Friday, July 08, 2005

Wine Aid -- Organic and Otherwise

“May I be of any assistance?” In my earlier – dare I say “younger” days – I would have blurted out “no, I’m fine, thank you” with nary a thought of opportunities missed. Fortunately, it has become astonishingly-apparent to me, in recent times, that those offering assistance often have a wealth of knowledge that is just waiting to be unleashed.

This time, as we browsed through the impressive wine collection, heads filled with visions of hillside grapevines shimmering in the sun, the offer of assistance rang true. After a pleasant afternoon of southern Wisconsin touring, we had decided to stop by the Sendik’s supermarket ( in Brookfield -- what else would an Ingredient Sleuth do on vacation? And there we were, in the wine department.

Having SO many questions about wines, it is always difficult to know where to begin when assistance is offered. Wines of so many descriptions are intriguing – should I formulate a question about wines from a certain region, about a certain varietal grape? “Do you have any recommendations about some good, organic wines?” I began, grasping at the first gap (and there are MANY!) in my wine knowledge that came to mind. The conversation that ensued turned out to be a highlight of the day!

The wine consultant offering assistance was ready with several good ideas. He talked a bit about the growing interest in the concept of organic wines worldwide. On the domestic front, we learned, Oregon is particularly-active in the pursuit of organic wine production and California is also a top contender. A sunshine-filled bottle of domestic Gewürztraminer made its way into the shopping cart at about this stage, as I recall (and it turned out to be a fabulous choice).

European, South American, Australian and New Zealand grape growers and vintners are increasing focus on organic wine production as well. Always eager to toss in my meager bits of wine awareness, I recounted my recent wine dabblings with a couple of tasty Spanish Tempranillo organic wines that I had found at home in California. The wine consultant nodded knowingly and apparently concluded (correctly) that we were interested in learning more. (Isn’t it grand when people of similar interests start to converse? That’s when the magic begins! And before you ask -- no, I didn’t mention that I was an ingredient sleuth.)

It must have been our interest in the spicy, white Gewürztraminer wine that headed us in the next conversational direction. Before we knew it, the three of us were talking excitedly about past trips to Germany, wine regions bordering the Rhine and Mosel Rivers and tiny towns with familiar (to us, at least) names. Of course, we could have uncovered this mutual interest earlier if the initial question had been about German wines. But then, we’d have missed the valuable info about the state of organic wines around the world!

Wonderful, explanatory pages of background information about Germany’s wine country found their way from the wine consultant’s notebook to our eager hands. As it turned out, we were speaking to an expert who, for years, led wine tours from America to the very region of Germany that we find to be of huge interest because of our ancestral linkages to the area. We have enjoyed many a bottle of delicious Riesling from the area and are always eager to find more. Apparently, according to this expert, 2003 German Rieslings are on a par with, or potentially superior to, any ever produced! 2003, it seems, was indeed a VERY good year for German grapes (and 2002 was right up there near the all-time top as well).

The gracious wine consultant knew the major winemakers of the region personally, had dined with them and drunk their wines with them. Having grown up in Switzerland, he possesses multi-lingual skills that had readily transported him into rapport with them. Names of German villages that most people (even Germans) would probably have difficulty finding on a map floated through our conversation as if they were just around the corner from the supermarket. We had traveled those very same back roads, spider-fine though they may look on even a local, German map.

How delightful it was to meet such knowledge in action, to share the spark of a topic of mutual interest and then to walk away (albeit reluctantly) with smiles on our faces, pages of exquisite wine information in our hands and – most assuredly – bottles of nature’s grape bounty in our shopping cart. All this made possible by that fortuitous combination of assistance offered with aid (happily) accepted.



gabriella said...

That area of Germany is my most favored one too and maybe it is because the hillsides remind me of home. There is a quite good German bio (our word in Europe for your word organic) wine. It is a riesling by Klaus Knobloch vineyard. It is a dry wine that won some kind of award in a bio wine competition. We always hope for more bio products here too.

carolyn said...

Any ideas about where to find good, not too expensive (under $10) organic wines in Orange County? This sounds like such a good idea!

Bill said...

In answer to question from Carolyn re. sources for organic wines under $10: not sure about Orange county, but here in San Diego, our Trader Joe's USUALLY has good organic wines in that price range (altho' they do sell out every now and then and have to wait for a new shipment). This is a great story and I am encouraged to hear that the interest in organic wines is spreading world wide. Bill

Marilyn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ingredient Sleuth said...

Carolyn's question is a great one. I agree completely with what Bill said about Trader Joe's as a source. The Tempranillo wine in the photo is, in fact, from Trader Joe's. BevMo has several organics, both whites and reds, but may not quite meet the under $10 price point (although will be close). Also, Cost Plus and some of the larger supermarkets like Pavillions and Bristol Farms are likely to have organic wines -- once again, the pricing covers a wide gamut. Good luck on the search -- I hope it is as much fun for you as it was for me!


Rickie said...

Just a note to say how much I enjoyed last week's recipe from Alice Waters' book. I tried it out this weekend and it was fabulous. I can't believe that anything could make fresh figs even better but that recipe does the job!!!

Organic wines are SO interesting as well. I've been watching out for them for quite some time and agree that things are improving. When I ask, wine dept. personnel seem to be in good awareness today, especiallya s compared with a few years ago. Progress!!!

Thx for the great info, as usual.

Anonymous said...

The Brookfield Sendiks store is our favorite grocery store. Whenever we want something specific or just something special, they never let us down. It was great to see the store featured in your article.


Anonymous said...

you certainly do meet the most interesting people ... your suggestion is great too ... thx