Showing posts with label Pinot Noir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pinot Noir. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Two Excellent Wines from Chile's Aconcagua Coast DO, where "the vines grow happy and the grapes ripen slowly".

Two Excellent Wines from Chile's Aconcagua Coast DO where "the vines grow happy and the grapes ripen slowly"  


Montes Alpha Pinot Noir Aconcagua Costa (DO) 2019, 14.5% 

RRP €23.99. The 1601; Martins Off Licence; Sweeney's D3; Higgins Off Licence; Blackrock Cellar;

“It is totally coastal influenced. In morning there’s mist and fog and then a shy sunshine from mid day. The vines grow happy. The grapes ripen slowly.” This was Aurelio Montes speaking of the Aconcagua Coast during a 2020 Zoomed masterclass as he sipped a Pinot Noir (Quite possibly this one).

Montes are serious players. According to the Wines of South America, Montes (founded in 1988) is credited for its pioneering work in the Colchagua’s Apalta district, the first to realise its potential as one of the best locations for red wines in Chile and “is among the most important wineries in Chile today”. As a further endorsement, their Alpha “M” (very limited production) is listed as one of the top 20 South American wines to drink before you die.

Bright ruby red is the colour of this 2019 Pinot Noir. It is quite aromatic, full of cherry, blueberry and raspberry, hints of vanilla too, sweet spice in there also. It is juicy and that bit spicy on the palette, hints of its time in oak (integrated), well rounded tannins, and a vibrant acidity helping the balance, keeping it smooth and elegant, as well as interesting, right through to the abiding and perfumed finish.  Very engaging,  totally likeable and Very Highly Recommended.

Montes Alpha wines are elegant and easy to drink, faithfully expressing the variety and terroir. “This has spent twelve months in French oak barrels, 20% new, for structure and complexity.” 

Their website tells us: Just 7 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean and located in the northern part of the Aconcagua Costa winemaking region, Viña Montes is the only winery with vines planted in this new D.O., characterized by cool, cloudy summer mornings, with sun at midday, and afternoons that see clouds reappearing with low temperatures. These conditions favor a slow ripening of the grapes that allow them to develop complexity and powerful aromas.

Importers Liberty Wines add: The proximity of the vineyards to the Pacific coast endows the wine with tremendous freshness, minerality, and cool climate typicity. The granitic soils of the Coastal Mountains have varying percentages of clay, which contributes elegance, creaminess and a unique sense of place.


Best Value Wines 2022 Under €18.00. With Reviews & Irish Stockists. 



Montes Classic Series Sauvignon Blanc Aconcagua Costa (DO)  2021, 13.5% ABV, €14.95 Bradleys Cork

Chilean Sauvignon blanc is usually pretty good and good value too, especially at entry level, as is the case here with this engaging Montes from the coastal vineyards of Aconcagua.

Colour is pale straw with green tones. Aromas are quite intense: herbaceous, pineapple, lime, and more. It is much the same on the palate, where a lively acidity comes into play, but you may also notice orange blossom and a light spice. 

No oak used by the way. An everyday wine they say. But a good one and Highly Recommended. Serve at 12 to 13 degrees and you’ll find it goes well with sushi, Caesar Salad, ceviche, garlic shrimp, grilled Mahi-Mahi, pasta primavera, seafood chowder and lemon chicken. 

Don’t think the Mahi-Mahi suggestion will be of much use to you. It is a fish of the Americas, also known as Red Snapper, and not usually available here, though I had it once at an early gastro pub in Passage  (I was told it had been flown in that morning!). You could try bream instead.

I was a regular visitor to that pub and the food was good. One of the best dishes I remember was a Scallop Pie. They must have been relatively inexpensive then for the dish was packed with them. They had a French chef I recall; my mobile phone (an early version) rang out loudly one night and the chef started singing along to the  “incoming call” music, which was the Marseillaise. 

