Organic Masters 2018: the results in full
We reveal all the medallists from the UK’s only blind tasting for certified organic wines, with some surprising results, including top scores for fizz from Surrey and Champagne aged in the sea, as well as a Sauvignon Blanc blend from Mallorca, plus a stunner from the Minervois.
It’s safe to say that every wine region in the world has at least one producer who employs certified organic viticultural practices – a statement that this year’s Organic Masters certainly lends weight to. With medal-winning samples from a vast array of places, from Surrey in south-east England to the Spanish island of Mallorca, we found greatness in areas little-known for top-end wines, let alone organic vineyard management. Such results also proved that even challenging climates, such as those in the UK and Champagne, can produce class-leading wines using this restrictive approach.
Not only that, but organics spans all price bands, with plenty of entries this year sub-£10, and a handful over £50 too, highlighting that this form of viticulture can be employed to produce wines at the commercial end of the pricing scale, as well as in the territory of fine wine.
Importantly, the tasting proved that being organic, or more accurately, using organically-grown grapes, is a decision that need not be detrimental to quality. Although the choice to eschew synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fungicides does generally leave one more vulnerable to yield losses, it should not negatively affect the style of the resulting wine. In fact, particularly where organic practices are combined with life-enhancing soil management, such an approach should heighten the wine quality, and, as some producers will insist, bring a more accurate reflection of site specifics, or terroir.
Although it is certainly possible to find drawbacks in the organic approach, any ambitious, quality-minded producer should be doing everything possible to augment soil health – after all, it is this substrate that is a great domaine’s most valuable asset.
So with that in mind, who were the star producers that managed to be both certified organic and a source of greatness? In the sparkling category, it was notable how many organic Proseccos we saw in this year’s tasting, and their consistent level of quality, with no fewer than eight Silver medals awarded across a range of price points. We also had a lovely good-value Cava from J. Garcia Carrión, along with a pleasant organic Lambrusco from Cantine Riunite, and, like last year, a brilliant fizz from Oxney, in England’s East Sussex.
But for the very top of the pile, just two Golds were awarded in the sparkling wine sector. One, as one might expect, went to a Champagne – and the biodynamic Leclerc Briant brand, resurrected in 2012 by American investors, and curated by respected sparkling winemaker Hervé Jestin. Although their range of Champagnes are excellent, it was the new cuvée Abyss that gain a top score, a blend that has been aged at the bottom of the sea. The other Gold was more of a shock, awarded to a pink fizz from England. This refreshing, pretty, strawberry-scented sparkling hailed from the organic and biodynamic Albury Vineyard of the Surrey Hills, and the judges felt it was a real find.
As for the still wines, it was exciting to see some good quality and great value organic wines from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, along with some well-known brands, such as Marqués de Cáceres and Quinta de Maipo, as well as longstanding Australian organic-only wine producer, Angove.
It wasn’t until the wines moved beyond the £10 mark that our first Golds were awarded, with, in whites, a wonderful and original sample from Mallorca, comprising Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Prensal Blanc, made by Oliver Moragues. Within the £10-15 category in reds, we saw Golds awarded to wines from areas well-suited to organic viticulture, such as the Languedoc, Sicily, Jumilla and South Africa’s Tulbagh region – the latter from Waverley Hills.
Moving beyond £15, but staying below £20, it was thrilling to unearth a wonderful organic dry Riesling from the Nahe, and, among the reds, a magnificent balanced, gently peppery Syrah from the Minervois, made without the addition of sulphites by biodynamic specialist of southern France, Château Maris. Despite its relative affordability, the judges awarded this latter sample the ultimate accolade, a Master.
At the higher end, over £20, the judges were wowed by a rosé from Domaine la Goujonne in Provence, and a Shiraz from Gemtree Wines in the McLaren Vale.
But our only other Master of the day’s tasting went to a further Syrah and another wine from Château Maris – this time the producer’s top drop, called Dynamic. Such a sample proved not only the quality of this brand, but also the potential of biodynamically-farmed vines in the cru of Minervois La Livinière – the Languedoc’s most celebrated place for Syrah.
In short, the day’s tasting drew attention to the wide range of places where organic viticulture is practised to glorious effect, whatever the wine style. Being organic may not be a guarantee of quality, but it certainly shouldn’t be seen as a farming decision to the detriment of vinous excellence. And this year’s Organic Masters proved that decisively.
