Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #29 - Biodynamic Wine

Lenn at Lenndevours started Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) over two years ago, an online tasting and sharing of notes and experiences with wine. Hosted by a different blogger each month, it also seems to build community among bloggers and blog readers. I started reading the summaries, called round-ups, long before I got my feet wet blogging.

This month WBW is hosted by none other than the illustrious Jack and Joanne (two American kids doin' the best they can) over at Fork and Bottle. Biodynamic wine is the theme they selected for this month.

But before I get into tasting notes I want to say something quick about Fork and Bottle: this site is a must for foodies who are parents or parents to be. There is a wonderful section called "Kids and Cooking" with nice photos and ideas about their experiences cooking with their son. I was inspired by reading this material, inspired to think for myself about how I hope to do it, not just to take notes and repeat what I read. So to Lenn, who is due to have a baby any week now, as are BrooklynLady and I, and to all the other parents participating in WBW - check this part of the Fork and Bottle site out also. My .02 cents.

Now...biodynamic wine. Well, after reading some of the links Jack and Joanne helpfully provided, I still feel a bit confused. I absolutely am a Rudolph Steiner fan, and I definitely think of soil and its components as a vital living being that can experience varying degrees of health. It makes sense to me as some one who cooks and eats almost exclusively locally derived healthy food, organically grown produce, and hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free range meat, that soil produces better grapes when it is "fed" in a healthy way.

I am confused by what I think of as odd practices that are part of biodynamics. Why a cow horn filled with manure, buried for the winter? Herbs aged in the skeleton of a rabbit? Maybe there is science behind this, but surely another type of horn might also work, or must it be cow? Not that I care, mind you - if this works for producers and for the Earth, then I'm all for it. I just have not been able to understand the science behind some of biodynamics from what I've read, and you have to admit - without the science, it can seem a little weird.

But I also noticed from reading Jack and Joanne's biodynamic wine producers guide, that many of the wines that I love and cellar are right there on the list, particularly in the Loire Valley: Closel, Breton, St. Nicholas, Clos Rougeard, Sablonnettes, Clos Roche Blanc...and the producer of the wine I want to talk a little bit about now, Francois Chidaine. Maybe biodynamic wines ARE better, or maybe I just love wines from the Loire Valley...

Montlouis is a little town right across the Loire river from Vouvray. Montlouis, like Vouvray, is a 100% Chenin Blanc appellation, producing mineral driven wines in dry, demi-sec or off dry, and vintage permitting, moelleux, or sweet wines. But Montlouis does not have the same cache as Vouvray, for some reason. This might be because of differences in terroir (Montlouis is reputed to be sandier), or maybe because there are more producers in Vouvray who consistently make great wine. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

My two favorite Montlouis producers are Domaine Delatang and Domaine Francois Chidaine. BrooklynLady and I visited Delatang in while in the Loire Valley in October of 2005 and we loved our tasting (there was a 1995 moelleux...YUM). We didn't make it to Chidaine, and I always regret this. Next time. Dressner's site describes the various Chidaine wines in one page of compact writing - take a peek. I always love the elegant Chidaine petillant wines- at about $18, an incredible bargain.

For WBW I decided to taste a 2005 wine, the vintage that everyone is so excited about all over France, and the Loire is certainly no exception.

2005 Domaine Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert, $25.
Lovely floral and ripe melon on the nose, wet rock smells become more prominent after 90 minutes open. First impression on the palate is purity - this wine has that rainwater feel to it that I associate with good Loire whites. Light to medium bodied with flavors of ripe fruit, nice balancing acidity, and strong minerality. After some time open, the palate gains in complexity, with interesting flavors of herbs (lemongrass?) and even some black licorice remaining in the mouth after swallowing - "mouth perfume." Described as demi-sec, but I feel like it is without the sweetness, the honeyed finish that is usually present in demi-sec wines. It is not fully dry though either. Maybe a demi-demi-sec?

This wine continues to change and improve in the glass now after 11:00, and I opened the bottle at about 6:00. Hard to say because I am not tasting them together, but I would unhesitatingly say that this wine is equal in quality to the '05 Foreau and Huet Vouvrays that I have sampled. In fact, it might have a more complex flavor profile. Then again, did I taste Foreau or Huet after four hours, or were they gone by then? A project for the future, no doubt.

Thanks to Jack and Joanne for this interesting topic, and for providing the list of producers.


Sonadora said...

Lots of overachievers this morning with reviews up already! It completely slipped my mind that today was WBW....oh well, guess that means we'll have to drink the bottle I bought tonight. I agree with you, I'm still completely confused by the more mysterious practices involved in biodynamic wine production. It all seems a little witch doctor like to me.

Anonymous said...

What a great write-up, Neal!

We recently drank François Chidaine's sparking wine (Montlouis-sur-Loire Brut. $17) and it was very clean and pure but not interesting or delicious.

Chidane wines, btw, seem to be popping up on quite a few winelists our here - I think Martini House in St. Helena has two on their list now.

Dr. Debs said...

I'm really looking forward to Jack and Joanne's roundup of this WBW. Informal tracking so far seems to indicate that the real payoff is in enhanced perception of mineral and herbal elements. Very interesting!

Brooklynguy said...

Sonadora - I have a funny feeling that Jack and Joanne might still be able to include your post, and if not, you still get to enjoy the wine and share your thoughts. And Jack - I think that Chidaine's sparkling wines can be delicious, especially with food, and precisely because of their purity. Maybe I'm just to partial to the Loire Valley though. They probably wouldn't compare well against a good Champagne (but I bet that a Huet Brut would)...Nice to see you Doc Debs.

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