The Montes Classic Series of wines represent the outstanding value Chile can offer for everyday drinking. “Grapes are hand-picked and transported to the winery with the utmost care, to keep bunch damage to an absolute minimum.” You don’t have to stop at this Sauvignon as the Series also include wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Chardonnay.


Top Wines 2022. With Reviews & Irish Stockists. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Two of my favourite grapes, Verdejo and Pinot Noir, making beautiful wines

 Two of my favourite grapes. Verdejo and Pinot Noir making beautiful wines

De Alberto Verdejo Rueda (DO) 2021, 13.5% ABV,  €11.95 (was 15.45)

What could I expect from this organic Verdejo? The label hints included: aromatic, fruity, fatty, oily.

Straw is the colour, and there is a tinge of green. Aromas are intense and inviting, white fruit with notes of fennel.  Four months on lees has given it excellent body.  On the palate, it is balanced, is fresh from the start and, with good acidity and a streak of lime, intense all through to the lingering finish.

You’ll enjoy this one on its own or with poultry, fish and seafood. Wine Folly says it is a great food wine and palate cleanser and suggests fish tacos, lime chicken, carnitas, and seitan steaks (plant based meat substitute). Serve at around 12 degrees. Very Highly Recommended. Good value too by the way, more so when on offer.

Importers O’Briens tell us the Guttierez family have been producing wines in Rueda for five generations, in a stunning 350-yr-old winery, complete with a kilometre of subterranean ageing cellars. The Verdejo grape is king here and is one of Spain's top white wine varieties..

The producers say the 100% Verdejo wine is Certified Agriculture Organic and is made exclusively with grapes from Pago Monte San Martín, “located at the first settlement that today is our village, Serrada” and that the fruit has received “the most meticulous care and an expert winemaking”.

Virtually all the Verdejo in the world is grown in Spain and the vast majority of it in Rueda. It is the characteristic grape of the region but, according to World Atlas of Wine, up to the 1970s, the grape was used to make sherry-like wines; then Marqués de Riscal came in and used it to make fresh dry table wines and Verdejo hasn’t looked back since.

Surprised by the all-white synthetic cork, one that is reusable, recyclable and is made from LDPE (low density polyethylene). Easy to withdraw though with my normal corkscrew.


Top Wines 2022. With Reviews & Irish Stockists. 


Domaine Begude Le Cerisier Pinot Noir Aude (IGT) 2021, 13% ABV, €16.95, O’Briens Wines

This cuvée, named after the majestic cherry tree at the entrance to Begude, has a cherry red colour. Indeed, this organic wine is packed with cherry flavours, some wild strawberry and raspberry also getting in the mix. It is light and pleasant, juicy too, with very soft tannins emerging towards the finale. Approachable, easy-drinking and Highly Recommended.

Serve at 11-14 degrees and enjoy as an aperitif. The producers say it is the perfect BBQ tipple, “a delight with steak and other red meats”, while importers O’Brien Wines add that, when slightly chilled, it is perfect with fish dishes. A versatile wine then, vegetarian friendly too, and excellent value also. Even more in my case, as I bought it for €13.45 in their August sale.

Surprising enough that you can get a fine Pinot Noir in the deep south. The organic vineyard is in the hills of Limoux, South of France. The growing conditions are similar to those in Burgundy and indeed, 80% of the vineyard’s production is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The long cool growing season here allows for well balanced, fruit driven wines that are underpinned with a natural freshness. 

This is one of a number of Pinot Noirs produced by Begude and the grapes are grown high in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. Fertilised using only natural manures and cultivated with the utmost respect for the environment.


Best Value Wines 2022 Under €18.00. With Reviews & Irish Stockists. 


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

A Couple of Cracking Reds from Tasmania and Alentejo.

A Couple of Cracking Reds

from Tasmania and Alentejo

Eddystone Point Pinot Noir (Tasmania) 2018, 13%, €24.95, O’Briens Wine

This Pinot Noir, all the way from Tasmania, has a vibrant mid-ruby colour. Strawberry is the major actor in the moderately intense aromas. This juicy red is lively in the mouth, delicately flavoured, with strawberry and cherry, some spice too, and a natural acidity help keep the balance right to the finalé, where the smooth tannins softly tingle the lips and fruit and spice gently and pleasantly linger. 

