Last Friday I trundled home on the rickety First Great Western to attend a fabulous hen weekend, which included crafting, paella and organic wine tasting by Mason & Mason. I’ve never been a real ‘wine person’. I do like wine, but I tend to go for the suave-in-a-carton rather than your classic Cuvée. So I was rather delighted to have the chance to swish my glass around and declare my beverage to be ‘herbaceous’, and despite being absolutely sloshed I did actually learn a few things, particularly about organic farming.
As part of the hen celebration we went to Valencia in February, so the wine lady was creative enough to continue the Hispanic theme with a selection of Spanish wines. After an introductory Cava Pares Balta from Penedes (moussey bubbles), we enjoyed two whites: Blanc de Pacs from Barcelona (most herbaceous) and Rueda Arriezu from Duero (aromatic and acidic to cut through strong Spanish cuisine). White wine is not usually grown in hot regions as the grapes have thin skins and burst if too strongly heated, so most Spanish whites are grown in the cooler North.
Next came a delicious Rosado Palido from Rioja; the paler a rosé is, the better quality the beverage. My former beliefs that rosé was made by mixing red and white together were shockingly proven wrong at this point. I learnt that red grapes are gently popped in a balloon press to release a drop of juice with a tiny splash of colour from the skin, as using the whole grape would not provide such a soft, delicate flavour. Lastly, we indulged in two lovely reds: Rioja Tinto from Noemus (hot afterburn) and Petit Verdot from La Mancha (sweet and fruity). Most riojas are aged in little oak barrels to give them their woody, vanilla finish, but some are aged in much larger barrels instead to reduce this rather strong flavour, as there is a smaller wine-to-wood ratio.
The wines were all fabulous, but much more enjoyable simply because they were organic. I’m a big fan of organic food ethically, but there are gustatory reasons why wines in particular are tastier when produced organically. Most commercial wines are made by adding sulphites as a preservative, which is the reason they give you terrible hangovers. Organics won’t contain pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers or synthetic chemicals, which allows you to taste the natural, complex flavours of the grape. The grapes of Rioja Tinto are also grown without using soil irrigation, so the plants have to dig deeper down into the earth to gather nutrients; there may be less fruit, but the quality is vastly superior.
Aside from the taste, there are tons of reasons why going organic will make the world healthier and happier. In April, a group of children living in the French countryside were found to have 624 different pesticide chemicals in their systems. More alarmingly the world’s bee population is decreasing dramatically, yet it is predicted that if bees disappeared from the earth, man would have only four years to live. Pollination by bees is required for a third of all the products found in a UK shopping basket, and their worst enemy is a type of insecticide known as neonicotinoids, which can kill them or weaken their navigation systems.
It’s really nice when we can enjoy delicious wines without harming the natural world, and it hardly costs anything. The wines at Mason & Mason averaged around £7.95, and there are hundreds of other organic wine suppliers to choose from.
If you like wine and/or the environment, here are a few helpful links:
me & my sister on the vino