Article by Devin McKay
In the wine world, we look to self-sustaining practices, such as sustainable agriculture, organic, and bio-dynamic agriculture, to help the environment. These are legally defined terms that, while differing in amount spent in time and money on getting certified from region to region, all work towards the same goal: creating a healthy, self-supporting farming eco-system.
Organic wines are made from organically grown grapes (no pesticides, herbicides, etc.) and have no added sulphites; although, there are natural sulphites in the grapes themselves. Bio-dynamic is akin to organic wines in that both are made without chemicals; however, it differs in that the vineyard is viewed as an ecosystem, while also accounting for effects such as lunar cycles and astrological influences. Sustainable agriculture is a scope of practices that are ecologically sound but also incorporate social and economic responsibility. The latter of the three is the most common, because it is the most flexible when it comes to choosing what works best for the vineyard.
These environmentally friendly practices not only support an accountability aspect in our concern for the environment, but it also produces stronger vines. So from the microbes in the soil all the way to the wine in our glass, there is less of a chemical imprint and more of a natural state.
Domaine Champy Mazis-Chambertin - $162.99
Founded in 1720, Domaine Champy (formally known as Masion Champy) is the oldest négociant in Burgundy still operating today. While it no longer assembles the grapes from smaller growers to make its wine, it has made big purchases in regards to vineyards throughout Burgundy. Although Champy practices organic methods, they are not technically certified organic. This is due to the sheer fact that almost all the vineyards in Burgundy are fractured with several different owners who all have several different viewpoints on how they make their wine, and tend to their vines. You can see how trying this could become. Regardless, Champy does utilize organic practices in their winemaking, and it shows through in the final product no better than in their Grand Cru Mazis-Chambertin 2009. This Pinot Noir is the pinnacle of the varietal, bringing marvelous notes of ripe bush fruits, cake spice, minerality, and a rich mouth coating texture that gives way to a long smooth finish.
St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - $22.49
Think old world ideology meets new world terroir. The Skalli family of France bought land in Napa in the 1970's and has since been giving Bordeaux varietals a new home in the Ruthford district. They have also taken with them the philosophy of sustainable farming in order to create a better environment not only for the surrounding area, but the wine they make. These responsible stewards of the land have also become a part of "Napa's Green" initiative, which strives to restore, protect, and enhance the regional watershed. This selflessness is not only shown through their caring of the land, but the value that comes out of their extremely well priced wines. The St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc is a more luscious style with notes of citrus zest, juicy grapefruit, and even hints of the tropical fruit spectrum, all while having racy acidity throughout.
Summerhill Ariel Brut 1998 - $86.49++
The first thing you realize when you step foot onto Summerhill's terroir is this is more than just a vineyard: it's a community. The Cipes family has owned and operated Summerhill since 1986 and from the beginning has had a commitment to organic and bio-dynamic practices in every aspect of their day-to-day lives. Their cardinal purpose was to create a sparkling wine based off grape clones out of Champagne, France, and this has led to their pinnacle vintage sparkling wine "Cipes Ariel 1998". This sparkling wine, made out of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, has been purposely aged at Summerhill and has just been released for drinking. This lovely sparkling wine brings forth a very rich and complex style similar to that of aged champagne, with notes of brioche, custard, dried fruits, and a great nuttiness at full length.
Chapoutier L'Ermite 1998 - $418.99++
There is one word to describe wines from Chapoutier: terroir. Chapoutier wants the wines he makes to be an embodiment of the vintage itself, and for this reason, there is no such thing as a "bad vintage" in his eyes. His wines are the product of nature, and all we do as humans is guide the wine from grape to bottle. This view makes him a flagship producer for organic and bio-dynamic wines. The idea is, you want to be proactive and not reactive. Thus, you make the vines and the environment around them naturally strong, so you don't have to use chemicals and other techniques. This theory is displayed through his terroir driven single vineyard wine L'Ermite, which is 100% Syrah and comes from 80 year old vines. It is characterized by the black fruit spectrum, spice, pepper, meatiness, and a light smokiness structured throughout.