Purity of fruit was foremost in winemaker Stewart Byrne’s mind during this vintage and he and his team hit the bull’s eye with this one. Very Highly Recommended.


Eddystone Point is situated in windswept North East Tasmania and features some of the most uniquely layered terrains on the planet. With its cool climate and prevailing winds it is ideal for growing Pinot Noir.

Eddystone say: One of the hardest of all grape varietals to make, this wine displays all the hallmarks of great Pinot Noir. …The unusually warm Summer and Spring conditions were able to ripen larger than average crops successfully, and vintage was done and dusted in the very short timeframe of just 5 weeks. Harvesting 100% hand picked…. Maturation was 9 months in 25% new French oak and a mixture of older oak. .. Drink now or cellar for up to 3-5 years. First released in 2013, Eddystone Point realises our vision to create wines that are drinkable, affordable and represent the undisputed quality of Tasmanian fresh produce.

Tasmania is a single wine region (Geographical Indication), with seven distinct and diverse wine growing areas. The climate is cool by latitude, not altitude, and the weather is highly variable. Many grape varieties are now found in Tasmania, with producers constantly innovating and experimenting. But Pinot Noir is the star, representing almost half of the island’s plantings for both still and sparkling wine. And those sparkling wines are pretty damn good too!

Marquês de Borba Colheita Alentejo (DOC) 2019, 14%, €17.95 O’Briens Wine

Like many Portuguese wines, this red is a blend; the grape varieties used are Alicante Bouschet, Arangonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Petit Verdot and Merlot. The fruit is grown on the limestone and schist soils of Alentejo (a large area with the Algarve to the south, Spain to the east and the Atlantic coast, with Lisbon, to the west).


And, like many Portuguese reds, the aromas are intense, a concentration of fruit (red and darker berries) and a touch of vanilla. The palate too is fruit-driven but not at all over the top as you’ll find a happy equilibrium between fruit, tannin and acidity. Very drinkable and Highly Recommended.

Marquês de Borba Colheita is made by the family owned João Portugal Ramos. He started his personal wine making project by planting his first five hectares of vineyards in Estremoz in 1988. Now joined by his son and daughter in the business, they have grown to be one of the most important wineries in Portugal.

They say: One of the most emblematic brands of João Portugal Ramos, Marquês de Borba combines the tradition of the Alentejo region with an excellent quality, present since the first vintage in 1997. The brand’s name comes from the happy coincidence of João Portugal Ramos’ vineyards and winery being located in Borba sub-region, and also of one of his uncles having the noble title Marquês de Borba, a title created in 1811. Present all over the world, the Marquês de Borba brand is today a symbol of the Alentejo region.

Monday, February 15, 2021

A Strongly Recommended French Double

A Strongly Recommended French Double 

Château Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pinet, AC Coteaux du Languedoc 2019, 13%, €14.50 Mary Pawle

Fairly widely available including Organico, Bantry; Mannings, Ballylickey; Field’s Supervalu, Skibbereen; Taste, Castletownbere; Quay Co-Op, Cork City; The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny; The Connemara Hamper, Clifden; Ardkeen Food Store, Waterford; The Good Food Store (Toon’s Bridge Dairy) Dublin.

Light gold, with faint green reflections, is the colour of this Picpoul. Aromas of the wine are somewhat shy but mainly floral. Crisp on the palate, no shortage of acidity either yet, with white and citrus fruit on the palate and its excellent mouthfeel, it is more harmonious than you’d expect for the grape. Dry for sure, especially towards the finish, and obviously an excellent match for oysters and shellfish (which are abundant in the area).  Serve at about 8 degrees for best results. I think this is even better than the previous vintage, so Very Highly Recommended.

