Food, wine, travel, music
To make organic wines involves taking a risk on pests, mildew and what happens to wine when it’s bottled. Those who make it, say there is no other way that makes them feel good. They don’t want to use pesticides, and so what if a wine is a little cloudy from not having sulphites added? There’s nothing wrong with that. Having been interested in organic wines for about 20 years, I have been to vineyards, fairs and tastings where I have tasted many. Organic is not a guarantee of good wine. It’s sometimes used as an excuse for poor husbandry, careless hygiene and you can taste it straight away with odd smells and strange tastes. But in my experience many of them are very good. Some of the most famous vineyards in France have always been organic, but not talked about it. More about that another time. For me the best test is blind tasting when you don’t know if it’s organic or not. It’s either good or it’s not and no system of production will convince me it’s worth drinking unless it tastes good.
In Ireland there has been a wariness of organic wines, except in a small dedicated circle, and it’s pioneers such as Mary Pawle who have paved with way, importing only organic wines. It seemed like a mad thing to do twenty years ago. And based in Kenmare it seemed like an even madder idea. Yet giving tastings at wine clubs and fairs she brought us all around, presenting a selection of wines that have sustained her business. Albet I Noya from Penedes in Spain is a perfect example.
Now FSG Wines have the idea that we need more organic wines in Ireland, and at a reasonable price. Fergal and Shay Goulding have been sourcing wines for a few years and now have a list which is as impressive as it is short. I’m all in favour of ‘less is more’, and if they continue to be judicious, they have a good chance of pleasing at least some of us a lot of the time.
One discovery of theirs at the top end of their range is Tom Lubbe. Bringing his experience from growing up and making organic wine in South Africa, he is based in Calve, north of Perpignan in the Roussillon region of France. Growing traditional Catalan varietals Carignan, Grenache, Macabeu and Mourvedre, yields are low for fruit concentration and therefor low production. This is a winemaker who is obviously not trying to make a (quick) fortune from wine. The wines are carefully crafted and worth a try as a treat. See www.bkwine.com for an interview with Lubbe by John Radford.
Domaine Matassa Blanc 2012. €28
A blend of 70% Grenache Gris and 30% Macabeu (known as Macabeo and Viura and used often in Cava and other white and red blends often in Rioja). Lubbe produces just about 4,000 bottles of this a year. This is a rich wine which will develop with age. Give it three years for a real treat, but good for the complexities of a plate of Christmas dinner.
Domaine Matassa Cuvée Romanissa 2012 €27
A blend of 70% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignan and 10% Mourvedre, it’s aged for 24 months. This is one to buy now and keep for a few years to allow it to smooth out a little. Great fruit and balance of tannins will reward you to accompany steak.
Alain and Agnes Carrere were helped by Tom Lubbe in setting up Domaine Majas close to Perpignan where the soil is mainly schist, volcanic stone and mountainous limestone. The resulting wines are therefor, not surprisingly, interesting and complex and were the impressive wines I was given a present of which led me to FSG.
Domaine de Majas Blanc 2013 €13
A blend of 45% Rolle (known as Vermentino in Italy), 45% Macabeu (aka Macabeo and Viura) and 10% Carignan, I love its complexity (remember the soil) without being heavy and too overpowering for food. A simple Vin de Pays, the lowly status belies its strength of character. Will last a few years. Great value.
Domaine de Majas Chardonnay 2013 €12.50
100% Chardonnay, this has just a hint of oak, and it’s not as buttery as we might expect from a Chardonnay with any oak at all. It’s lighter than that, yet full flavoured. More elegant than many of this style with plenty of fruit, well balanced with a fresh finish. Good value.
Domaine de Majas Rouge 2012 €13
A lovely blend of 50% each Carignan and Grenache, this one is a little less full and a bit light due to the flooding in the region that year, so it’s easy drinking without food and a good party wine.
Located in the Tete valley of the Languedoc-Rousillon region, Sophie and Jerome Rouaud have been making organic wines for 10 years.
Domaine Rouaud Tet Pourpre €16
A blend of 50% each Shiraz and Carignan, there is a lovely balance here with two years of oak maturation making it interesting without overpowering it. At a recent tasting, this was the favourite of the majority. Good with food, good value. There will be 1.5 litre bottles available soon.
Brother and sister Stefano and Marina Girelli have joined with Massimo Maggio to make wine not far from Syracuse in Sicily at Terre di Kama, where one of the problems of organic grape growing – the nibbling of vines by rabbits – is solved by making sure that foxes have free reign. Nature has its own way of keeping vines free of pests.
Corte Ibla Terre Siciliane 2012 €12.50
You would expect a white from this hot region to be overblown, but it’s not. It has an interesting floral (maybe lavender) nose, lots of fresh fruit, interesting, complex and quite full-bodied. A favourite of many.
A well balanced wine of 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is ideal for food.
To order by the case: http://www.fsgorganicwines.ie.