Organic Wines Podcast: Better for You or for the Environment?

grapes globe cartoonOrganic wines are among the fastest growing segments in the liquor store, but they’re also misunderstood, from how they’re made to their health benefits. This podcast sheds some light on these issues:


Your glass wine (or three) isn’t more healthful just because it’s organic. In fact, some organic wines can be more about marketing than about health or the environment.

Fermentation, filtering and fining during winemaking eliminates pesticides. As well,”organically grown grapes” on the label refers only to the way the vines are farmed, and not necessarily to the way the wine is then made in the winery because the winery is still allowed some 500 additives in the winemaking process.


Organic Wines Podcast: Better for You or for the Environment?

Natalie: Well, hello there and welcome to the first Nat Decants Podcast. I’m your wine soaked host, Natalie MacLean and this is definitely not Masterpiece Theater. In each podcast, I’m going to read an article from my latest e-newsletter but not my wine picks. I think that would be as exciting as reading from the phone directory but you can still find my picks in my free e-newsletter at

I’m not in a recording studio, by the way, in fact, I am sitting here at my paper strewn desk with an extremely dorky microphone so this will be a Warts and All recording. I’m not doing this 10 times over. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these podcasts and how can I make them better for you, within reason. I’m a techno Winey and so I could use your help. So email me at

There are two wine words of the week, first, before we get in into the story. The first one is buttery … ‘a wine with the taste or aroma of butter resulting from the wines time in contact with yeast as well as the flavour’s imparted from oak barrel fermentation and or aging’. New world Chardonnays from California, Chile and Australia are often described as having buttery aromas and flavours, yum! The second word is legs and no I’m not referring to the gams of an attractive young winemaker but that is a nice image. These are ‘the rivulets of wine that slowly glide down the glass after swirling it and sometimes they’re called tears of joy’.  They are related to surface tension differences between water and alcohol. The more alcoholic the wine the slower the legs go downs the glass and the more define they are. This doesn’t indicate a better wine just a more alcoholic one but for some of us that’s a better wine.

And now sit back pour yourself a glass of something strong and enjoy this week’s story entitled “Comfort Wines”. Finally, I had an assignment that would give full vent to my scientific mind to define and recommend winter comfort wines that would suit winter comfort activities. The research would be vast. A Chardonnay breakthrough in this field would be bigger than cold fusion. I could envision my glorious future … publishing my seminal book on comfort wines with a foreword by Dr. Serge Renaud, the French scientist whose French Paradox studies established some of wine’s health benefits.

Snapping out of my reverie, I trot down to my laboratory, the wine cellar, to begin investigation. Now, we’ve all heard about comfort food but what about comfort wine? After some experimentation, in my cellar, I come to the discomforting conclusion that few wines aren’t comfort wines. In fact there are no uncomfortable wines or wines for discomfort. In fact I find them all of great comfort. How, then, to narrow the field?

I turn to papers, previously put forward by the ‘Comfort Wine Research Community’ with titles such as ‘The Wines of Winter’, ‘What to Drink when the Temperature Drops’ and the incisive, Warm Tipples for Cold Nipples’. Then I leaf through some more magazines and conclude that all winter wines are best consumed while chatting with friends, in cable net sweaters, by crackling fires with Irish Setters at your feet. These repeated images can’t simply be a coincidence or a collective lack of imagination, can they?

I decide to simulate this first winter comfort activity in a controlled environment even though my scientific method is a little rusty. I dropped those science courses in grade 12, choosing to take more marketable courses such as Russian Literature and Comparative World Religions. I spot a couple of neighbors shoveling out the snow and insist that they go home, put on some knitted sweaters and come on over. We all sit in from the fireplace, glowing radiantly. The temperature in the house is already 29˚ Celsius or around 80˚ Fahrenheit.  The heat from the fire wafts over us in waves and while I pour I explain that we’re searching for wines that are familiar to us since we usually acquit comfort with the familiar. I also mentioned that these wines won’t be describe as intellectual and probably won’t have aromas of wet violets. They’re not bland or unchallenging, either. They resonate with deep warm layers of fruit.

My neighbors look at me curiously but appreciate the free drinks. We find a number of wines that fit this description especially those from Australia where warm climate results in concentrated wines with lots of fruit. Among the best are Wyndham Estate Bin 444 Cabernet and Limestone Coast Shiraz. By this time we’ve peeled off all our layers down to our t-shirts but are finding great comfort in the wines. This provides me with my first hypothesis warm gammy wines from Australia can be considered winter comfort wines whether you’re wearing a snugly sweater or not. In the absence of an Irish setter, a fluffy cat is an adequate substitute.

After my neighbors troop off, I get out a bottle of Valpolicella, the quintessential easy drinking wine. My next hypothesis is to prove that not all winter wines have to be heavily extracted with high alcoholic content and fruit flavours … especially when you want to sip them over an entire evening, the winter equivalent of quaffing on the patio. I concentrate on the bottle and whisper my observations into a small dictaphone “Which winter comfort activity would pair well with sipping this wine?”.

I become unsettled with the strangeness of observing myself so I decide to call the local movie critic, whom I don’t know but he happens to answer his phone. It turns out he likes the movie “Il Postino: The Postman”.  That is a happy coincidence since I just happen to be tasting several Northern Italian reds – Masi Valpolicella, Ruffino Riserva Ducale, Chianti Classico and Fontanafredda Barbaresco. They just roll off the tongue. They all compliment the film’s warmth and intimacy with their rounded flavours of black cherries and plums and a smoky finish. The second hypothesis is correct.  Low alcohol wines are suitable to winter activities and the bonus is you don’t believe yourself a minor character in one of those movies. Now for my third hypothesis … anyone can pair wine with food but only those with too much time in their hands can pair wine with literature. While looking at the books on my shelves and though my eyes glazed over, I decide to call someone I don’t know, the local manager of the bookstore.  She suggests ‘100 Years of Solitude’, This story, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, follows several generations of a Latin-American family.

So, naturally, I scour the shelves at my local liquor store for wines that are made in the novel’s setting, a small Northern Colombian village called Macondo. After several hours of fruitless searching, the merchant is kind enough to tell me that the village was fictional. He gently points me in the direction of Chilean wines. I pick up several Chilean reds hoping to find aromas that will trigger the novel subtexts, kind of like Marcel Proust’s memory enhancing, Madeleine. Concha Y Toro Sunrise Cabernet Sauvignon and Aresti Merlot don’t help with the textual analysis but they do have a supple texture and lots of fruit upfront.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself, in the name of science, I press on to my last hypothesis … whether Merlot is the only wine mellow enough for jazz music. My music expert suggests I listen to “All for You: A dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio” by Diana Krall.   Krall’s music calls for something lush to compliment the Singer Sultry voice. I start with the Mission Hill Merlot and it works, but would a Cabernet Zin be equally jazzy? Sumac Ridge Cabernet Franc and Cline Zinfandel work just fine, too. I even try a little fizz with my Frim-Fram Sauce … Roederer Estate from California. I just opened up new vistas of these possibility for jazz lovers everywhere. After a long day in the laboratory it was time to write up my findings. I discovered that while there are no uncomfortable wines some work especially well when you want something familiar. But don’t take my word for it, prove it for yourself.

That’s it for the article, there are two recipes included in this week’s story and both are extremely comforting – a bacon and onion tartlet with Shev and a Goyer de Fromage with Cabernet Franc Sauce.  That is it for this week. Please let know others know about this podcast in my newsletter at Tune in again in two weeks’ time for another exciting episode. In the meantime drink up, cheers Natalie. This podcast and its content are a copyright of Natalie MacLean 2007.



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