WARNING: This French biodynamic wine post is crabby in every sense of the word. Stay away if you prefer rainbows and perpetual sunshine.
This post is crabby for 3 very important reasons:
#1 Can you even find French biodynamic wine?
A visit to three local wine shops in and around San Francisco to find French biodynamic wine yielded a very similar response that went something like this:
- Pause with a thoughtful stare, signifying a clearly infrequently asked question.
- A brisk walk to the French section and turning around bottles looking for the “Demeter” label that signifies biodynamic certification.
- A find of one Demeter labeled French wine brand.
- A check on the computer to confirm that there is only one Demeter labeled French wine brand on hand.
- An explanation that there are many other French wineries that practice biodynamic winegrowing techniques but just don’t have the certification.
As a consumer looking for biodynamic wines, do you:
- Buy wine that has the Demeter certified label?
- Trust the wine shop and buy other bottles they know to be biodynamic but are not certified?
How important is the label for the consumer?
It is a bit like the organic certification on food. Similar to small wine growers, many smaller farmers may have organic growing practices but do not have the money to pay for organic certification.
However, having and paying for the biodynamic certification also indicates a commitment by the winery to carry out such practices year after year.
#2 Biodynamic certification is crabby
Certifications are meant to help the consumer, but it does not appear to be a realistic addition for many wineries.
Biodynamic farming is already more labor intensive and costly such that an additional cost for certification and paperwork for documentation is not justifiable.
Beyond organic and sustainable, biodynamic takes the wine growing practice to a new level by promoting the health of not just the grapes but the whole ecosystem where the grapes are grown.
These include practices such as:
- Certification of the entire farm or vineyard, not just parcel where grapes are grown
- Prohibits the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides
- Farming according to the lunar cycles
- A focus on soil health and the integration of plants, flowers, animals, trees, water sources, and composting on the farm
- Setting aside 10% of the total acreage of the farm for biodiversity, such as wetlands, grasslands, and forest
- Emphasizing a healthier soil system via composting animal manures, medicinal plants, and minerals for greater root development that ultimately leads to better terroir
While these are venerable undertakings by themselves, it’s unfortunate and crabby that more farms are not able to obtain the certification to add to their wine label.
#3 Crabby food & wine pairings
Do you know what is really crabby and goes well with French biodynamic wine?
Local, sustainable Dungeness crab. In season on the West coast from November to May.
These two crabs cost $18 each direct from the boat at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, CA, a veritable farmer’s market for seafood. The $10 per pound price fluctuates according to supply, and this season has been relatively scarce.
As the fisherman said, it really helps them out when you buy directly from them rather than through a middleman.
Similarly, the French biodynamic wines from Domaine de la Reserve were under $20 each. A winery from Marie and Frederic Chauffrey, they started making wine after running a wine shop outside Paris for 8 years. They have been making biodynamic wine since 2005 in the south of France in Montpellier.
2017 Domaine de la Réserve d’O “Bilbo” Languedoc ($18)
60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 20% Cinsault
Bilbo refers to the town in Spanish Basque country, Bilbao. The winemakers love Basque culture, and they made this everyday wine to pair with Basque food such as salt cod, squid ink seasoning, lamb stews, and hearty black beans cooked with olive oil and chorizo.
Those foods may have worked better than crab with fermented black bean-scallion sauce that I tried it with. This red wine is medium bodied and relatively hearty and would take better to crab cooked in a rich tomato broth such as a bouillabaise or cioppino.
It’s also recommended to be drunk slightly chilled. That too would have gone with the slight fizz this bottle had from residual carbon dioxide. Some consider this a flaw and flaws can be expected in biodynamic bottles since no additives are allowed.
2017 Domaine de la Réserve d’O “La Reserve d’O” Saint Guilhem le Desert Blanc ($20)
Equal parts Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Rousanne.
This unusual blend that had some floral notes, red delicious apple, and medium acidity. Nice to drink on its own and also with cracked crab dipped in warm, yellow butter mixed with a swirl of sriracha sauce.
Biodynamic or not, this wine is just yummy. The certification is a bonus, and that’s not too crabby at all.
For more reviews, musings, and very good info on French Biodynamic wines, check out these #Winophiles:
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla whips up “Learning about Biodynamic Wines + M.Chapoutier Wines with Some Cross-Cultural Pairings.”
- Jill from L’OCCASION shares “Lessons From A Biodynamic Winemaker In France”
- Wendy at A Day In The Life On The Farm reminds us about “Eating and Drinking Responsibly”
- Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen tells us how “French Biodynamic Wines get Crabby.”
- Jeff from foodwineclick discusses “Our Biodynamic French Friends”
- Kat from Bacchus Travel & Tours tells us how “The #Winophiles Unlock the Mystery of Biodynamic Wines”
- Jane cooks things up at Always Ravenous and shares “Why You Should Give Biodynamic Wines a Taste.”
- Nicole from Somms Table shares “Somm’s Table: Cooking to the Wine: Marcel Lapierre Morgon with a Hearty White Bean Stew”
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares “ Biodynamic Bordeaux- Nobody’s Perfect But The Wine Is Fabulous.”
- Susannah from Avinaire joins us with “Biodynamic Wines Crémant D’Alsace“
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles entices us with “Fabulous French Biodynamic Wines and some exquisite pairings”
- Pinny from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings shares “Detox with Organic French Wine and Cantonese Light Flare”
- Host Gwendolyn on Wine Predator presents “Navarin French Lamb Stew with Organic, Biodynamic M. Chapoutier “Les Meysonniers” and “Still and Sparkling: 2 Biodynamic Wines from Alsace #Winophiles”