Organic, biodynamic, preservative-free, and vegan-friendly wines are growing massively in the Australian wine market. To cut through the buzzwords and educate consumers, Cellarmasters hosted a special wine tasting.
Hosted by Cellar Director and Wine Educator Christine Ricketts, the exclusive media event took place in the Cellarmasters’ private wine cellar in the historic 1960s Readers’ Digest Building in Surry Hills. We learned all about how to go green with wine — and why it’s so enticing for red, white, and rosés.
Treated to a smorgasbord of vegan treats from Goodness Gracious, we settled in along the huge Cellarmasters table. Seven wines were up for the tasting on the night — but first, we heard about the different types of ‘green’ wines.
Wines labelled ‘organic’ are part of a holistic management system. There are various types of certification in Australia, with the main one allowing winemakers to label their bottles after three years (working towards organic) and five years (fully organic).
The main thing to keep in mind with vegan wines is that it’s impossible to be 100% animal-free, as small insects are accidentally harvested along with the grapes and are unable to be fully removed. Thus: the marker ‘vegan-friendly’ instead of plain ‘vegan’. However, the main processes that winemakers have used to refine and clarify their wines — from bulls’ blood centuries ago; to milk, fish, and egg whites today — are left out of the process.
Christine let us know that all wines have preservatives from the natural seeds and tannins in the skins (down to 10-15 parts per million, so not much). With some people allergic to sulphur dioxide, preservative-free wines are better for them — although there’s more of the chemical in dried fruit than in wine.
A common myth is that preservative-free wines can’t cellar — they can. And another is they prevent hangovers — they don’t. Sorry!
Biodynamic wines are the ‘big brother to organic’, Christine, a big fan of this type of wine-making, told us. She explained biodynamic principles: following the lunar/solar cycles, and treating the land as a living organism. Biodynamic wines all work around the idea that the entire process needs to be regenerative.
WINES WE TRIED
1) Peralada Stars Organic Cava – A gorgeous glass of bubbles to have on arrival, it was the perfect amount of bubbles to kick-start a fun evening.
Tasting Notes: Very expressive. In the mouth there are ripe fruits, with a hint of nuts and a good balance. Long lasting, tasty, powerful in the mouth.
2) Hermosa South Australia Albarino – Very floral on the nose, it was exciting to try a new-to-most-people grape varietal.
Tasting Notes: This is a wonderful find and exciting new addition to the Australian wine landscape. Albarino is originally a native of Spain but now thrives in Australia’s warm, dry climate. If you enjoy refreshing, mid-weight whites like Pinot Grigio, you’ll love this.
3) Best of Both Worlds Organic Chardonnay – I’m not a fan of Chardonnays, so I was thrilled to find one that is actually amazing! As Christine quipped, Chard is having a resurgence ‘because the winemakers finally learned how to make it’. It’s neither too oaky nor too similar to other styles.
Tasting Notes: Fruit is harvested during the early morning hours to retain freshness and partially whole bunch pressed. A fast and precise vinification in stainless steel with minimal oxygen contact maximises fruit expression and aromatics.
4) Paxton Pollinator Rosé – My +1 and I found this to be a bit dry, light, and not too sweet. Christine commented that it has ‘mouthwatering acidity’.
Tasting Notes: Paxton vineyards are managed without compromise from planting to harvest. David Paxton continues to strive to minimise inputs and manages the Paxton vineyards biodynamically – a system of farming without the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides with a focus on promoting healthy, living soils through the use of natural compost preparations.
5) Zonte’s Footstep Organic Rosé – This is so fragrant! It’s fruity, not sweet, and finishes dry. My +1 commented that it’s so different from the first one. It would be fun to get both bottles and see which one your guests prefer over dinner.
Tasting Notes: The Dragonfly symbolises transformation, adaptability, poise and self-realisation. Their frisky flight across water represents an act of ‘going beyond what’s on the surface’. This stunning wine from Zonte’s Footstep is delicate and refreshing and positively dances across the tongue.
6) Mil Historia Organic Grenache – Deep in colour, and 14% alcohol, this doesn’t mess around. Food pairings ‘cant be delicate’, according to Christine — she recommends a rare beef or mushroom risotto. My +1 and I tried it with Botanical Cuisine’s mushroom truffle cashew cheese, which was the perfect balance to its strong flavours.
Tasting Notes: Spanish Grenache made with organic cultivation. They do not use any synthetic fertilisers and practice ‘green pruning’ which restricts the yield to around 1.5 kilos per vine, which concentrates the aromas and flavours of the grapes. The grapes are hand-harvested and vinified as naturally as possible with native yeasts. The wines are aged in French oak for 4 months, with some in clay amphora to retain purity and build complexity. Finally, they are bottled and have an eye-catching label which captures the natural and organic production.
7) Mt. Horrocks Nero D’Avola – As my +1 said, this wine has a ‘good retronasal palate’. (How much did we learn in just an hour with Christine?! We were practically professionals by the end!)
Tasting Notes: Inspired by the wines of Sicily, Stephanie planted Mount Horrocks’ Nero d’Avola vineyard in 2007 and this is her sixth release. The grapes are harvested by hand, then cold-soaked prior to a nine day ferment. Daily plunging ensures ideal extraction until the wine is racked to French oak barriques (20% new) for twelve months maturation prior to bottling. Less new oak is used to maintain its juicy palate.
Whether you want to support sustainable farming practices, are interested in health benefits, or just enjoy a top-quality Australian wine, look no further than the wide variety of ‘green’ wines on the shelves. Be it organic, biodynamic, preservative-free, or vegan-friendly, it’s hard to go wrong with this growing sector of the market.
Here’s hoping that in years to come, all wineries will implement these planet-saving practices — and make such delicious wines as the ones above!
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Theresa enjoys learning about wine (whilst drinking it, of course) more than almost anything. Follow her on her Instagram.
To subscribe to an organic wine subscription and make buying organic wine easy, Cellarmasters Organic Wine Reservation delivers six hand-selected wines to your doorstop four times a year for only $120 per delivery. To shop organic wines, Cellarmasters has a wide range of wines available.