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What Are We Tasting For?

wine consumers are curious and hungry for information that
often goes beyond what is in the glass, where it came from
and how it was made. They are interested in wines from new
places, want updates about the new faces at their favorite
vineyards, and are eager to learn about the latest trends in
the industry that might expose them to a new favorite. As a
wine store that serves a wide range of palates and prices,
we at Ball Square Fine Wines have found that the most
effective weapon in our arsenal is to take advantage of our
clients’ curiosity by actively educating them at weekly wine
tastings that focus on particular regions, varietals or
specific industry trends.

After numerous
queries about organic and biodynamic wines, we were curious
how much interest there really was for this particular
niche. What is it the consumer is looking for when they
support a wine with the organic/biodynamic pedigree? Are
they motivated solely by the feel-good sentiment of
“treading lightly on the planet”, or are they sensing
something in the quality of the wine? Do organic/biodynamic
wines actually taste better? Despite being a trained
horticulturalist, I found that, like many people, I had a
complete lack of understanding of what biodynamic
viticulture was. Why would anyone take the trouble to engage
in the part mysticism/part scientific method of farming or
incur the cost of maintaining and certifying a biodynamic
vineyard? Whenever we talk with successful wine producers,
they insist that great wine begins in the vineyard. So,
after reading about the concerns of commercial farming and
the degenerative effects that the use of synthetic
pesticides, fertilizers and over consumption of natural
resources can have on a vineyard, it is not difficult to
understand why some growers would want to invest in organic
and biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming seeks to take the
laboratory out of the vineyard, with belief that healthy
soil produces more flavorful fruit that – through the unique
particulates of the soil, climate and environment – imparts
a sense of place to the wine. As a business, the practice is
designed to increase the fertility and regeneration of the
land over the long term, while addressing the art of
winemaking by giving the fruit distinct quality.

Since we are
fortunate to have the opportunity to speak directly to the
owners/vineyard managers of wineries all over the world, I
have often asked them how the organic/biodynamic philosophy
might fit into their winemaking practices. What I’ve found
interesting is that, while not all seek to gain
certification, more often than not, many of the practices of
biodynamics are in place in the vineyards today – and have
been for years. The cost of certification, however, combined
with the risk of being pigeonholed into a category that may
or may not prove lucrative, is part of the reason why not
all organically farmed or biodynamic wines are labeled as

In speaking with
vineyard managers, it’s become clear that biodynamic farmers
do not do it so much for effect or as part of a marketing
strategy, but rather for love of the land. That means that
it is left to the retailer to make interested consumers
aware of which wines are produced using these methods. While
it is not always easy to keep up on this kind of
information, those of us serious in the wine business do it
because we have a passion for wines and the culture. This
passion is often contagious, however, and the homework pays
off when dealing with consumers eager to experiment and
learn more about their options.

Once we gauged
the interest among our clients and after arming ourselves
with sufficient research, we decided to offer a series of
tastings that would feature producers currently engaged in
organic/biodynamic production of both wine and beer. Before
launching the series, we emailed our clients information
about the general theories and principles involved in
sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming. Meanwhile, we
enlisted the help of wholesalers and distributors who are
knowledgeable and passionate about their products and
willing to share their experience. The response was
remarkable. Questions were far-ranging and intuitive, and
the discussion went well beyond wine culture to include
aspects of everyday life. It was surprising to see the
immense support for these wines and learn that I had
erroneously assumed that people were not willing to spend
top dollar for organically/biodynamically produced wines. In
a later tasting featuring the owner of a Sonoma based
winery, I was amazed to hear our clientele quizzing him on
his vineyard practices. While we’re happy to let our
customers answer the initial question themselves – whether
an organic/biodynamic wines taste better – I can report that
certain members of our clientele absolutely believe that
they do.

While we are not
yet willing to devote an entire section to the
organic/biodynamic/sulfite-free movement, since this tasting
series we have chosen to designate wines made from
organically grown grapes or biodynamic practices. Since most
wines grown in this fashion are not identified as such on
the label, it means we have to do a little more research and
have a more intimate knowledge of what is stocked on our
shelves. But this knowledge and guidance are what our
customers have come to expect. Our weekly tastings, again
and again, have proved to be a valuable sounding board for
products we think may have a fan base. In addition to the
response to our biodynamic tasting series, we experienced a
similar insight when a sake tasting allowed us to quadruple
our selection. The feedback indicated that many customers
thought it may be something they could enjoy, but were not
sure how to approach it. The interaction of the tasting
served as a valuable proving ground and gave us the insights
needed to make an informed decision about our inventory

The enthusiasm
and support for our tastings is unmistakable every day. When
customers ask: “What are we tasting this week?”, we know
that they are engaged in the process and view us as their
preferred resource for what’s new and exciting in the world
of wine. This eagerness challenges us, but it also allows us
to bring in something new and exciting to the tasting table
each week.

most successful and favorite organic


From Provence, France, this estate has been farming
and making wine organically for decades. A
perennial favorite, it yields a powerful expression
of the typical Rhone grape varietals.

de COA
the Duoro Valley, this wine is made from tinta
roriz, touriga franca and touriga nacional. These
classic grapes are from organically cultivated
vineyards that yield a wine that is flavorful, rich
and impressive.


This organic/biodynamic Cotes de Provence domaine
is sited between the hills of Bandol and Cassis.
Its citrusy and floral characteristics showcase the
beautiful expression of the clairette

winemaker bottles wine by soil type. The certified
organic vineyards help to showcase the light and
lacy distinctiveness of the wines from this