Importer Mary Pawle says it is often referred to as the Muscadet of the South. Indeed, you’ll almost certainly come across Picpoul more than Muscadet on Irish restaurant lists these days.

The Picpoul is grown on a clay-limestone terroir not far from the large Thau lake, on the edge of the Med. While regarded as a lake, it has very high salinity.

Château Petit Roubié has been practising organic farming since 1985. Floriane and Olivier Azan have owned the estate since 1981 and have developed, thanks to a judicious choice of winemaking, a very attractive range indeed. Their lands are in a historic area; if you visit, you can still see vestiges of the Via Domitia (the Roman road) in their scrubland. And those Roman engineers were building on top of an even older “road”. The wine is presented in a distinctive Neptune bottle though that, as far as I know, has nothing to do with the Roman god of the sea.

Emmanuel Giboulot “En Grégoire” Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes De Nuits (AOC) 2017, 12%, 

€41.00 New to the range but available online at Mary Pawle

This light and perfumed biodynamic 2017 Burgundy, mid to dark ruby in colour, has plenty of berries in the aromas. The attack is fresh with lots of fruit coming on strong, more gentle as the smooth finish is reached and fine tannins dry the lips. Very Highly Recommended.

The producers confidently assure us that "En Grégoire" "can accompany a beautiful plate of cold meats, grilled meats, a dish

exotic. Its complexity will do wonders."

An excellent Pinot Noir then. Par for the course in these parts, you might well say. Except that, as recently as 2014, this winemaker Emmanuel Giboulot was fined and threatened with a jail term for sticking to his principles.  He was convicted for refusing a government order to spray crops with pesticides, following fear over an outbreak of golden rot, only to have the decision reversed on appeal.

Emmanuel met the problem of agricultural practices and its impact on wine and human health head on - Prison rather than poison - and is now a prominent advocate for organic and biodynamic viticulture. His wines reflect his principles and the widely acknowledged exceptional Burgundy terroir.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Two Superb Reds for your Short-list from Rioja and Central Otago

Two Superb Reds for your Short-list

 from Rioja and Central Otago 

LAN Rioja Reserva (DOC) 2014, 13.5%

€22.99; Baggot Street Wines; Sweeney’s; Jus de Vine; Egans Off Licence; Molloys Liquor Store; La Touche Wines; The Corkscrew; The Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; J. J. O’Driscoll

On the back label, LAN insist: “Bottled wines don’t last forever. They evoke and mature, yet also grow old and die. Keep this Reserva wine in the best conditions possible but don’t cellar it forever..” 

So, let us get going! Colour is a glossy cherry red. Aromas are quite intense, with an elegant vanilla and a touch of spice, ripe red fruit too. More fruit and spice on the smooth and velvety palate, followed by a persistent and moreish finish. Very Highly Recommended. 

Grapes used are 92% Tempranillo and Mazuelo (also known as Carignan), the fruit coming from selected vineyards in the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa subzones with an average age of more than 25 years. Rioja rules mean that Reserva red wines spend a minimum of one year in oak. They cannot be sent to market until a full three years after vintage. 

Founded in 1972, Bodegas LAN lies in the heart of Rioja Alta. The name LAN comes from the initials of the three provinces of the Rioja Designation of Origin: Logroño (nowadays called La Rioja), Álava and Navarra. In her 2012 book, Rioja, Ana Fabiano describes the Lan wines as “modern classics”.

They say: LAN Reserva spent 18 months in hybrid barrels of French and American oak, and 21 months in bottle, inside our cellars, in the ideal storage conditions. Don't keep this Reserva for a special occasion that might never arrive.

By the way, those hybrid barrels have American staves with French oak heads and LAN has pioneered their use and reckon the hybrids give their wines the best of both worlds.

