good news: the farm-to-table movement isn’t just for food anymore. in fact, it’s now spreading to the beauty market, health + wellness products, and even - be still our chief fitlosopher’s heart - wine! and BONUS: it’s american heart month! and what better excuse to enjoy a glass of wine than in the name of heart health? so for this month’s been there tried that installment, i thought i’d take one for the team and have a little “clean” wine tasting. on a random wednesday afternoon. hey, it’s 5 o'clock somewhere.
[so what does “clean wine” mean?]
the two types of wine popping onto the clean scene are billed as organic or biodynamic. what’s the difference?
organic wines are made from certified organically grown grapes, avoiding any synthetic pesticides, additives or added sulfites (many winemakers use them to preserve the wine). though naturally occurring sulfites will still be present, the amount is much lower than in conventional wines.
biodynamic wine is made with a set of farming practices that views the farm or vineyard holistically. the ecosystem functions as a whole, with each portion of the farm or vineyard contributing to the next, the ultimate goal being to create a self-sustaining system. natural materials, soils, and composts are used to sustain the vineyard, rather than chemical fertilizers + pesticides, which are forbidden for the sake of soil fertility. animals from ducks to horses to sheep help fertilize the land, creating a rich environment for the grapes to grow in. biodynamic farming also seeks sustainability, or leaving the land in as good or better shape as they found it for future generations.
[why are clean wines supposedly better for you?]
not only do they contain lower sulfite levels, which supposedly means fewer hangovers, and no chemical residues, which means it’s a healthier product for you to consume, it’s better for the land and the environment as a whole. the more foods + products we can produce responsibly, the better. that means that there will be more competition in this space, which means lower prices, making good food more accessible to all. and best of all, it means, we’re leaving the planet a better place for future generations.
[let’s separate fact from fiction before we get to tasting.]
i know my personal thoughts on clean eating, but since i’m not a huge drinker, i’m ashamed to say i’ve never given much thought to clean drinking. i wanted to consult with the experts before putting these wines to the test. so i caught up with courtney (fitlosophy's brand manager) + nathan marton from winery reflections for the real deal scoop.
can you give me a quick comparison of clean wines to conventional wines?
winery reflections (wr): comparing organic and biodynamic wine to conventional wine is similar to comparing organically farmed produce to conventionally farmed produce. while they both might look the same and even taste the same at first impression, there are subtleties and nuances that separate them. aside from the obvious health benefits of not ingesting chemical pesticides, organic wine has the potential to express a more direct representation of the environment in which it grows. chemicals designed to kill harmful organisms in a vineyard can also inadvertently kill organisms that have a positive effect on quality and flavor. in short, conventional wine will almost always taste more "sterile" than organic or biodynamically farmed wine.
me: word on the street is that the lower sulfite levels in clean wines result in fewer hangovers. true or false?
wr: this a widely advertised, yet misunderstood effect of drinking natural (or low sulfite) wine. hangovers are caused by drinking too much alcohol, period - regardless of the level of sulfites in wine (ALL wine actually contains naturally occurring sulfites). in fact, the sulfites act as a preservative, so a wine with too few sulfites will be unstable and could spoil during transport, which is a major economic risk. that being said, producers are shifting towards much lower sulfite additions today than they ever have, because excess sulfites can magnify the effect of a hangover. you will usually feel better the next day if you spend all night drinking natural wine instead of conventional wine. again, a food analogy is helpful. think of natural low-sulfite wine as an organic plant-based meal, and conventional wine as fast food. you will feel full regardless if you eat too much of either meal, but you’ll likely feel much worse from the fast food.
[the moment of truth]
ok, now that i’m educated, let’s get to tasting! let me preface this by saying that i’m not one of those people who can attend a wine tasting + immediately sniff out notes of wet gravel in my chardonnay. for me, wine is more about all-around flavor. for this reason, i’ve included my own take, as well as a few stats from the experts. since i couldn’t just pair every single one with cheese (as i do in reality) + still look like a legit wine reviewer, i’ve also included food pairings for each. to make it easy on myself, i procured all of my clean wines through thrive market’s clean wine section, so each bottle came out to an affordable $14.99. for this go-round, i settled on three different bottles + made notes in my cute little #winenot noteable journal as i sipped my way through the tasting.
[chateau de la gravelle muscadet sevre et maine]
this white was my favorite. it was cold and fresh and light and reminded me of summer, which felt awesome on a cold, gloomy, winter day.
stats: demeter biodynamic certified, organically farmed
tasting notes: juicy, white peach, light citrus
pairs with: seafood, shellfish, buttery dishes
this was my favorite of the two reds. it was a wine i could imagine myself curling up by a fire with + just relaxing. a hint of tang + subtle fruitiness is definitely my jam (teehee, get it?) when it comes to a good red.
stats: demeter biodynamic certified, single vineyard
tasting notes: cranberries, cherry, red raspberries
pairs with: grilled meat, roasted chicken
[bb de berticot cotes de duras bordeaux blend]
this red was good too. it seemed a little smoother than the last red to me, less fruity, a little more earthy. i’ve typically stuck to california reds or a good malbec, so this french blend was new for me, but i liked it. i could even imagine it being great in a nice beef stew.
stats: organically farmed, dry farmed, low-impact viticulture
tasting notes: bing cherry, red currant, dark fruits with hint of green
pairs with: grilled chicken + grilled veggies
granted, i didn’t have so much wine that a hangover would ensue, and maybe it was the mental aspect that comes with knowing these wines were produced without toxic chemicals, but all three of these wines tasted cleaner and more like the grapes to me than conventional wines ever have. i definitely felt peace of mind knowing that there were no pesticide residues flowing through my digestive tract. and with an affordable price tag for each and every bottle, the deal is pretty much sealed for me.
have you tried clean wines? what did you think? what's your favorite? share in the comments below!