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biodynamic

Drinks, Sparkling Wine

Why Pét Nat is the Bubbly to Drink Right Now

April 11, 2018

If you’re one of those people who scans the sparkling wine and champagne list at every hip restaurant you visit, you’ve probably noticed a lot of biodynamic bubbly. If you’ve ordered one, you’ve probably been thrilled with the luxurious mouthfeel, exotic aromas and exuberant flavors.

What the list probably doesn’t tell you is that these wines often are made using a process called pétillant-naturel  or  pét nat for short. For me, it’s one of the most exciting, unpredictable and delicious styles of bubbly to drink right now.

melaric globules roses wine

Everyone wanted more of the Mélaric Globules Roses, a méthode ancestrale cabernet franc sparkling wine from the Loire.

A pét nat sparkling wine employs a minimal style of winemaking perfect for multi-taskers.  It’s a one-step process that creates wine and adds bubbles at the same time. While the yeast is still eating sugar in the grape juice and producing alcohol and CO2 during the primary fermentation, the whole mixture is bottled.  While fermentation happens inside the bottle, like with champagne, but the final wine is very different from the precise and controlled méthode champenoise.

That’s because with pét nat wines, the yeast, effervescence, aromas and flavors that develop stay inside the bottle until you get ready to disgorge and drink it.  Also known as méthode ancestrale, this hands-off technique produces lively wines of such character that it’s been embraced by many biodynamic winemakers today.

I’m looking forward to trying more pét nat wines like the Johan Vineyards Melon de Bourgogne from Oregon — they also make a pét nat pinot noir rosé —  at the Demeter International Biodynamic Wine Conference on May 6-7, 2018 in San Francisco. In the meantime, here are a couple of my favorites:

Mélaric Globules Rosés

One night while making our way down Mississippi Street in Portland, we stopped at Olympia Oyster Bar. The wine list was overflowing with carefully sourced biodynamic and organic treasures. I loved all three sparkling wines, but the one that spoke to me was the biodynamic Mélaric Globules Rosés from the Loire. This cabernet franc wine delivered an intense explosion of  wild strawberries, red plums, earth and toast that immediately reminded me of  Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé with a sauvage edge. The stunning thing is that the Mélaric delivers so much flavor and impact for right around $22 a bottle — a fraction of the Billecart-Salmon.

The next day, the next week, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But when I went home, I couldn’t find it

melanie and aymeric Hillaire

Mélanie and Aymeric of Vins Mélaric

anywhere. I sent plaintive emails starting with “AIDEZ MOI” to a handful retailers in France. But in the end, I located the wine at Corkscru, an indie wine importer and retailer in Portland run by a guy named Dan Beekley. He writes wonderful emails that evoke a sense of adventure and discovery. Read one and you’ll feel like you’re with him on a bicycle bumping down a dirt road in the Loire to meet a family and try their little handcrafted wine.

Aymeric and Mélanie Hillare, the duo behind Mélaric Globules Rosés live in the south Saumur, a beautiful region that’s a hotbed of biodynamic winemaking. They met studying viticulture at Montepelier and worked together at wineries in Bandol, Sauternes and Chinon. In 2006, they moved to the new appellation Saumur Puy Notre Dame, acquired vineyards and started making wine.

The Mélaric isn’t listed on the Corkscru website, but call and they’ll be happy to send you a bottle or six.

Sarah’s Rustic Bubbles

I met Sarah and her husband Guy a few years ago at a picnic during the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival.  The dinner line was moving slooowly and Sarah has a big smile, so we started talking.   I learned that her dad, Kurt Schoeneman owned the acclaimed Ferrington Vineyard, which supplies pinot noir and chardonnay grapes to Williams Selyem for a vineyard designate bottling, along with Poe and Schramsberg’s J. Davies brand, among others.

We’d been out of touch for a while when we reconnected by email, and Guy told me about their family winery called Fathers and Daughters. Their first bubbly is a chardonnay blanc de blancs made in the pet nat style.  It’s a slightly wild form of bubbly, since the yeast does its thing and stays in the bottle until you decide to carefully chill the bottle, open it and drink it.

I almost don’t have words to describe this wine. It was a multi-sensory experience, starting with my heart racing a bit as as I got ready to disgorge in the kitchen sink.  I followed the instructions to get it really cold first , so when I uncapped it over the kitchen sink, so I didn’t lose much.