Akarua RUA Pinot Noir Central Otago (New Zealand) 2018, 14%, 

€29.99 Mitchell & Son; Avoca; The 1601;; Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines

This Central Otago Pinot Noir is a light, and bright, ruby. A complex nose of dark and red fruit (cherry, plum), floral (violet) with some spice notes. Amazing depth of bold berry fruit (strawberry, raspberry) on the palate, its velvety power enhanced by its gentle spice, fine tannins and juicy acidity. The finish is strong and long. Quite an experience, start to fruit-driven finale; silky, it is easy-drinking and Very Highly Recommended.

They say: Winemaker Andrew Keenleyside ensures that the fruit is nicely balanced. He avoids the raisiny flavours that some in Central Otago seem to obtain, and produces wines with lovely aromatic lift and fine tannins, which are perfectly illustrated in the 'RUA'. The 2018 spent seven months in French Oak barriques (of which 10% were new).

Akarua is “proudly family owned” by the Skeggs family who were among the first people to buy and plant vineyard land in Central Otago in the mid-1990s, so were lucky enough to acquire a superb north-facing site in Bannockburn. Sustainability in the vineyard and winery is integral to the Akarua ethos. Water conservation, recycling, the use of lightweight bottles, fully insulated barrel rooms and energy efficient lighting in the winery are a few of the initiatives taken by Akarua to guarantee their accredited status as a sustainable producer.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan Karwig's? Especially for German wines like these two.

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan Karwig's?
Especially for German wines like these two.

Hard to believe it's already 12 months since Karwigs Wine closed. These are some of the wines I bought on my second last visit. I still have some - need to get my act together!

Georg Müller Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen GG Riesling Trocken Rheingau 2015, 13%, Karwig Wine

Only the very best German vineyards get to display the "VDP.Grosse Lage" designation on their bottles and it is on this one that I bought during Karwig’s closing-down sale last year. Not too sure where, or even if, you can get it in Ireland now. But if you see one, don’t hesitate!

There are various grades of VDP, which is a German wine group representing many of the country best producers. “Wines from these vineyards shine through their uniqueness and distinctiveness…. also distinguished by their unparalleled ability to express the essence of a vineyard.” VDP is not a legal term but reflects the group's own private regulations.

The Nussbrunnen in Hattenheim, a south-southeast facing vineyard, is just a short trip up from the bank of Rhine and has deep loess soil with, importantly, an excellent water supply in dry years.
This Riesling’s colour is Light straw with greenish tints. Don’t think I’ll ever like that petrol in the aromas but have learned to live with it! Also some herby notes there, floral traces too, even a little touch of dough. Petrol on the nose but electric on the palate, juicy, rounded fruit, so elegant, with a refreshing acidity, this concentrated wine is tarty dry and concludes up with a deep and persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Kilian Hunn Spätburgunder 2013 (Baden, Germany), 13.5%

Did you know that Germany, after France and the US, is the third largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world? They’ve been growing it for a long long time, especially around Baden. According to a Fortune magazine article, here, it seems Emperor Charles III brought the grape to Germany from Burgundy in 884. 

Germany prices give plenty of bang for your buck and its style is no longer an imitation of Burgundy. With Burgundy prices on the rise, “so Germany is ready to fill the void” - see more of this excellent insight here

Kilian Hunn was always a favourite of mine at Karwig’s before they closed last summer and I got this Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) during the closing down sale. Regular price was €18.30 and they had it reduced to 10.50 .

Colour is mid to dark ruby. Aromas are quite intense, dark berries, plum, slight touch of spice. Fruity, well-integrated oak, medium-bodied, smooth tannins and quite harmonious and a persistent dry finish. That balance is just about perfect, no raw edges here at all. Highly Recommended.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Two French Pinot Noirs to Enjoy!

Two French Pinot Noirs to Enjoy!
Very Highly Recommended

Pinot Noir, the great red grape of Burgundy, has put down roots in many parts of the world. The World Atlas of Wine says “its perfect place on earth is Burgundy’s Côte D’Or”. Good examples too from New Zealand and Oregon and, closer to home in Germany (3rd largest grower of the grape in the world) and Alsace (now helped a bit by global warming). Our first example here is, surprisingly enough, from the Languedoc but from a high cool vineyard there.

