1. Go global. In the past few years, winemakers from Austria to Argentina have embraced biodynamic winemaking, so where do you begin your tasting tour? If you’re new to biodynamic wine, Etty Lewensztain suggests looking to France. “To me, biodynamics automatically connotes France,” she says, “and the Loire Valley in particular stands out for its concentration of growers who embrace this style of winemaking.”
2. Follow your fancy. Prefer a Merlot to Cabernet, or a Sauvignon Blanc to a Chardonnay? Your tastes might discriminate, but thankfully biodynamic farming doesn’t. “I’ve seen stellar examples of biodynamic wines made from a whole host of grape varieties ranging from Chenin Blanc and Pinot Gris to Barbera and Carignan,” Lewensztain says, “I’ve never thought of biodynamics as working better or worse with particular grape varieties.”
3. Don’t be cheap. As with most purchases, when it comes to wine, you usually get what you pay for. “Biodynamic wines are not particularly cheap,” says Lewensztain. “Still, you can find some fantastic examples in the $18 to $45 range.”
4. Bring in the funk. You’ve picked out your bottle and popped the cork—but what is that smell? “Biodynamic wines tend to show earthy, savory, funky or barnyard aromas,” Lewensztain notes. “So people who try these wines for the first time shouldn’t be surprised if they smell a little bit like a farm.” Some people really enjoy these more rustic notes, but if you’re looking for a little less farmstead, simply swirl the wine around in your glass a few times to help the funky aromas dissipate.
5. Stay young. While many wines benefit from a few years of aging, most biodynamic bottles taste best when fresh. “Keep in mind many biodynamic wines are bottled using little or no additional sulfites,” Lewensztain says, “which act as preservatives to help extend shelf life of a wine.” Without added sulfites a wine’s nuance can fade quicker than its more conventionally produced counterparts, so it’s usually best to drink biodynamic wines within a few years of bottling.
6. Variety is fine. Keep in mind that all agricultural products have a tendency to change, especially those crafted with minimal chemical intervention, like biodynamic wines, so if the same wine tastes a little different from bottle to bottle, don’t fret. “These wines may show some bottle variation,” says Lewensztain, “and can evolve more than commercially produced wines.” But that’s part of what makes biodynamic viticulture so inherently dynamic. “Wine is a natural, living product, and biodynamics really demonstrate this concept well.”
Ready to take the biodynamic plunge? Here are a few bottles to get you started:
Cousin Leduc Le Cousin Rouge Grolleau 2010
Crafted from the near-extinct ancient grape variety Grolleau by lauded Loire Valley biodynamic producer Olivier Cousin, this bottle offers assertive berry fruits, bright acid and a gripping tannic structure that begs for a bowl of beef stew. $22/750 ml.
Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Rosso 2010
In southern Sicily, 20-something winemaker Arianna Occhipinti has built her reputation on producing stellar wines made from the Frappato grape. In 2009 she converted to biodynamic farming practices, and her SP68 Rosso (named for the road that passes her house)—a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola—is bright and zingy with a youthful exuberance. $25/750 ml.
COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2008
The uncle of Arianna Occhipinti, and one of the most highly regarded producers in all of Sicily, Guisto Occhipinti crafts this elegant mix of Frappato and Nero d’Avola. Pop open alongside Arriana’s bottle of the same blend for two stunningly different, yet equally engaging interpretations of the two grapes. $30/750 ml.
Semplicemente Bellotti Rosso 2010
The Piedmont region in Italy’s northwestern corner has long been known for its approachable, food-friendly wines and this biodynamic blend of Barbera and Dolcetto offers loads of fresh fruit flavors (think juicy cherries and blackberries) with just enough heft to stand up next to spicy pasta dishes. $18/750 ml.
Maysara Pinot Gris 2007
The grapes for this bottle come from a 532-acre parcel of land in the foothills of Oregon’s Coastal Range. Notes of fresh herbs and a sturdy minerality find balance among delicate fruit flavors of citrus and pears. $18/750 ml.