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Biodynamic food and wine matching

Does biodynamic wine make a difference to food pairing. Wine writer and educator David Furer investigates:

David writes: "Last year I was party to a presentation at the recently-opened Norwegian Gastronomic Institute to the Vinmonopolet (state wine monopoly) buying teams by winemaker Nicolas Joly of France where he explained his approach to biodynamic winegrowing.

Afterwards there was a comparative tasting of dishes prepared with conventionally-grown ingredients alongside biodynamically-produced ones. Each was accompanied by a selection of biodynamic wines which had been presented the previous day at a public wine tasting of Joly's Renaissance des Appellations group.Over lunch I sampled three different dishes which were served in two versions marked ‘O’ and ‘X’.

Dish 1
Fillet & belly of pork, carrots with lemon & rosemary, creamed potatoes with butter and shallot and parsley jus.

1. Fleury Cuvée Tradition Carte Rouge Champagne NV
2. Ch. de Tour Grise les Amandiers Anjou Blanc 2005
3. Zsslin Auxerrois Alsace 2004
4. Casina di Cornia Chianti Classico 2004

Looking at the carrots it struck me that plate 'O', having the more intensely orange carrots with the sweeter flavor was the bio dish. The 'O' pig was wider-grained and the fat separated from the crisped skin with more ease on 'O' than 'X'.The fattier elements of the dish married best with the non-aromatic wine 3 while the earthier elements enjoyed the acidic counterpoint of wine 1 and, to a lesser degree, wine 2. The beautifully grilled pigskin on its own soared with wine 4.

It turned out we were wrong in thinking 'O' the bio dish. The X dish was sourced from high-quality, conventionally-sourced ingredients showing that selective breeding and sensitive farming can win out over 'pure' farming methods.

Dish 2
Goat fileted two ways atop a cauliflower pure accompanied by pieces of whole cauliflower, beet, and chopped tomato with chived jus.

1. Ostertag Clos Mathis Riesling Alsace 2004
2. Sadie Family Palladius Stellenbosch 2005
3. Stphane Tissot Pinot Noir 'En Barberon' Cotes du Jura 2005
4. Tenuta di Valgiano Palistori Toscana 2004 (70 Sang, 15 each Syr/Mer)

On the ‘O’ plate the beet was more flavoursome and the cauliflower pure less watery but the cauliflower pieces on both plates were equal in flavour quality.

The pure shone with both whites and killed any delight the reds offered. The meat cuts both seemed more suited to the whites than to the reds, both of which were solid if unexceptional examples of their type. This style of food, restrained and 'Michelin-focused', doesn't lend itself well to intense wines. Therefore, Old World whites with their well-integrated sense of place and understated fruit provide a subtle underpinning for this style of cuisine. Also, the inherent sweetness of the veggies stripped the reds of most of their fruitiness. The goat on both plates was more or less equal in flavor and texture with minute differences which didn't lend a tipped hand to quality. Both were fine and subtle, nothing like the majority of the goat meat one's likely to find in the UK.

Plate 'X' was biodynamic, again, counter to what most of us thought . . . or wished for.

Dish 3
Veal tenderloin atop a wild mushroom, carrot, & onion risotto sided with green & yellow beans in butter & too-salty chopped onions and sauted chard with garlic finished with olive oil and grated parmigiano

1. Zsslin Riesling Clos Liebenberg Alsace 2002
2. Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 'En Virondot' 2004 (mistaken for the biodynamic Pierre Morey; although very good, M Morey isn't biodynamic)
3. Stphane Tissot Trousseau Singulier Arbois 2005
4. Telmo Rodriguez Rioja LZ 2005

The meat on plate 'X' was more rare and more tender, its beans more tender than 'O's and both paired well with wine 1, a bold version from a good vintage. Both exuberantly fruity reds were too young for the dish although wine 4, with its denser texture and richer fruit, was the better match.

Sadly, the bio dish with the tougher veal and beans proved to be the 'O' plate

Tom R. Tyrihjell, a wine & food specialist for Vinmonopolet who organized this ambitious event which was sponsored by the Norwegian biodynamic food organization, Helios* observed that the 'ordinary' food was based on meat and vegetables of such a high standard that it was problematic to taste the difference. "On the other hand, this is not very different from our experiences with bio wine versus 'ordinary' wine.” he commented. “Non bio/eco wines made with utter focus on quality are as good as and even better than some bio/eco wines."

(Vinmonopolet's sales of biodynamic and organic wines (their statistics don't differentiate between the two types) has nearly doubled since the category began being tracked in 2004, from 77.900 liters to 131.200 liters projected by 2007's end. Tyrihjell mentioned a launch of more eco and bio wines in May 2008)

To me this demonstration showed that the taste of biodynamic food lags far behind that of its vinous counterparts. If the biodynamic food movement is to gain the level of respect to which biodynamic wines have achieved, its growers will have to work much harder and with greater critical perspective."

Founded in 1959, Helios is a non-profit group promoting organic and biodynamic food. They also distribute food which retails through their 100 + shops throughout Norway.

A native of Santa Cruz California, David Furer is a former sommelier who now writes regularly about wine.

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