While you mostly see Pinot Noir on its own in the bottle, it is a key part of Champagne where it blends so well with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. And even here, it goes solo with Blancs de Noir, such as Krug's Clos d'Ambonnay and Bollinger's Vieilles Vignes Francaises.

No bubbles below through, just a couple of excellent still wines, much less expensive than the champagnes mentioned above. Enjoy!

La Boussole Pinot Noir Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2018, 12.5%, €14.45 64 Wine DublinBradley’s of CorkGreenman DublinLe Caveau Kilkenny

La Boussole (compass)

Mid ruby is the colour of this Pinot from the south of France. Fresh aromas (wild strawberries). Light and lively, with a superb backbone of pure red fruit flavours, smooth and gentle, just the merest grip from the sleek tannins on the way to a fine finish. Highly Recommended and excellent value also.

Matches suggested by importers Le Caveau are mushroom risotto, lamb shank or even scallops in a mushroom and cream sauce. 

They also say the grapes for La Boussole Pinot Noir are grown on chalky marl soils in the Aude region near Limoux and are manually harvested. These cool vineyards in the Languedoc hills mean that you don’t get the highly ripened grapes and the subsequent high abv and big flavours you might expect. Enjoy. Not quite Burgundy but not a bad sub either, especially when you consider the price.

Like many of the light reds, it may be served slightly chilled, especially during the summer.

J-C Regnaudot Pinot Noir Bourgogne (AOC) '17 13%, 

Colour is a bright mid ruby. Pleasing red fruit aromas don’t really prepare you for the vibrant presence in the mouth, intense flavours of black cherries and red berries, juicy acidity also, deep, silky and elegant, well-balanced and a terrific example of why Didier Regnaudot was elected Hachette Guide Winemaker of the Year for 2018. This classic, made from old vines in the traditional way and using organic principles, is Very Highly Recommended.
Le Caveau: Ideal with white meats, chicken and charcuterie. I think it has enough character for steak and light game dishes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Biodynamic Californian Winemaker Ted Lemon and “the things that lie behind”

Biodynamic Californian Winemaker Ted Lemon and “the things that lie behind”.
Compost based on cow manure

Biodynamic Californian winemaker Ted Lemon (of Littorai) gives a different kind of masterclass, to say the least. Indeed, his mention of his wines comes in a hurry at the end. But, even some hours before last Wednesday’s online masterclass began (with some 170 attendees), we had been invited to view two videos (links below).

One was about dandelion seeds and how they can travel as much as five miles, propelled by an amazing natural “vortex” system. If the first video was micro then the second was macro, recorded by the international space station and showing a stupendous display of both the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis phenomena  set to Pachelbel's Canon in D Major.
Ted Lemon, screenshot from the masterclass
At the end of Ted’s talk on biodynamics we had some understanding of the forces that act upon our world. And forces such as those in the video, both micro and macro, are at work in biodynamic farming, “the things that lie behind” as Ted said. We have a beautiful world and we need to start looking after it. And also looking more closely, more deeply.

Liberty Wine’s David Gleave introduced Ted saying a wine masterclass was a “strange exercise without wine. “Ted,” he said, “is a great speaker. He makes fabulous wines and his story is good too.” Ted again surprised us by beginning with a 14th century Persian poem called a The Happy Virus:

I caught the happy virus last night

When I was out singing beneath the stars.

It is remarkably contagious – So kiss me.

Ted Lemon learned his craft in Burgundy. He worked at many prestigious estates including Domaine Georges Roumier, Domaine Bruno Clair, Domaine Parent, Domaine De Villaine, Domaine Delorme and Domaine Dujac. 

He was the first American ever selected as winemaker and vineyard manager of a Burgundian estate, Domaine Guy Roulot in Meursault. He has also been consulting winemaker at top wineries in California, Oregon and New Zealand.

Screenshot from the masterclass. Ted has been hugely influenced by Steiner.

