Organic wine? Here’s a good one

Today I’m going to tell you about a really good, reasonably priced, organic wine. Does this announcement make any of you want to run away?

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Organic food and drink, it seems, is controversial. I have friends who swear by organic and rarely buy anything else; friends who believe it’s a waste of money and a scam, and probably the largest group, those in the middle who buy some organic items but don’t worry about others.

And then there’s organic wine, like today’s delicious featured item, Famille Perrin 2018 “Nature” Côtes du Rhône.

I usually fall into the middle group, with a tilt toward organic where it seems to matter. I’m a strong advocate for organic dairy, for example, based on my understanding that recombinant bovine growth hormone and antibiotics may turn up in non-organic milk and dairy products. Ick. Plus, organic European butter is delicious. Gimme my Kerrygold!

A beautiful bunch of ripe organic grapes, pictured in The Drinks Business.

A beautiful bunch of ripe organic grapes, pictured in The Drinks Business.

Fruits and vegetables? It varies. When I think about the clouds of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides that bathe conventional agricultural farmland, I’d go all organic, all the time. But as a practical matter, organic matters more for some produce that others. Does the produce item come with a hard peel that gets cut away before you eat it? Or do you bite right in to the exposed surface? These things matter, and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

EWG’s 2020 Dirty 12™ lists strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes.

Wait! Did I just say grapes? Why, yes, I did. “The conventional grape samples EWG tested contained an average of five different pesticide residues,” Eating Well reported. “More than 96 percent of all samples contained some traceable pesticide residues.”

So now we come to the question that brings us here: Does organic wine matter? With the caveat that I don’t buy organic wine all the time, or even most of the time, myself, I feel good about it when I do.

In an interview with Food Network’s Healthy Eats, Appellation Wine & Spirits owner Scott Pactor explained that organic grapes are necessarily washed before fermentation begins, so you can’t have chemical residues on the grapes. There have been studies, and wines that have been organically produced have much less residue than conventionally farmed ones. You can draw a correlation that organic wine is healthier for you.” Farmworker safety and soil health are also factors, Pactor said.

In the same article, New York sommelier Joe Campanale said, “I believe that organic wines are better for the planet, better for you and can taste more distinctive … but with a big caveat: Not all organic wines are great. You still have to be a very talented and hardworking grape grower and winemaker who has a very gentle touch in the winery. … Most of the wine we serve in the restaurants is organic. I spend a lot of time tasting, always trying to find the best in each category. Often it turns out that the best wine is either organic or made in a very sustainable way.”

Sales and production statistics suggest that the market for organic wine is growing, but that it remains only a small factor in overall world wine production. Reporting from Australia, The Guardian observed: “… according to the most recent figures from the 2014 Australian Organic Market Report, organic wine is on the rise among wine lovers, accounting for 6.9% of the total organic market in Australia, with organic grape production increasing by 120% between 2011 and 2014.”

The organic niche continues growing, The Drinks Business found in 2019: “Almost one billion bottles of organic wine are expected to be consumed around the world by 2023, new research has revealed, more than doubling from the 441 million bottles recorded in 2013. … In 2018, organic wine accounted for 2.6% of global wine consumption, and this is expected to rise to 3.5% by 2023. In 2013, it represented just 1.5%.”

Forget the statistics. I’m happy to let the wine testify. And the Famille Perrin 2018 “Nature” Côtes du Rhône I mentioned above makes its own strong case. Certified organic by Ecocert, it is a product of the Perrin family, producers of the fabled Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pâpe, who’ve been farming organically for 40 years. The “Nature” bottling is fully organic as the name suggests, and a delicious wine at a very fair price. It’s highly recommended. You’ll find my tasting notes below.

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Today’s Tasting Report

Famille Perrin 2018 “Nature” Côtes du Rhône ($12.99)

Perrin "Nature"

This wine shows a pretty garnet color, clear and fairly dark. Good, open scents of ripe raspberries and raspberry liqueur and a subtle touch of licorice lead into a fresh, bright flavor of red and black berries and a dash of white pepper, framed by mouth-watering acidity and gentle but perceptible tannins. It’s a 14.1% alcohol blend of Grenache and Syrah made from certified organically grown grapes, aged for a year with 75% of the wine in stainless steel, the remaining 25% in oak casks. U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala. (Oct. 28, 2020)

FOOD MATCH: This versatile wine will serve well with red meat or grilled or roast chicken, cheeses, or creamy pasta. It was excellent with takeout dinner from a local diner. Our dishes included a hamburger patty melt, creamy veggie macaroni and cheese, and breaded-and-fried strips of portabello mushroom.

WHEN TO DRINK: Don’t try to cellar it for the ages, but it’s a delight now and likely to remain that way for a few years.

I actually squeaked in a dollar below’s $14 average U.S. retail. It’s a great bargain below the middle teens, and I’d even pay a few bucks more for it if I had to.

Here’s an English-language fact sheet from Famille Perrin.

Check prices and find vendors for Perrin “Nature” Côtes du Rhône on

Read more about Côtes du Rhône and follow this Wine-Searcher link to browse listings for dozens of other wines from the region.

Join this month’s Wine Focus conversation, Côtes du Rhône and its Villages, in our WineLovers Discussion Group.


More affordable wines

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!

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