You say organic, I say. . . ?



Some of the best wines I’ve ever drunk were organic, or at least made from organic grapes. Some of the worst, often labelled as “natural” or biodynamic, were too, really quite punishing to drink (“enjoy” didn’t come into the conversation at all—drinking them seemed more like a duty, or maybe a penance, than anything else).
        The good ones were so good that I’ve always leaned toward the idea that, at least for small-to-medium-sized producers, organic was probably the way to go, and I wasn’t alone—around the world, the number of producers embracing the idea has grown: in the last couple of decades, the acreage of Spain’s vineyards farmed organically quintupled, France’s quadrupled, and Italy’s nearly doubled. That’s what was officially reported; the actual number of people simply adopting some or most of the organic methods was even higher. Now, however, according to an extensive survey in Europe, the numbers are dropping slightly, especially in France (there seem to be problems of administration of their Ecocert program, and people willing to go against the grain by going organic are also the sort of people also willing to go against the grain from bureaucracy). Italy, however, seems to still be moving on; their organic program is more biodiverse, and more directly participatory—it’s called “Biodistretto,” with more local control, and farmers as well as vineyardists involved.
         I can still, decades later, vividly remember drinking a range of splendid wines from the Dry Creek Valley and other parts of northern Sonoma, where there was an early and enthusiastic move to organic principles: Zinfandels from Quivira, Nalle, Seghesio, Preston, and Ridge, Barbera from several vineyards, and a whole range from early-adopter Dave Stare’s Dry Creek Vineyards. All proof enough that it can work, done sensibly.

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