Despite his success in France, as part of the mainstream wine industry, Ted began to have doubts. He saw the land there was being poorly treated and began to think there had to be another way. 

He found that in biodynamics and, after quite a search up and down the west coast of the USA, found his place at Littorai and set up there in 1993;  he and wife Heidi went on to build their winery in 2008. It is a small, family run winery producing world class single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the true north coast of California: the coastal mountains of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.
Building up the cow manure based compost heap.

The cause for Ted’s search for “another way” emerged in a question and answer session being chaired by Dennis Drazan Sunjic. Here’s a flavour..

“How soon did you see signs of the difference that biodynamics were making?”
Within six months was the answer. "By August/September, I noticed the growth of plants between the rows of vines, plants that I hadn’t seen before. And then the good signs snowballed."

“What is the best size for a biodynamic vineyard?”
Ted didn’t see any problem with size. There are some really big BD properties in Australia for example. You just have to adjust for scale.

“BD seems to work best when it is at the heart of a community and culture. With the mindset we now find ourselves in with lockdowns and climate change etc, what do you think can be done to return farming to a localised level and do you think that this is a good thing?”

Ted said there are some great examples currently of that type, both big and small, even in urban areas. The aim really is quality, not quantity, and the question is would we spend a bit more for it.

Earlier, Ted had taken us through the “Western” agricultural history, from hunter gatherers, to nomadic cultures, to traditional community farms and then to the Agricultural revolution of the 17th century, right up to the family farm. 

Then came the Industrial Revolution, the world wars, the petro-chemical industry, the loss of diversity. “Did you know that in France, at the end of the 19th century, they had 3,600 different apple varieties? By 1950, there were just a few hundred left.”

After the wars, the family farm was increasingly replaced by the industrial farm, more inputs bought in, the produce now geared towards the market. Working for profit became the norm. “More fertilisers.. less and less variety”.

At the same time (from 1920 onwards) though, alternative forms of farming were emerging, slowly.  These included Biodynamics (1924), Organic (1930s and 40s), Permaculture (70s), and Agro-ecology (80s).

Ted cited Rudolf Steiner as one of his main influences and then took us through the use of Preparations, unique to BD farming but with which you may be familiar. Preparation 500 is animal material in an animal sheath while 501 is mineral material in animal sheath (often a cow’s horn). Vegetable material may also be placed in a sheath. And then there’s the use of herbal teas, as tonics, enhancers and stimulants.

Interestingly, cow manure is a key part of BD. The manure contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and more. Cow manure compost provides a much higher yield in humus per acre than simple dung left on the field and humus is the most important carbon sink on the farm. “Cow manure,” said Ted, “is a balanced manure and easy to collect.”
The little things that count big

And then there are some little things. “Take care of the worms,” he said. Give them the conditions to multiply and they’ll reward you. The bees and the pollinators must also find a welcome. Plant those wildflowers and you’ll be rewarded. But don’t just hire in swarms as they do in the almond orchards of California. “A healthy farm is a self-contained, self-sustaining individuality.”

Observation is hugely important. Ted surprised himself when he began to study the gophers on the farm (we don’t have them in Ireland!). “Pure destruction, you think”. But their digging underground “has a beneficial function”.

“Our job as winegrowers is to work in harmony with nature and not in opposition.  Our vineyard work centres around enhancing systemic ecological health so that our vineyards do not succumb to attacks but bend like reeds in the wind and then return to their natural, healthy condition.” 

Towards the end, Ted was asked to talk about their recent vintages. I noted the Pinot Noir comments. The 2010 is hardly recent but he was full of praise for it, “quite exceptional”. The 2014 and 2016 are “more classic, the 14 a little more elegant”. The 2015 “will age”, so perhaps wait for it is the message here.

It is the opposite with the 2017. “Drink them young and enjoy the fruit from a very hot vintage”. “The 2018 seems to have everything… will be a classic, while the 2019 is looking good.” More about Ted's wines here.