As Organic September continues, Peter Ranscombe picks five bottles to try for under a tenner.
REWIND to the 80s and 90s and “organic” produce used to raise an eyebrow.
It was the slightly smaller, slightly manky looking apple in the corner of the display or that slightly odd-smelling wine that the shop keeper desperately wanted to offload.
Fast-forward to today and “organic” is big business.
According to the Soil Association’s annual market report, sales of organic produce rose by 4.5% last year to a record £2.45 billion.
Wine is no exception to that success, with sales in the UK soaring by 47% to more than £50 million.
Consumers are clearly prepared to pay a premium for products that try to avoid damaging the planet.
But organic wine doesn’t have to cost the earth.
Supermarkets and online retailers stock many organic bottles for under a tenner.
And, if you’re prepared to step up a gear, then there’s a whole world to explore, from the 2018 Little Darling Organic Sauvignon Blanc (£15) from organic wine champion L’Art du Vin in Fife through to the 2016 Monfaucon Estate Pétillant (£20) biodynamic bubbles on special offer from Mike Turner’s Feel Good Grapes as part of Bordeaux Wine Month.
The South of France and much of central and southern Italy – including producers like Paride d’Angelo and Ginesia in Abruzzo – are great places in which to search for organic wine; their warmer climates mean fewer diseases, allowing farmers to forego artificial sprays.
Here are seven of the best organic wines for less than £10 to get you started…
Pianeta Organic Prosecco (£7.99, Aldi)
Old-reliable, and a favourite among the Scottish Field team. Green apple and lemon sherbet on the nose lead into gentle bubbles and old-fashioned green apple sweeties on the palate. There’s enough acidity to keep everything fresh and stop the sweeter notes from becoming over powering. The German discounter’s lemon-laced Castellore Organic Pinot Grigio (£5.99, Aldi) and black cherry-buoyed Toro Loco Spanish Organic Red (£4.99, Aldi) are also excellent examples.
Orbis Organic Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc (£7, Spar)
Sauvignon blanc’s freshness enlivens Spain’s verdejo in this white from Spar’s latest additions. Lemon, lime and a more savoury lemon rind note make this a good contender to swim alongside fish dishes. Its red sibling, the Orbis Organic Tempranillo Shiraz (£7, Spar) is equally credible for the price.
Yalumba Organic Viognier (£7.50, Waitrose)
Australia’s warmer regions lend themselves to organic farming and Yalumba has been making this viognier since 1995 after one of its growers in the Riverland made the switch to organics. I really enjoyed its bright apricot and lemon aromas – and the twist of lime that joined the lemon sherbet on the palate – during Yalumba’s online viognier tasting back in April. It’s on special offer again at Waitrose until 22 September, after which it’ll revert back to £9.99 a bottle.
The Society’s Verdicchio Classico 2019 (£8.50, The Wine Society)
Savoury lemon rind and brighter lemon aromas lead into concentrated grapefruit, apricot and lemon rind on the palate, with well-integrated mouth-watering acidity. A great option with fish or salad, The Wine Society was serving this to accompany sage butter and pea pasta during one of its online “cook along” sessions over the summer.
Terra Madre Organic 2019 (£6.50, Co-op)
For those looking for something a like more exotic, this catarratto from Sicily slips into the growing “orange wine” category. Orange wines are to whites what rosés are to reds; the skins are left in contact for a short time with the juice to transfer a hint of colour. Savoury lemon rind and tangerine on the nose lead into a hint of savoury basil on the palate, all wrapped up in crisp acidity. It was one of the wines introduced back in February to beef-up the Co-op’s sustainable range.
Adnams Organic French Red (£8.99, Adnams.co.uk)
Adnams may be best known as a brewer – and now a distiller – but the Suffolk stalwart has been a wine merchant for a long time too, and rooting round its bottle shop in Southwold is a real treat. What’s equally impressive is seeing the firm nail its colours to the mast and opt for an organic wine as its “house red”. Made by father and son Francois and Vincent Pugibet at Domaine la Colombette in the South of France’s Languedoc region, this blend of merlot and cabernet franc is packed full of lush raspberry jam and red cherry flavours, laced with vanilla. There’s a cracking intensity to the fruit, which is matched by the Adnams Organic French White (£8.99, Adnams), and – for a few pennies more – the palest-of-pale onion skin 2018 Adnams Provence Rosé (£10.99, Adnams) is great value too.
Finca Constancia Entre Lunas 2018 (£10, Sainsbury’s)
If you like Rioja’s sweet vanilla oak flavours then you’ll love Entre Lunas – deep woodsmoke, cedar and vanilla on the nose, with raspberry and blackcurrant, then flowing into a palate full of barbecued meat, intense black cherry and blackberry, and yet more lashings of vanilla. For me, the vanilla is straying into confected territory – so I’d like to see how it will settle with age – but I know this is a crowd-pleasing style.
Read more of Peter’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.