Thirsty work

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Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some eco-conscious red and white wines.

 

It's naturally good

In a few days, The Soil Association launch Organic September, the UK's biggest celebration of all things organic. With it, they are encouraging people to 'Make a small change' and switch to organic fruit and vegetables - and what better place to start than by sampling some of the delicious 'green' wines on the market.

Grapes are often one of the most heavily sprayed crops, because cultivation techniques mean wine producers in less sunny regions have to use certain chemicals to protect the fruit against mildew and rot. For this reason, organic viticulture is best suited to warm, dry climates where grapes can rely on Mother Nature for delicious, fruit-laden wines. Without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, the grapes are nourished by sunlight, water and natural nutrients in the soil.

Sainsbury's is one of the few supermarkets to offer customers their own-label organic range and have built up a loyal following over the past five years. A firm favourite, So Organic Pinot Grigio 2012, Italy (£6.99, Sainsbury's) is a fun, zippy, fruity white from the Veneto region and the winemakers have been producing organic wines for more than 30 years - a perfect choice with mushroom dishes as they come into season.

Understanding a French wine label can be vexing enough, but trying to find one that's certified organic can be even more of a challenge. With all the right credentials, Domaine Bott Geyl winery in Alsace is organic and biodynamic, and the wines sell themselves without the need of a stamp - although look closely and 'ecological viticulture' is in small print on the back of the bottle. Try Domaine Bott Geyl Pinot d'Alsace 2009, France (£12.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) for an aromatic glass of pinot blanc that shows great purity of fruit and a sense of the terroir. Crisp and dry with moderate acidity and an intense mouthfeel, this fabulous wine can be enjoyed as an aperitif or with a seafood platter.

Organic farming calls for hot, dry summers and with Chile's near perfect growing conditions, the country has embraced green farming initiatives. The white grape viognier thrives in this winemakers playground and Emiliana Organic Viognier 2011, Chile (£7.99, Tesco) is simply bursting with flavour. With its perfumed nose of apricots, spiced apricot and peach fruit with a lush, full finish and fresh acidity, this food-friendly wine suits white meat and flaky white fish such as sea bass.

Carmenere is another of Chile's calling cards and this warm climate grape is at its best in Chile's fertile Central Valley. Nativa wines made their debut in 1990 under the Santa Rita umbrella, but with the increase in demand for organic wines they became an independent company in 2009 in order to develop and expand. Nativa Organic Carmenere 2009, Chile (£98.12, case of 12, www.thedrinkshop.com) is a violet beauty with dense, fruity, spicy flavours and a hint of mocha that will delight the most discerning drinker.

Delicious from the word go, a hearty, full-flavoured Tuscan such as Casa Catelli Chianti Organic 2009, Italy (£9.95, case of 12, £119.40, www.fromvineyardsdirect.com) is a passport to pleasure. Sangiovese dominant, it's full bodied with ripe morello cherry, earthy notes and a rich, seductive mouthfeel with a hint of cedar on the firm finish.

Eco-conscious farming and skilled winemaking don't always go hand-in-hand but the Symington Family Estates (owners of Graham's Port) have it completely sussed with their lip-smacking organic red. From the stunning Douro Valley, Altano Organic Douro Red, Symington 2010, Portugal (£10.30, www.tanners-wines.co.uk) is a blend of three indigenous grapes and leads-in with black cherries and cassis aromas, and follows through with a bold, full palate of plums and spicy, luscious fruit with good structure and a lovely lingering finish.

As with most things organic, there is a premium attached to committing to the movement. A beefy Sicilian from an award-winning organic estate, Gulfi Nerobaronj 2005, Sicily comes in at £24.99 (www.virginwines.co.uk). It is worth forking out for though - a scented, structured and complex vino made from nero d'avola, with blackberry on the nose, earthy forest fruits and ribbons of silk velvet on the gorgeous mouthfeel. Enough to make you want to kiss the Sicilian soil...


:: Best buy

Larging it with the landlord... The Who's Who for pub-goers, The Good Pub Guide travels county by county, with more than 4,700 pubs listed under Main Entries and Worth a Visit, and 163 new Main Entries for 2014.

Catering to all pub tastes, it's as much a travel guide as it is a cross-country pub crawl. The Good Pub Guide 2014, Edited by Alisdair Aird and Fiona Stapley, published by Ebury Press, £15.99 (available from August 29) from all good book shops.


:: Liquid news

Taste like a pro... To complement their extensive wine range, Marks & Spencer have introduced Sommelier Glassware.

Keenly priced, the range includes Sommelier White Wine Glasses (£29.50 for four), Sommelier Red Wine Glasses (£29.50 for four) and Sommelier Champagne Flutes (£29.50 for four), along with a fortified wine glass, cognac glass and decanter.

Not only do these long stemmed crystal beauties intensify and enhance the flavour of the wine, but they look the part, are dishwasher safe and are a joy to hold.

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