Tales of wine, people and travel

Is organic wine the way of the future?

Organic Wine Week runs for the first time from 17 to 23 September, begging the question – what is organic wine?

The answers vary as widely as the confusion around the word ‘organic’, which, according to some people means everything from environmental awareness to nothing at all.

“It’s just a meaningless term, right?” said one hospitality professional in the capital last week.


Grapes thrive more easily in dry environments but many great wines grow in and around wetter conditions too…

Organic has a meaning but it’s not always easy to define because the word is so over used these days that there is a lot of confusion about exactly what organic does mean.

Enter New Zealand’s first ever Organic Wine Week, which runs from 17 to 23 September. The aim is to provide a clearer understanding of what organic means.

To be called ‘organic’, a product – wine, food or plant – must be made from raw material that has had no man made sprays used during its growing process. This means no herbicides, no pesticides, no fungicides, no insecticides and no fertilisers.

Not easy.

Especially in a country like New Zealand where the words ‘land of the long white cloud’ really come into their own when you’re trying to grow food, which can be decimated by wet weather and fungal disease that comes with plentiful year-round rainfall.

The only way a wine can be called ‘organic’ is to have certification. This can take many forms but tends to be with BioGro NZ; an independent certification body.

It does not mean that organic wine tastes better but its production is better for the planet and for us. And of course, good winemakers are focussed on flavour and want to make wines that taste good too.

Over 10% of New Zealand wineries now hold organic certification, including many of the country’s best known winemakers.

Enter Organic Wine Week.

It’s an initiative of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand, which is collaborating with restaurants and retailers for a week of events that celebrate organic wines.

These events are focussed on consumers and those involved plan to highlight what organic wine is and why it is important.

“There has been a huge shift towards organic wine on our wine list which has naturally been brought about I think by a huge culture and societal shift taking place of ‘quality over quantity’,” says Nick van Haarlem, beverage manager at Shepherd in Wellington, a restaurant that will host an Organic Wine Week event.

“The localised sense of place, the complexity and expressive nature of these wines, supported by the less harmful environmental impact were all huge factors in that transition. It is the way of the future.”


Organic Wine Week in Wellington

Regional Wines & Spirits marks Organic Wine Week on Wednesday 19 September from 4pm to 6.30pm with Jack Weaver from Churton Wines, who will open these three certified organic wines, including 2017 Churton Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 Churton Pinot Noir and 2015 Churton Viognier.


Organic Wine Week events:

A decade of dry Riesling… taste the latest

Ben Glover is one of New Zealand’s most experienced white winemakers from the country’s biggest wine region – Marlborough; Dry Riesling is one of his specialties…

Ben and Jack Glover are fans of Riesling – and they like it dry, so the brothers have put their money where their mouths are and turned their personal taste into the inspiration behind their exceptionally consistent dry, full bodied Zephyr Rieslings. Earlier this year, they opened a decade long line up of Zephyr Rieslings from 2009 to 2017 to prove the point that their wines are bone dry. And this coming Saturday 15 September, Ben will wing his way to Wellington for a tasting of the brand new 2018 Zephyr Riesling at Regional Wines & Spirits from 1pm to 5pm.

In case there’s any doubt about it, Zephyr Riesling is dry as a bone and has been since first made in 2009.

“We’re inspired by Germany’s Rheingau Rieslings, which typically have 8 to 10 grams of residual sugar, at most, so definitely dry – both in taste and in a technical sense,” says Ben, who adds that their aim is also to make Riesling with moderate to lower alcohol content.

This is something they achieve through hand tending the vines, hand harvesting and being consistent in style every year,” says Ben, who co-owns Zephyr Wines with his brother Jack, who has also forged a full time career in wine management, wine judging and understanding wines from the ground up.


About Zephyr Wines

The Zephyr wine brand is co owned by brothers Ben and Jack Glover in Marlborough

Sauvignon Blanc is the bread and butter of the brand, making about 6000 of the brand’s 10,000 cases

They also make Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling

MK111 is their take on an alternative style of Sauvignon Blanc – fermented entirely in old oak with wild yeasts, oak aged in contact with lees (decomposing yeasts after fermentation)

Ben and Susie Glover (husband-wife) own 13 hectares of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc vines, which they are currently transitioning to organic certification with Bio-Gro New Zealand.

They also use grapes from an adjoining 11 hectare block of Sauvignon Blanc, which Owen Glover (Ben’s father) farms, using conventional growing methods.

Taste Zephyr Wines dry Riesling and more in store on Saturday 15 September 1pm to 5pm with winemaker Ben Glover… at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington. 

I am a full time writer and also work part of each week as the wine programme director for Regional Wines & Spirits, which involves writing, wine education and co-running the tasting programme, among other tasty wine related tasks…

Great pink drink…

A game changer, a dry, flavoursome rosé for a modest price from a South Island winery that over delivers in every wine it produces – 2018 Main Divide Rosé $20.99

I’ve never been a big fan of pink wine because it varies so much in style and it’s a minefield trying to explain that deeper coloured ‘pink’ wines often taste better and drier – thanks to containing tannin because they are often made from deeper coloured grapes (Merlot, Malbec, Mourvedre (aka Mataro) or hot climate Garnacha… or even from thin skinned grapes like Pinot Noir, which have been given longer maceration time on their skins, which extracts flavour and tannin as well as colour).


A note on colour… 

Colour doesn’t equate to dryness or lack of dryness

Colour can suggest intensity of flavour – or lack of

Colour is all about how much time the grape juice spent on skins at the start of fermentation – grape skins provide colour to wine; not the pulp

Colour doesn’t equate to dryness or lack of dryness

(Yes, I did repeat that because I am asked all the time for a recommendation on a pale rosé “because I want a dry one”… It is not a linear relationship.)


Top pink drink of the year… (so far)

2018 Main Divide North Canterbury Rosé $20.99

Did I say I was surprised by how deliciously drinkable the new Main Divide Rosé is? Or did I just think it? Either way, it’s no surprise, as a work colleague reminded me – “They only do good at that winery.”

Winemaker Mat Donaldson and his talented team have made a pink drink here with interesting dry, savoury aromas and flavours of red berries, supported by refreshing crisp acidity and a long, earthy finish.

Drinks well on its own but has the power to partner well with food too, thanks to thoughtful winemaking and the lovely cool Canterbury climate which provides beautifully balanced grapes with fresh acidity and ripe flavours.

An awesome wine.

High praise, given my history for avoiding rosé.


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