Aromas ranged from fresh golden apples to peanuts to white flowers. The wine had a beautiful mousse like a fluffy meringue. At times it tasted like chardonnay, other times it was like drinking a dry cider or an aromatic wheat beer.

It felt like the wine was alive — which is part of the joy of pét nat wines.

 

 

 

Champagne, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

5 Amazing Organic Sparklers for Earth Day

April 17, 2013
wildflowers_vineyard_recaredo

Isn’t that a pretty picture? It’s from the 100% pesticide and herbicide-free vineyards of Cavas Recaredo in Spain. Earth Day is approaching, and I’m looking forward to celebrating at the Iron Horse Vineyards’ Green Valley Earth Day Party.  Since I last wrote about organic champagne or sparkling wine for Earth Day, there has been a large increase in the number of organic wines on the market, and that applies to bubbly as well.

While some people aren’t convinced that wines made from organically raised grapes taste any different, I swear I always pick up an extraordinary level of clarity in these wines. It feels like drinking a liquid crystal, if that makes any sense. And of course, the fact that the grapes aren’t sprayed with chemical fertilizers or pesticides means that it’s better for the workers who have to tend those grapes as well as Mother Earth.  Here are some great organic champagnes and sparkling wines to uncork this weekend or anytime:

recaredo brut nature 2006 label

Cavas Recaredo  – One of the most distinctive wineries I visited in the Penedes region of Spain was Recaredo, which has produced cava since 1924. Ton Mata, the lead winemaker and owner, took me on a tour of the lovely natural vineyards with rusty red soil studded with mineral deposits where he grows the xarello, parellada and macabeo grapes according to biodynamic methods. Biodynamic is a more exacting standard than certified organic, meaning that the growers work in harmony with nature and their practices help nourish the soil. He’s also a believer in long-aging of his xarello-dominant wines and the brut nature style, in which no sugary dosage is added at the end. It doesn’t get much more biutiful than this when it comes to Catalan sparkling wine.  About $38.

mionetto kind cocktails

Mionetto Prosecco Organic D.O.C. – Just like the other high-quality proseccos it makes, Mionetto’s organic brut  has floral aromas and bright, fresh flavors of golden apple and citrus. It’s made from organically grown grapes, and vinified separately in the winery. The materials that go into the bottle, label and shipping package are all recycled. Click here for a recipe for my Kind Cocktail from Alicia Silverstone’s San Diego book party with Mionetto Organic.  About $15.

Fleury Brut Rose

Fleury Organic Champagne – While you’re toasting Mother Earth, be sure to raise a glass Fleury, the first producer in Champagne, France to plant organic vineyards. Actually, the Fleury vineyards have been 100% biodynamic since 1992. Whether you like lean blanc de blancs, juicy rosé or richer blanc de noirs, Fleury makes it it in a crisp, pure and organic champagne. I’m sure they’d appreciate a like on the Fleury Champagne Facebook page.  About $40 to $50, depending on the wine.

 

Korbel OrganicBrutLarge1

Korbel Organic Brut Non-Vintage – When the largest producer of sparkling wine in the U.S. starts making an organic cuvée, you know it’s much more than a niche trend. Korbel’s Organic Brut is clean and tastes of bright citrus, green apple and white peaches. The blend of French colombard, chardonnay and sangiovese grapes was made with the same method used in Champagne, France. About $12.

tarantas sparkling rose

Tarantas Sparkling Rosé – While Spain is known as the land of cava, there are other styles of sparkling wine made there. This sparkling rosé from family-owned Tarantas fits the latter category, since it’s made from certified organic bobal grapes that were grown in the hills near Valencia, Spain. While this wine isn’t sweet at all, it has flavors and aromas of strawberry and red currant. It pairs with all sorts of Spanish foods from jamon to paella, and apparently the bobal grape (aka carignane d’espagne) has super-high levels of the antioxidant resveratrol, as if you needed another reason to try a bottle.  About $15

 

Champagne, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

How Green is My Bubbly: 5 Eco Champagnes & Sparkling Wines for Earth Day

April 15, 2009

With Earth Day approaching it seems like a perfect time to plan an organic picnic at your favorite beach or park. You’ll go to the store for organic salad greens, strawberries, naturally raised meat and even eco-ice cream, but what to drink?

