Budget-Friendly Organic Wines for Earth Day

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Have you ever wondered about organic wines? Are they really that much better? Are you doing right by Mother Earth by buying organic wine? So many questions, and more than I can unpack here today, but I’ll do my best to skim the surface and give you a couple good organic wine labels to look for.

When I eat certain organic produce I usually taste a difference with better flavor. But price is also a factor in my food choices, as is size/yield (anyone ever seen those super tiny mandarin oranges? I just can’t bring myself to buy those). Lots of variables to consider with no cut and dry answer, and everyone has their own unique needs and situations.

It’s smart to recognize all things are not necessarily as they seem, and it’s worth investigating some facts about organic practices before buying whole hog into the organic religion. This article from Tiffany at frugal food/healthy living blog Don’t Waste the Crumbs has some interesting information on what “organic” actually means (as it pertains to the United States Department of Agriculture, not necessarily other organizations/countries) and how allowances in practice vastly differ from what is portrayed through their marketing claims.

While there is a lot of debate and controversy over conventional vs. organic farming practices, one thing (I think) we can all agree on is the need to care for the earth and not just decimate the soils supporting our beloved crops. Amen?

Here are two wines I picked out to spotlight in honor of Earth Day. Both use organic grapes and both are very reasonably priced at under $14/bottle. I have tried both Natura and Bonterra brand wines in the past and very much enjoyed both (I originally tried a Natura Carmenére and an unknown red from Bonterra).

Bonterra Merlot 2021

Bonterra Merlot 2021

Bonterra Merlot 2021

  • $11.49/bottle at Total Wine
  • Organic grapes from California
  • 13.7% ABV
  • Deep ruby with blue tint, fairly opaque
  • Aromas: blueberry, plum, black cherry, fig, bay leaf, savory meat, cinnamon, dusty cocoa
  • Medium or Full Body, juicy, plush wine with well-integrated tannins
  • Moderate mid-palate
  • Moderate finish

Natura Malbec 2020 Emiliana Vineyards

Natura Malbec 2020

Natura Malbec 2020

  • Organic grapes from Rapel Valley, Chile
  • $12.99/bottle at wine.com
  • Full body, 13.5% ABV
  • Medium ruby color but lighter around edge, more red tint (no blue)
  • Medium acidity
  • Dry
  • Soft, gentle tannins
  • Aromas/flavors: red fruits (currant, cranberry), black cherry, pepper, braised tomato, earth, leather, spice, gravel, herb, mineral
  • Moderate to long finish

I’ll admit I wasn’t overwhelmed with these particular two wines, but that could be due to my changing tastes and expectations. I wouldn’t say either was a bad wine at all – they just lacked layers of complexity. They do improve after being open for a day and getting a little love from oxygen. And I think they would do well with some pizza or other food to accompany and improve them.

Still, if you would like to drink organic wine in a budget-friendly price range, these are worth checking out. Both labels also make several other varietals. See other Natura wines here and other Bonterra selections here. Wines that are available through my wine.com affiliate link can be found here.

A cool feature at wine.com is that you can filter your search for “green” wines, which includes organic/biodynamic/sustainable wine producers. Check out their other organic offerings here.

Organic wines offer a product that purportedly benefits the land, crops, and our bodies. When you purchase an organic wine, you’re encouraging farmers to continue using organic and sustainable growing practices. And it’s nice to know that drinking an organic wine does not mean you have to pay a premium, unlike with other organic products at the supermarket. 🙂

Are there any organic wines you enjoy? Let the rest of us know in the comments!

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An Argentinian Treasure for World Malbec Day

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Hear ye, hear ye! Today I doth proclaim World Malbec Day, a day to solemn ourselves and pay tribute to the magnificent Malbec grape, and all its vinous manifestations, forsooth (rolls up scroll).

Yep, here we are with another wine holiday on our hands. This time it’s World Malbec Day; yea verily yea (I really need to start using that phrase IRL)! It’s interesting that Tannat Day and Malbec Day are so close together on the calendar, and they are the signature grapes of neighboring countries Uruguay (Tannat) and Argentina (Malbec). Not sure if this was done on purpose or not, but it makes sense to continue our little South American sojourn, so vámanos.

Malbec is a wine I have intensely adored, especially in my beginning days of wine exploration. And I still love it. I haven’t had it as much lately because I’ve been spending my wine budget elsewhere, but for me and many in the world it’s a classic.

I’ve had wonderful Malbecs from my home state of Washington, but today I’m unlocking my wine treasure chest to introduce you to one of my favorite Argentinian Malbecs, which will give you a great idea of why Malbec shines in this country.

Malbec and Tannat have similar backstories. In the 16th century, Spanish missionaries spread vinifera plantings throughout Argentina to establish a supply of sacramental wine. Using the farming practices of the natives, the Spanish irrigated the vineyards in the valley with ice/snow melt from the Andes Mountains. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many European immigrants came to Argentina and brought with them new grape varieties, including Malbec. Both Tannat and Malbec are grapes native to southwest France.

This particular Malbec is magical. I used this wine in a class I taught to illustrate Old World vs. New World wine characteristics (essentially, warmer climates yield grapes with higher sugar content, and cooler climates yield grapes with higher acid content, because they don’t ripen as much as their warm climate counterparts). Everyone loved it, and this beauty just got more interesting and sumptuous the longer it revealed itself in the decanter.

For best results, decant for 30-60 minutes prior to drinking. If it’s for a group, pour out the whole bottle into a decanter.

Here are the details and my impressions of the wine:

Phebus Malbec Gran Reserva Mendoza Argentina

Phebus Malbec Gran Reserva Mendoza Argentina. Photo courtesy Total Wine.

Phebus Malbec Gran Reserva Mendoza Argentina

  • $27/bottle at Total Wine
  • Full body, lots of heft, 15% ABV
  • Good acidity providing solid structure
  • Bold, unfolding layers of blackberry, black cherry, coffee, chocolate, tobacco
  • Velvety texture
  • Long, complex, irresistible finish

As I have regrettably lost my tasting notes from the last time I had this wine, my list may be missing a few details, but I’m providing you with the product description from Total Wine, which sums up my recollection as well:

“A very complex and elegant wine with floral aromas of violets, black cherries and licorice. On the palate the wine is deep and rich, perfectly balanced with delicate silky tannins and well integrated French oak. Perfect with a juicy steak, game, rich cheeses and chocolate desserts.”

My husband picked up this wine from Total Wine years ago. We first had it with a roast and it was magnĂ­fico. It’s one wine we turn to again and again and we are always floored by its quality. Remember, Argentina is also famous for its excellent beef, so Malbec + steak = natural harmony.

Total Wine also sells the Phebus Malbec ($14) and the Phebus Malbec Reserva ($17) in addition to the Gran Reserva ($27). I’ve had the Reserva which is still excellent – not as outstanding as the GR but nevertheless a wonderful wine for the price. You can try the others, but the Gran Reserva is unbeatable in style and quality. Go ahead and splurge on this version, I assure you it’s worth it!

For fun, buy all three bottles and do side-by-side tasting comparisons. See if you think they are each worth their price. Call it your World Malbec Day fiesta!

Happy World Malbec Day! Do you have a favorite Malbec I should know about? ¡Dígame! 🙂

Nat Geo Wines of the World