The “Return to Terroir” tasting came to Washington this week, courtesy of the French Wine Society. It wasn’t as big a tasting as in New York the day before, but I only had to find parking along Reservoir Rd., not shlep to the Big Apple and back in one day.
I also had the opportunity to have an extended conversation with three leading apostles of biodynamic viticulture: Nicolas Joly of Coulée de Serrant; Christophe Erhart of Domaine Josmeyer; and Mathieu Deiss, the newest generation of winemaking at Domaine Marcel Deiss.
There were about forty wineries at the tasting, mostly from France, but also from Spain, Austria, Australia, Italy, Chile and of course the United States. I won’t bore you with tasting notes. One does not take notes at a tasting like this – one shmoozes, one kisses up and hopes to be kissed, one tries to get an impression of wines to be explored later, all the while keeping a vigilant eye out for a familiar face or an uncrowded spit bucket.
But I can give some impressions: Biodynamics is a fascinating and somewhat controversial farming philosophy – some call it a religion – and the wines are not by definition good. Many of them are, but there is still the possibility of too much alcohol or heavy-handed oak. The idea of biodynamics is to express a particular terroir, and some of these terroirs do not match our preconceptions of what wine should taste like – they are challenging wines; often delicious, sometimes not, never boring.
With biodynamics, I feel a bit like Fox Mulder on The X-Files: I want to believe. It makes sense that taking care of the earth will produce better wines. To be honest, though, I’m not at all certain that I could pick an organic or biodynamic wine from a blind tasting lineup.
I need to explore these more.
More on this tasting and my conversations with the winemakers to come …