of the highest in the world, over 1700 m above sea level, nestled in the Cafayate Valley. The vineyards get over 350 days of sunshine a year but because of the altitude there are plenty of cool breezes to cool down the grapes and because it is isolated on all sides by desert, it makes the region virtually free of viruses and pests, enabling Michel Torino to practice organic wine production. They’ve been certified organic since 2006. So I ordered the Michel Torino 2008 ‘Coleccion’ Pinot Noir. It certainly was like no other pinot noir I’ve had before. It wasn’t bad at all, as a matter of fact, it was very well made but it certainly wasn’t what we were expecting. It was quite an intense deep ruby colour. I thought it was smooth but medium bodied whilst Sarah thought it was more medium to full bodied. We both agreed that there wasn’t much of a nose, I got some minerality, loads of rocks and dirt but not much fruit. I was really trying hard but just didn’t get much and neither did Sarah. The taste however was some intense berry flavours coming out of the glass. Dark berries, blueberries, berries,berries, berries! I was diggin the intensity of the fruit. The finish was toasty and nutty and I even detected a bit of dark cholocate. Nice balance of acidity kept it from being an overblown fruitbomb. For me, it didn’t have...

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Cono Sur – Chilean organic wines

Jul 27, 09 Cono Sur – Chilean organic wines

Posted by in Chile

I don’t know what it is about the summer but I just haven’t been in a writing mood lately. Which is a bit of a shame because I’ve been going to some great tastings lately. For example, I went to a winetasting a couple of weeks ago hosted by the delightful Chilean winemaker, Adolfo Hurtado of Cono Sur Vineyards and Winery of Chile. People often make the mistake of thinking that Cono Sur is synonomous with the big brand, Concha y Toro.  Although Cono Sur is a subsidiary of Concha y Toro, it is completely independent from it, making their wines in their own distinct fashion. Winemaking came to Chile in the 1850’s with the French winemakers who were fleeing the phylloxera crisis that was plagueing the Continent at the time.  The French settled in Maipo Valley because pragmatically enough, it was the closest vinegrowing region to Santiago de Chile, the capital. Besides the Maipo Valley, there are also the Colchagua, the Casablanca, the Rapel, the Maule and the Bio Bio Valleys, all of which are used for grape growing and winemaking. Chile is ideally situated to produce wine,even if it’s a long thin strip of land clinging to the western coast of South America. It’s bordered on one side by the Andes Mtns and the other by the Pacific Ocean but the centre of the country is a series of valleys, of geographical islands that have historically been phylloxera free and disease free. Chile also benefits from the Humboldt Current of off the coast which helps to cool down the inland valleys in summer. And, it is a very dry country receiving very little rainfall throughout the year. For this reason, wineries have to irrigate but they do have access to the glacial waters of the Andes Mtns, which on a positive note is great for organic production because no seeds or other unwanted detritus is brought in with the irrigation water. That’s not to say that Chile is pest free but Cono Sur has come up with unique ways to deal with the various creepy crawlies that can invade Chilean vineyards. One of the most common...

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Millton Vineyards, pioneering biodynamic NZ wines

The Winesleuth has finally gotten a new job!! Yay!!!  I’m so glad to be moving on and my new job is with the natural  (and local) wine bar, Artisan and Vine. I met Kathryn (first post here) back in February and was so impressed by her enthusiasm and passion (see video here) for natural and local (read English) wines that I started hanging around A&V, even taking a trip with Kathryn to Davenport Vineyards (video here) this past March. And now I’ve joined A&V to be able to work with all those amazing, interesting natural wines.   Trafalgar roundabout from on high So earlier this week, I found myself at the top of New Zealand House on Haymarket, enjoying the views of London – London Eye on one side, Buck House on the other with  Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in between. It really makes you realize how closely packed everything is in London. Now you might be wondering, what the hell was the Winesleuth doing up in the penthouse of NZ House? Why, at a winetasting of course, deciding what new wines to add to the A&V list. They were of course natural and biodynamic wines, this batch from New Zealand with winemaker, James Millton of Millton Vineyards, Gisbourne, NZ, in attendance and hosted by the good folks of Vintage Roots, one of the UK’s leading organic wine specialists. Bio certified James and Annie Millton were one of the pioneers of natural, biodynamic wine production in the Southern Hemisphere, establishing their vineyard on the banks of the Te Arai River near Gisbourne on the North Island of New Zealand. The Millton philosophy is to produce wine traditionally using biodynamic techniques. They adhere to the original biodynmic principles as laid out by Dr Rudolf Stiener in 1924 and all the wines are certified biodynamic and have the “Bio-gro”organic trademark and grower number on the back of the bottle. What does this mean? In a nut shell it encompasses “…growing the grapes without the use of herbicides, insecticides, systemic fungicides or soluble fertilisers. It also...

