Around The World In 80 Organic Vineyards – Bordeaux
A virtual tour of the world's great wine regions from an organic perspective, exploring some of the best that organic wine has to offer.
We're kicking off the journey here in the Bordeaux region where Organic Wine Find is based.
With its 145,000 hectares (360,000 acres) of vines, Aquitaine is the largest 'fine' wine producing region in the world. Fiercely protective of its status and staunchly conservative (at least wine-wise) the region is home to the French wine royalty – the first growth chateaux Margaux, Lafite, Latour, Haut-Brion, and Mouton Rothschild. The St Emilion Premier Grand Crus, and wine legends like Petrus and Chateau Yquem, are just a few of Bordeaux's rich treasure trove of wine producers.
Of these great noble houses Yquem is organic, and Lafite and Latour have begun using organic practices and are working towards gradual conversion. Lets hope that by the time most of us have saved up the $1000 we need for a bottle, they'll be fully organic!
In the meantime Bordeaux has a few organic gems to offer at more reasonable prices, if you can find them.
The challenge with Bordeaux is finding the more 'natural' organic wines. Bordeaux has a reputation for being a 'spoof zone' and organic wines haven't escaped that tendency to 'intervene' in the cellar. Its not that these wines are bad – far from it. There are many fantastic Bordeaux, albeit at scary prices, and there are many fine, enjoyable organic examples listed in our Bordeaux section. But if you're looking for something different, something with subtlety, the sort of wine that lets you taste its essence, that gives you a unique insight into its terroir – you're going to have to search a little harder.
But there are a few out there, a few 'hold outs' that haven't subscribed to the school of fruit bombiness, vineyards making great organic wine with only tiny amounts of sulphur.
I took it as a good sign when I discovered one of them a few weeks ago totally by chance.
Standing in front of our local supermarket in Castillon La Bataille, Alain Fournier of Chateau Tour Haut-Balette (not to be confused with Chateau Haut Ballet) was offering a taste of his 2003 Côtes de Castillon. Intermarche, the supermarket chain here in France, has just starting stocking his wine. Knowing I'd be interested, my wife bought a few bottles home – and I'm so glad she did.
Every so often if you're lucky, you taste a wine that not only sings to your senses but also transports you. Having this 2003 Côtes de Castillon on the palette, was like descending though layers of flavor and arriving somewhere, it had such a wonderful finish. With some time in the bottle it has a balanced meld of fruit, still rich but not at all overpowering, and the finish left me thinking “this is what this merlot, on this land” tastes like. Its the treat of great organic wine. Not only discovering flavor but feeling as though you've discovered a place.
Chateau Tour Haut Balette is available in the UK and France – and lets hope one of the US importers picks it up so you can try it Stateside.
A few other good, 'not too expensive' organic Bordeaux include:
Paul Barre – Chateau La Grave