Change the World with a Drink in your Hand - 5 favourite organic drinks
Regardless of whether you believe organic farming can feed the planet or not, at a very basic level we all share an aspiration to live in a cleaner more sustainable environment. Organic is not just about an expensive lifestyle choice, with misshapen vegetables and scabby fruit to boot; organic food and drink is more often than not a benchmark of quality. So if you have any prejudices on that score, please lay them to one side and simply drink these organic beauties with the heartfelt intention of making the planet a better place to live. I promise you’ll enjoy it one way or another!
1. Black Isle Brewery Organic Blonde
The beer that changed my view on lager.
Black Isle is run by the warm and gregarious David Gladwin; we’ve known each other for years but I never see enough of him. Made from pale ale malt and a good slug of Hallertau hops, it is a perfect crossover beer between lager and ale. Bottle conditioned, it pours yellow and slightly opaque – aroma is fruity and light with high notes of green grass running through it. The body is bigger than a standard lager, but no less thirst quenching with a good balance of bitterness and a super rounded mouthfeel. At 5% it is certainly for supping from 2/3 pint schooner glass; but it still goes down all too easily. And I love his tagline - “Save the planet, drink Organic”.
2. Dunkertons Organic Cider
In memory of Ivor Dunkerton, who sadly passed away this year.
Ivor and Sally Dunkerton – true cider making heroes. They founded the company in 1980 after successful careers in television; planting orchards of old traditional varieties around their cider house in Pembridge near Leominster. The focus has remained firmly on the quality of the raw material, and following organic principles. The results seem to have got better and better each year. This bottle is a medium sweet; pours slightly cloudy with a decent sparkle. Aroma is smoky, woody and almost spicy – so distinctive of the bittersweet varieties Sheeps Nose and Foxwhelp. It is sweet forward on the palate, hints of horse blanket with juicy fruit running through it, all balanced with a dry almost dusty astringency imparted by those bittersweets. Body is full but not “flabby” as some pure bittersweet ciders can be – the acidity is low, but its 6.8% alcohol is enough to lend the necessary balance that gives it its drinkability. Finish is clean and lingering with a moreish drying tang. A classic example of great Herefordshire cider making.
3. 2012 Felton Road Pinot Noir
New Zealand is widely renowned for producing some wonderful Pinot Noirs
Forget the fact these guys are organic, they are becoming labelled as New Zealand’s finest Pinot Noir producers. Whilst 2012 was not regarded as a great vintage in general for New Zealand, it seems Central Otago escaped the worst of the weather to produce this cracking vintage. A seductive aroma with hints of rose and vanilla, opens up wonderfully in the glass to give a ripe fruity juiciness up front. And the generosity of this wine just keeps going; the body is so full with a good balance of soft acidity and the perfect accompaniment of well-rounded tannin. Hint of oaky spice on the finish rounds off a very, very satisfying mouthful. My gosh this is a good wine.
4. 2012 Felton Road Chardonnay
Chardonnay – possibly the most misunderstood grape on the planet, and I have been a perpetrator of that misunderstanding myself.
”Don’t like Chardonnay but love a good Chablis”. Errr….. Once you understand just what a chameleon the Chardonnay grape is, how well it adapts to almost all local growing conditions, it becomes a variety to be sought out rather than avoided. My Chardonnay rehabilitation has been going well, and given further encouragement by this corker, the second on my list out of this near legendary New Zealand producer. Based near Bannockburn in the South Island, this is the most southerly wine producing region on the planet. Not only superb Pinot Noir producers, they’re pretty handy with the Chardonnay too. I’ve seen this wine compared to Chablis in the past, but in truth, that would do a disservice to both. I suspect I along with many others I might not spot it in a blind tasting of certain Chablis’, but that belies the distinct character of terroir this wine has all of its own. Aroma is of fresh green skin, with a hint of apple and an almost tropical background note, but with a spiciness that keeps it wonderfully fresh. The body is smooth yet with a tartness that lends a delightful raciness. There’s no overt minerality but there is a distinct almondy bitterness that is quietly addictive. I’ve never been to New Zealand, and if this is how it is summed up in a glass, I can’t get there quickly enough.
5. Yaguara Cachaca
Cachaca–Brazil’s rum essentially
The process and the sugar cane was brought from Madeira by Portugese colonists in the 16th century, it has been a mainstay of alcohol consumption there ever since, with some 2 billion litres produced and consumed every year. We probably know it best in this country as the clear alcohol ingredient in a caipirinha; but as with Rum there are aged versions, between 3 and 15 years is usual. Yaguara – literally Jaguar – is a 4 generation cachaça producer, distilling in small batch; they are definitely artisan in classification. The liquid I tried is a white, straight off the still version cut back to 41.5%. Whilst not intended to be tasted straight – that’s usually the preserve of the aged, golden variants – this is certainly good enough to be drunk neat. Firewater it is not, first nose has a fruity aroma, almost of cassis, and this lends an initial sweetness to the spirit. Smooth and creamy palate that does not give the usual alcohol burn of many a white spirit. It’s perhaps not my first choice digestif after dinner, but it does leave me feeling all full of samba and bosa nova. Now where did I put those limes….?
We're pleased to be celebrating Soil Association's Organic September this month.