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Road trip to Davenport Vineyard (and video)

What better way to spend a lovely early spring day ( and my birthday) then a day out in the English countryside, visiting an English vineyard. No sniggers, please. England has been making wines since Roman times but only as recently as the 90’s have the English really gotten serious about producing quality wines. Whether it has to do with global warming or not, some are now winning major wine awards. Thanks to Nytimber, Denbies, Camel Valley and Hush Heath (which I’ve written about previously) to name a few, England is quickly gaining a  reputation in the wine world for producing quality sparkling wines (and still wines are coming up), having won a number of international wine  accolades and awards. I visited Davenport Vineyards in Rotherfield, East Sussex with Kathryn O’Mara from Artisan & Vine. She’s keen on sourcing as many natural and local wines as possible for her winebar so we were down to try the local stuff. Once there, we discovered that Davenport is also a natural, organic farm – bonus! We were greeted by a friendly black labrador, Nelson, and after picking out way through the hodge-podge of building materials laying about – they are currently renovating their 14th century barn, we found Will Davenport in his lab testing his latest wines for sulfur content. Will is the owner and winemaker of Davenport and originally planted his vines in 1991. Currently there are 12 acres under vine and the vineyard has been managed organically since 2000 under certification by the UK Soil Association. Will tries to use as little intervention as possible – natural yeasts, no fining or filtering, no pesticides, fungicides and he uses organic winemaking practices. Will aims to make wines that showcase the soil and the fruit of his wines, not his wine manipulating skills. We had the opportunity to try the Limney Estate, ’07 Horsmunden Dry White, the Limney Estate ’05 sparkling and the Duchy of Cornwall Sparkling, which Will makes for the Prince’s Trust. Check out the video to see...

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’07 Qupe “Santa Ynez Valley” Marsanne

Whenever I need to get into Central London, and I have time, I prefer to take the bus. I don’t know why, the train is usually faster (unless someone has jumped on the tracks,which happens more often then you’d think) and anyway,  I just love watching the streets of London pass by. My bus, the 176, goes straight thru Dulwich and along Lordship Lane where there is a wineshop, Green and Blue Wines. Everytime I pass by I swear I’m going to get off and check it out but I was never really motivated to do so until I found out they specialized in natural and organic wines. Well, anyone who’s been reading me for a bit knows I’m a big fan of those wines so I jumped off the bus the other night to check it out. They had a nice selection and I was tempted by many until I spotted the ’07 Qupe “Santa Ynez Valley”  Marsanne/roussane – on sale! Down from £20 to £12. I snapped it up and jumped on the next bus home. Qupe specialize in making wines using Rhone varietals and the grapes are sourced from carefully selected growers. The grapes are all organic and/or biodynamically grown. The grapes used for this wine were no exception coming from vineyards around Los Olivos, CA. The wine was a bit too cold when I opened it but after giving it 15 mins to warm up it proved to be a delight. Bright straw yellow, at first it didn’t have a very intense nose but after a bit of time, I started to get apricots and white stone fruits with a certain, slight waxiness to it.  When I sipped and swished, I got ripe apricots and peaches on a round medium bodied wine. There was a pleasing minerality on the palate along with hints of bitter almonds and it finished with a citrus peel finish, kind of pith-y. I had it with salmon en croute, a lovely match, the wines fruity qualities shining on my palate, loads of peachy, stone fruits and enough acidity to keep...

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