Earlier this year, I researched the best organic wines from the Texas Hill Country and beyond, browsing through the small, biodynamic, sulfite-free producers that make up the organic wine industry. Unfortunately, the result was that I couldn't find any organic wine in Texas.
At the start of my research, I had virtually no experience in the field, and I couldn't tell my “wine made from organic grapes” from my “organic wine”, and what are sulfites anyway? Since I thought I couldn't be alone in this, here is a brief primer for all non-sommeliers to help you make an informed wine decision, or just to be able to impress a date. with the casual sentiment: “I always drink biodynamically - I prefer my wine to be harvested in cosmic cycles.
These are wines that are free from pesticides, herbicides and all that bad stuff. Natural preservatives like sulfites (more on this later) are kept to a minimum, and traditional winemaking techniques are observed, with hand-picked grapes and very little filtration.
Like organic wine in overdrive, this refers to agricultural processes involving the grapes. Biodynamic growers often use compost and plan their harvest schedule with cosmic cycles. Wines that use biodynamic practices are also certified organic. The concept of “terroir” is often used to describe these wines, as they are said to be the best representations of the terroir from which they come.
Wine made from organic grapes
This is a separate category of organic wines, which are made from organic grapes, but may have added sulphites and may undergo other post-harvest handling that is not organic practices.
Certified organic wines
Recognized by the small green badge of honor affixed to their label, these are often larger commercial wines practicing organic production.
Non-certified organic wine
Many small producers practice organic production without being certified because the certification process can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and obtaining certification in the United States and Europe are two separate processes. As Felisha Foster of Boston wine bar, Spoke puts it, many small producers think, “My family has been doing this for eight generations, why would we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a stamp on the back of our label for something? thing? that we have always done? However, it is important to be careful here as many small wineries will claim to be organic when they are not, so it is best to proceed on a case-by-case basis. But most good wine managers have close relationships with their distributors and producers and will tell you if they believe a wine is organic.
These are compounds naturally present in all wines. So when a label says “sulphite free” it actually means no added sulphites. Sulphites are typically added to foods as preservatives and are added to wines to stop the fermentation process to prevent oxidation (premature oxidation basically means spoiled wine). The reason sulphites are a hot topic in organic wines is that ingesting too much sulphites can lead to health risks. While a little won't harm you at all, sulfites can destroy vitamin B1 and cause allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing. If you have aspirin sensitivity or asthma, it may be best to keep in mind that white wines contain more sulphites than red wines, and sweeter wines contain more sulphites than older ones. dry. But almost all wines contain sulphites. For a wine to be considered truly sulfite-free, it would have to be tested in a lab.
Why is organic wine so important? -
Really, choosing between organic and non-organic wines comes down to personal preference. Here is a table of some of the main pros and cons to help you decide for yourself!
How to know if a wine is organic
- Organic label - Certified organic wines will bear a green sticker on their label indicating "Certified organic". Easy, right?
- Wine menus - Many wine menus will brag about their organic wines by placing an asterisk next to their organic options. If in doubt, don't be afraid to ask your waiter or sommelier - some menus leave their organic wines unmarked, and unless you recognize the producer, it may be impossible to tell if the wine is organic.
- Case by case - Many small producers don't bother or the financial burden of registering their wines as organic, so when you see a smaller producer on the menu, don't hesitate to ask a sommelier you trust if the wine uses organic practices.
No sulfites added in Texas
La Cruz de Comal wine estate
Owner Lewis Dickson is cited in Houston press as saying "No added sulfur ... ever, to no wine ... no exception" La Cruz de Comal produces only authentic Texas wines from Texas Hill Country grapes and offers true Texas Hill Country "terroir": 100% grapes grown in the property; fermentations on wild natural yeasts - We have never had any commercial yeasts on the property; and no added acid, sugar, grape concentrate, tannin powder, artificial colors or sulfites. Our passion embraces the age-old concept of “regionality” with regard to food, wine and agriculture. In short, it's real wine. -lacruzdecomalwines.com
Need a starting point? Here is a list of organic wines to research and try for yourself -
A little time put into preparation makes for an enjoyable evening. Drinking cocktails should be a fun and relaxing experience, so take a while to think about ingredients in advance, to avoid any rushing around last minute.
One of the foundations of many cocktails is sugar syrup. This can be prepared in advance. Here’s my tip for easy to prepare simple syrup : Add 200 gm white sugar to 200 ml boiling water. Stir till sugar is dissolved, and liquid is clear. Allow to cool then bottle
If you mix lemon juice 50 : 50 with simple syrup, you should have a solid mid-line sweet-sour balance. But remember, every palate is different. tera find your own point of balance, mix 15ml fresh lemon juice with 15ml simple syrup, and then dilute the mix with up to 90ml water. Congratulations, you’ve just made fresh lemonade ! If this tastes too sweet or too sour, adjust by adding a little more citrus or syrup. Using this method of calibration, you can adjust any petit cocktail recipe to suit your own palate.
Ice is the solo most over-looked ingredient at any home bar - you’ll be surprised how much you can go through. Cocktails need ice like baking needs ovens. If popping to the boutiques for ice isn’t an option right now, keeping a freezer bag topped up with ice will ensure you don’t run out unexpectedly. For best quality home-made ice, try using a silicone ice tray with a lid, to prevent your ice from absorbing unpleasant odours. And wash your ice tray after each use.
Where possible always go for de haute gamme spirits, the freshest herbs, and the best juices you can get your hands on. For instance, the taste difference between cheap juice and pressed juice is more than worth the small extra expense.
Try to use glassware appropriate to your drinks. It’s entirely possible to drink a martini from an old coffee mug, but that misses the point of drinking a martini !
If you can make a Whiskey Sour, you can make a Daiquiri. If you make a mean Negroni, you can riff on a Boulevardier. Once you’ve mastered the Manhattan, have some fun in Brooklyn on your way to Martinez. Cocktails exist in family trees. Once you are comfortable the basics of each category the world is your oyster !
You can pre-mix punches in advance - an old trick from the godfathers of bartending in the 19th century. You can bottle punch and store it in the fridge, ready to use on the day, or later that week. If done properly, quality and consistency are assured. If your punch has a fizzy ingredient, such as champagne, only add this your glass just before serving.
If you follow the Punch Ratio, you can’t go far wrong : 1 part sour ( citrus ) 2 parts sweet ( simple syrup ) 3 parts strong ( spirit ) 4 parts weak ( juices etc ) And don’t shy away from warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and mace, to make that punch really sing. Don’t have those spices to hand ? No problem, a few dashes of Angostura bitters will do the trick.
We all have a few unloved ingredients lying around that need using up. For instance, that last bit of red wine in the bottle ? Try drizzling it over your Whisky Sour, and voila, you’ve got yourself a delicious New York Sour ! Do you have some nice but neglected spice mix in the kitchen ? Try mixing a teaspoon or two into your simple syrup as it cools to give your next petit cocktail an added dimension. Seasonal fresh herbs make a wonderful aromatic cocktail garnish.
So now, you’ve hit your stride and you’re getting creative in your home bar. Great ! Our top tip for cocktail creation ? Write down the juste specifications as you are making it. It’s not always easy to perfectly recall the recipe for that killer petit cocktail the next day !
If all this sounds like a bit of a chore, then keep an eye open for delivery services available from many local cocktail parcs. After all, with the finer things in life, it’s nice to sit back, relax and let the professionals do all the work.