Over the following pages are the results in full, followed by details about the competition and comments from the judges.
|Cantine Riunite||Righi Pignoletto DOC- Vino Frizzante Secco Biologico||Emilia-Romagna||Italy||NV||Bronze|
|Schenk Italia||Prosecco DOC Brut Biologico – Bacio della Luna||Veneto||Italy||NV||Bronze|
|MA. S.P.A.||Vallate Prosecco DOC Brut Bio||Veneto||Italy||NV||Silver|
|Cantine Riunite||Maschio Prosecco DOC Biologico Extra Dry||Veneto||Italy||NV||Silver|
|J. García Carrión||Pata Negra Cava Brut Organic||Catalonia||Spain||NV||Silver|
|Halewood International||Colle Baio DOCG Brut Prosecco||Treviso||Italy||NV||Silver|
|Azienda Agricola Giol||Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso||Veneto||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Masottina||Prosecco Brut Organic DOC||Veneto||Italy||NV||Bronze|
|Villa Premoli||Prosecco Brut Superiore Asolo Prosecco DOCG||Treviso||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Stramaret||Extra Dry Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG||Treviso||Italy||2017||Silver|
|La Vigna Del Nespolo||Brut Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene||Treviso||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Stramaret||Brut Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene||Treviso||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Masottina||“Costabella” Brut Biologico Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG||Veneto||Italy||NV||Bronze|
|Oxney Organic Estate||Classic English Sparkling Wine||East Sussex||England||2015||Silver|
|Champagne Leclerc Briant||Abyss||Champagne||France||2012||Gold|
|Champagne Leclerc Briant||Millésime 2010 Extra Brut||Champagne||France||NV||Silver|
|Champagne Leclerc Briant||Brut Réserve||Champagne||France||2010||Bronze|
|Cantine Riunite||Righi Lambrusco di Modena DOC Biologico Frizzante Semisecco||Emilia-Romagna||Italy||NV||Silver|
|Albury Vineyard||Albury Estate Sparkling Rosé||Surrey||England||2015||Gold|
|Domeniul Bogdan||Premium Organic Wine Cuvée Christian||Dobrogea||Romania||2017||Silver|
|Angove Family Winemakers||Angove Organic Chardonnay||South Australia||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Org de Rac||Org de Rac Die Waghuis||Swartland||South Africa||2017||Silver|
|Domeniul Bogdan||Premium Organic Wine Resling de Rhin||Dobrogea||Romania||2017||Silver|
|Bodega Matarromera||Granza Verdejo||Castilla y León||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Agriverde||Eikos Pecorino IGP Terre di Chieti Bio Vegan||Abruzzo||Italy||2017||Bronze|
|Vinicola de Tomelloso||Finca Cerrada Viura||Ciudad Real||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Bodegas Nodus||En la Parra||Valencia||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Oliver Moragues||Oliver Moragues Blanc||Mallorca||Spain||2017||Gold|
|M.P. Wines||Le Nez Français Classique Blanc||Languedoc-Roussillon||France||2015||Silver|
|Viñedos Emiliana||Novas Gran Reserva Chardonnay||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|La Corte||Montefreddo – Pignoletto Superiore DOCG Col||Emilia-Romagna||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Weingut im Zwölberich||Riesling Kabinett, Alfred||Nahe||Germany||2017||Silver|
|Angove Family Winemakers||Wild Olive Organic Chardonnay||McLaren Vale||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Santa Tresa||Purato Catarratto Pinot Grigio IGP Terre Siciliane Bio||Sicily||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Cantine Colomba Bianca
|Codorniu||Raimat Ventada||La Rioja||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Weingut im Zwölberich||Riesling Spätlese trocken, Langenlonsheimer Steichen, Alte Reben||Nahe||Germany||2016||Gold|
|La Quercia Scarlatta||Uve Blanche||Marche||Italy||2016||Bronze|
|Azienda Agricola Giol||Pinot Grigio IGT Marca Trevigiana||Veneto||Italy||2017||Bronze|
|Vins de Taller||Baseia’17||Catalonia||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Vinicola de Tomelloso||Finca Cerrada Tempranillo Rosé||Ciudad Real||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Angove Family Winemakers||Angove Organic Rosé||South Australia||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Avignonesi||Canthlolo Toscana IGT Rosato Biologico||Tuscany||Italy||2017||Bronze|
|Avignonesi||Ventisei Toscana IGT Rosato Biologico||Tuscany||Italy||2017||Bronze|
|Domaine la Goujonne||Noémie||Provence||France||2016||Gold|
|Marqués de Cáceres||Marqués de Cáceres Organic Joven||Rioja||Spain||2017||Silver|
|Bodega Matarromera||Granza Tempranillo||Castilla y León||Spain||2016||Silver|
