While once considered a flight of fancy, the term ‘organic’ has entered the mainstream food vernacular in recent years. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that quality organic vino is now widely available. And like its food equivalent, it’s far more than just a trend.
No one knows this better than Randall Pollard, owner of wine imports and distribution company Heart & Soil. Over the years, Pollard’s portfolio has increasingly included more organic wines, though intriguingly, not entirely on purpose.
“We didn’t start out with any particular agenda to only sell organic wines,” he admits. “Our raison d’être has always been to simply distribute great wines. It just so happens that a lot of our wines are organic, whether or not the wines are promoted or certified as organic.”
Heart & Soil will be supplying Circa’s One Night On Earth event, an organic dinner running as part of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Working together with sommelier Sally Humble and a team of chefs including Ross Lusted, Circa head chef Jake Nicolson and Paul Wilson, Heart & Soil has put together a formidable list of six organic wines to match the six-course meal.
One wine set to appear as a sweet introduction to the meal is a rosé from Champagne Fleury. After being lured to the winery in the iconic Champagne region, Pollard discovered entirely by chance that the winery was the first producer of organic wine in the region and had been using biodynamic growing methods for years.
But while all the wines presented at the dinner event will have been produced through organic methods, not all have been certified or promoted as such. One such wine is the Keller 2011 riesling from Germany, whose grower refuses to promote his growing methods.
Pollard recounted asking the Keller grower why he chose not to promote the fact. “He said a lot of people trumpet the fact that they’re organic to sell their wine, but the Keller vineyard don’t,” he says. “They use organic means to produce the wines, but they’ve had the vineyard for many generations in the family and want the right to use systemic sprays if they are in real trouble, which thankfully they haven’t been so far.”
A red wine that will accompany one of the main courses, the Chateau Thivin Côte De Brouilly 2011 is grown in a vineyard surrounded by a diverse environment of grasses, hedges and flowers that form natural barriers against pests, while harvesting is done completely by hand to ensure the grapes are in the best possible condition.
Also included in the line-up is the Daniel Crochet Sancerre 2011 sauvignon blanc and the Brovia Barolo 2007, a gutsy red from Piedemonte in northern Italy whose growers have also decided not to certify their organic production methods. Meanwhile, to sweeten the end of the meal, Pollard has picked out the Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune 2001, a wine that by law has to be left fermenting in the barrel for over six years.
"Over that period, a layer of yeast at the top of the barrel allows the wine to oxidise very slowly and adds a distinctive, slightly nutty flavour. Up to 40 per cent of the original amount evaporates, so the end of result is quite a strong wine," Pollard explains.
Despite vast differences in production methods, even between individual organic vineyards, Pollard maintains that he focuses solely on flavours and quality.
“If you speak to organic and biodynamic producers, they will say that you can get a better balance and flavour, with lower alcohol levels,” he adds. “But at the end of the day it’s about the whole package; you want to get the best wines produced in way that is ethical, sustainable and leaves the earth the way you found it.
"As consumers, we are also growing to prefer produce grown in environmentally friendly ways. There's just something more appealing about the image of a vineyard ploughed by a horse than a great big tractor. In this sense, I think the demand for good quality organic wines will just continue to increase."
One Night On Earth will be taking place at Circa on Thursday, March 7. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.