A couple years ago as I was researching my book The Bubbly Bar, I wanted to include a chapter on organic champagnes and sparkling wines. I had to settle for a section in the appendix because they weren’t widely available.

But it’s a whole new world as we approach Earth Day 2009. I found loads of green bubbly made from sustainable or certified organically grown grapes on wine web sites and at stores like Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy. Conscientious winemakers, who care about preserving the land and the health of their workers and customers, are making chemical-free wines in the US, France, Spain, South Africa and Italy. And though many items created with organic ingredients do cost more, I found wines for under $15, including one that’s just $4.99!

With the growing interest in organic foods and beverages, which was estimated to be a $23 bilion industry in 2008 according to the Organic Trade Association, it’s no surprise to see more wines made from organic grapes available. Because of U.S. regulations, wines can’t be labeled as “organic” if sulfites, a naturally occurring substance that’s used to stabilize and preserve wines, are added. USDA regulations limit wines from organically grown grapes to 100 ppm of sulfites; a typical sparkling wine will have just 70 ppm.  Biodynamic grapes are grown according to the highest  level of organic agriculture. Producers follow the tenets of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner which involve planting according to the cycles of the moon leads to healthier plants.

The latest major winery to move to all-organic production is Domaine Carneros by Taittinger in the Napa Valley. “All 300 acres of our vineyards are certified organic,” says Eileen Crane, winemaker and CEO of Domaine Carneros. “We’re the only sparkling wine house in all of the US that can say that.”

Crane said they started following organic growing practice in 2005 in order to qualify for the official designation in 2007. When weeds come up, they till the soil. To deal with pesky bugs that eat the grape leaves, they brought in a flock of organic chickens. And most importantly, Crane says her wines, which have an incredible balance of freshness and French toastiness, taste even better.
“It’s off the charts,” Crane says. “The vines look happy they’re vibrant and green and it feels good to walk in the vineyard.”

Here are five great sparkling wines and champagnes made from organic and sustainably raised grapes to pop the cork on this Earth Day 2009; just be sure to recycle that bottle! To learn about five more great eco-friendly wines, sign up for my free entertaining newsletter The Bubbly Girl Chronicles.

Albero Sparkling Wine from Spain

Albero Sparkling Wine
Spain
This delightful bargain wine is crafted from macabeo and airén grapes at Bodegas Iranzo in Valencia, which has been organic since 1994.  It’s not super complex, but this wine has hints of citrus and green pear and is pleasant and refreshing like a Sunday afternoon party.
About $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Makulu Moscato is made from sustainably raised grapes in South Africa.

Makulu Moscato

Makulu Moscato
South Africa
Makulu, the second oldest cellar in South Africa, means “big”  in the Zulu language.  Big is also a good description for this blend of moscato, chenin blanc and colombard grapes that’s bursting with flavors of peaches, apricots and pears. This wine, which is made from sustainably grown grapes, is very low in alcohol and  comes from the Paarl Ward region of Western Cape of South Africa.
About $6 at Fresh & Easy stores and Ingersoll Wine & Spirits

Albet i Noya Cava Brut Reserva

Albet i Noya Cava Brut Reserva

Albet i Noya Cava Brut Reserva
Spain
Albet i Noya is Spain’s leading organic wine producer; this cava is made from chardonnay, xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada grapes that were grown in the Penedes region. It has a bright, crisp flavor of lemon zest and orange balanced by a nutty brioche finish.
About $18 at  at Appellation Wine & Spirits

Domaine Carneros Brut

Domaine Carneros Brut

Domaine Carneros Brut
California
The wines from Domaine Carneros, which is owned by Taittinger, have always had a French structure and toastiness to them balanced by juciy California fruit. Since going organic back in 2005, the wines seem even more crisp and clear.
About $22 at Beverages & More

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne
France
Fleury was the first champagne producer to go biodynamic back in 1989, meaning they not only abstain from chemicals and pesticides, but they feed the land and plant by moon cycles so plants are more vigorous. This rose is made from 100% pinot noir  and is elegant but reveals a toasty depth too.
About $49 at K & L Wines.

Maria Hunt, the SDNN Food & Drink Editor, is the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion being released in August by Clarkson Potter. She writes the champagne, cocktails and entertaining web site The Bubbly Girl.