|Bodegas Luzon SL||Luzon Verde Organic||Murcia||Spain||2017||Silver|
|Quinta de Maipo||Palo Alto Organic Wine||Maule Valley||Chile||2016||Silver|
|Schenk Italia||Masso Antico – Negroamaro del Salento IGT Biologico||Apulia – Salento||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Viña Ijalba||Ijalba Graciano||La Rioja||Spain||2016||Silver|
|Angove Family Winemakers||Angove Oganic Cabernet Sauvignon||South Australia||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Bulgaarse Wijn Center||Tiara Mavrud||Thracian Valley||Bulgaria||2015||Bronze|
|Bodegas Nodus||El Chaval||Valencia||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Bulgaarse Wijn Center||Syrah Single Vineyard Kotkini Mogili||Thracian Valley||Bulgaria||2016||Bronze|
|Bodega Matarromera||Cyan Crianza||Castilla y León||Spain||2014||Bronze|
|Vinicola de Tomelloso||Finca Cerrada Tempranillo||Ciudad Real||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|M.P. Wines||Le Nez Français Classique Rouge||Languedoc-Roussillon||France||2015||Gold|
|Cantine Colomba Bianca||Vitese Nero D’Avola||Sicily||Italy||2017||Gold|
|Viñedos y Bodegas Xenysel||Xenysel Organic||Jumilla||Spain||2017||Gold|
|Waverley Hills||Grenache||Tulbagh||South Africa||2016||Gold|
|Angove Family Winemakers||Warboys Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Bulgaars Wijncenter||Vincia||Thracian Valley||Bulgaria||2013||Silver|
|M.P. Wines||Le Nez Imperium||Languedoc-Roussillon||France||2014||Silver|
|Finca El Molar||Finca El Molar Roble||Manchuela||Spain||2016||Silver|
|Codorniu||Raimat Boira||La Rioja||Spain||2017||Silver|
|Avignonesi||Ventisei Toscana IGT Rosso Biologico||Tuscany||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Cantine Colomba Bianca||Vitese Syrah||Sicily||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Viña Ijalba||Ijalba Cuvée||La Rioja||Spain||2016||Silver|
|Viñedos Emiliana||Novas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon||Maipo Valley||Chile||2015||Silver|
|Viñedos Emiliana||Salvaje||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Santa Tresa||Santa Tresa Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Classico DOCG Bio||Sicily||Vittoria||2016||Bronze|
|Pagos de Familie Vega Tolosa||Bobal Icon||Castilla-La Mancha||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Oliver Moragues||El Galgo – The Greyhound||Mallorca||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Bodegas Tempore||SO2 Free||IGP Bajo Aragón||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Halewood International||Esporao Colheita Tinto||Alentejo||Portugal||2015||Bronze|
|Angove Family Winemakers||Wild Olive Organic Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2016||Bronze|
|M.P. Wines||Le Nez Français Cabernet Franc||Languedoc-Roussillon||France||2015||Bronze|
|Santa Tresa||Santa Tresa Nivuro Nero D’avola – Perricone IGP Terre Siciliane Bio||Sicily||Vittoria||2016||Bronze|
|Venchiarezza||Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso||Friuli-Venezia Giulia||Italy||2017||Bronze|
|Château Maris||Savoir Vieillir||Occitanie||France||2017||Master|
|Waverley Hills||SMV Shiraz Mourvèdre Viognier||Tulbagh||South Africa||2013||Gold|
|North South Wines||Quandong Farm Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Gemtree Wines||2016 Uncut Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Avignonesi||Ventisei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG||Tuscany||Italy||2015||Silver|
|Viñedos Emiliana||Coyam||Colchagua Valley||Chile||2014||Silver|
|Avignonesi||Rosso di Montepulciano DOC Biologico||Tuscany||Italy||2016||Silver|
|La Quercia Scarlatta||Uve Rosse||Marche||Italy||2016||Bronze|
|Altolandon||MIL Historias Garnacha||Castilla-La Mancha||Spain||2017||Bronze|
|Gemtree Wines||Cinnabar GSM||McLaren Vale||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Bodegas Pinuaga||Pinuaga 200 Cepas||Castilla-La Mancha||Spain||2014||Silver|
|Gemtree Wines||Ernest Allan Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Cantina Strappelli||Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG Bio||Abruzzo-Colline Teramane||Italy||2016||Silver|
|Gemtree Wines||Obsidian Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2016||Gold|
|Oliver Moragues||Oliver Moragues Selecció||Mallorca||Spain||2016||Silver|
|Piedra Luenga Bio Fino
Piedra Luenga Bio Cream
|Bodegas Robles||Caprichoso Bio||Córdoba||Spain||2017||Bronze|
About the competition
The Organic Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and is an extension of its successful Masters series for grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as regions such as Rioja and Champagne.
