Harvest on the Harbor

I had a great weekend at several wine tastings in Portland Maine area. Friday evening was at Freeport Wine & Cheese, with ten of our organic wines for tasting and buying. We had a bit of everything with spanish, french, italian, north and south american. All were popular and especially Mas Laval Les Pampres from Languedoc France, a wine made from grapes in transition to organic viticulture. Other popular ones were Nuova Cappelletta Barbera and Navarrsotillo Magister Bibendi Rioja Crianza. A steady crowd made the event fun and informative for all.

Sat I showed wine at Harvest on the Harbor, on the waterfront in Portland. The two 2.5 hr sessions were full of people, over 4000 attendees. It was always busy at our table, the only one pouring only wine from organic grapes. Only a few of over 50 wine tables had one or two organic selections, so we greeted many seeking organic wine or wanting to learn about it.

I could not have done it without great help from Gregg and Anne, my two volunteer pourers from Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau. We showed ten wines there also; many of the same from Friday. Buenas Ondas Malbec was certainly popular here! It looks like Malbec is becoming a new grape variety in favor, as Merlot and Pinot Noir had their seasons in the sun. We have a good one at fair price and organic into the bargain so it was fun to show it. Other favorites here were Orleans Hill Syrah and Badger Mtn Riesling, Mas Laval Les Pampres and Noemus Rioja.

While walking around other tables, I overheard a frequently repeated comment from another wine vendor that goes like this:

“Many (or most) of the (or our) wines made in __________ (in this case Sicily, but I’ve heard others), are grown organically, it’s just that the growers can’t afford (or do the paperwork for) organic certification, so they can’t put it on their labels.”

While there are some cases like this, believe me, not anywhere near as many as some would like you to believe. Organic grape growers I know have worked hard to get there and are proud of their results. They want you to know they’re organic vintners. The days of hiding organic grapes are over. Certification is not nearly as difficult or costly as some imply; the hard part is transitioning to and arriving at organic methods on the farm. Once you get there, very few have not also pursued certification to guaranty their organic claim to customers, and to join the growing family of organic growers worldwide.

Although we applaud all efforts to move to organic growing, you the customer should demand certification so the grower and customer are linked in trust and enjoyment of this commitment to value. Organic growers appreciate this; you support their efforts to stand out, and value the work it took to get there. Organic viticulture is one of the only things we say to describe wine or put on wine labels that actually means something. Think of “old vines” or “special reserve”, “single vineyard”, “estate bottled”, etc. All those imply higher quality, but none are controlled. A certified organic vineyard tells you that farmer spends a lot of time amongst the vines; those vines are enriched and protected by only natural substances that are not harmful to other plants or human health. Those vines are nourished in a way that provides you with a real taste of the wine’s origins, or “terroir”. And that’s what good wine is all about!