The competition is exclusively for wines that are certified organic or made with certified organically-grown grapes, and also includes certified biodynamic wines.
The entries were judged by a selection of highly experienced tasters using Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic glasses supplied by Wine Sorted. The top samples were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those organic wines that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Organic Master.
The wines were tasted over the course of a single day on 22 June at Opera Tavern in London. This report features only the winners of medals.
The judges were Sam Caporn MW; Patricia Stefanowicz MW; Susan McCraith MW; Alistair Cooper MW; Beverly Tabbron MW; Patrick Schmitt MW, and Clement Robert MS
Judge’s views: Beverly Tabbron MW
I was surprised – and relieved – about the lack of funky off aromas and flavours as I had thought that line up might contain some controversial ‘natural’ wines. The vast majority of the wines were fresh and well made and the fact that they are organic is a bonus in terms of reduced sulphur levels and environmental issues. I generally find organic and biodynamic wines to have more ‘soul’ expressive of their terroir when tasting at generic tables at fairs and events and I was impressed by the overall quality.
Judge’s views: Sam Caporn MW
So this is a VERY hard category to comment on as we literally had no idea what the wines were when tasting and they could be from anywhere in the world!
I think what it did confirm was that organic wines are expensive though there were a couple of surprises under the £10 category that did really well but I think there will increasingly be a demand for organic wines as consumers start taking more of an interest in organic everything. Personally I thought that Spain and Australia did a great job and produced fantastic wines and presumably have the climate for it with plenty of sun and in some regions not too much rain.
Judge’s views: Patricia Stefanowicz MW
What I liked: The variety of wine styles made useing organic, bio-dynamic and ‘natural’ techniques is inevitably exciting! It is a delight to find that there are producers of Sparkling whites, rosés and even reds and Still whites, rosés and reds, where quality and value can shine.
Finding good value wines in the £10-15 bracket with plenty in the silver and bronze categories was excellent. were equally polished and balanced. There was an absolutely delicious, beautifully balanced and succulent red Lambrusco at under £10. Where’s the pizza or mortadella, please?
Rosés seemed to perform well in spite of the fact that making rosé wines is actually quite challenging. Perhaps extra care in the cellar is what makes the difference here?
The best value seems to be in the £15-20 bracket. The wines show plenty of intensity of flavour, brilliant definition, polished and balanced, with many wines achieveing the benchmark for an award. Integration of structure and flavour was key.
What I didn’t like: Variability in quality. Organically grown grapes are not a guarantee of quality at any price point. Careful winemaking and appropriate use of SO2, filtration and other cellar techniques are crucial. We found very good wines at under £10 and at £50, but many were under-performing. There were a few where a more judicious use of cellar practices might have produced a higher quality wine.
The red wines were a complete ‘mixed bag’ in terms of quality and value. There were a few stars, but it wasn’t obvious on the day which wines or price points were likely to be better. At £20-30 the reds sometimes appeared to be trying too hard, with over-extraction and high alcohol evident on some wines, not quite balancing the flavour intensity.
Judge’s views: Susan McCraith MW
It’s not nice realising you’re getting older but one compensatory benefit is that you have greater perspective. Years ago, maybe 20 or so, ‘organic’ used to be a slightly dirty word to describe wines that often tasted the same way: unclean, earthy, green. Whilst we buyers knew it was a preferable way of cultivation, we struggled to find wines that were good enough quality to put on our list.
Since then the situation has improved significantly as viticultural and vinification skills and technology have improved. Rather than finding one out of ten wines to be acceptable, this tasting proved that organic wines are pretty much on a par with conventional wines.
For me personally though I find the picture is not black and white. I don’t buy certified organic wines purely out of principle. Having researched this sector and visited many organic and biodynamic vineyards, I realised that each grower needs to adapt his or her practices to their individual vineyard and climate and in some cases a small amount of systemic product may be less harmful overall than spraying considerable amounts of copper. What matters overall is having a healthy soil with lots of lovely microbes and producing the best quality and most authentic wine possible from that plot. The passion that growers have for the soil is often reflected in the quality of their wines.