February 28, 2024

‘The range in Ireland is terrific’: Four organic wines to look out for

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It’s about more than just what’s in the bottle when you’re buying organic wine

Mary and Ivan Pawle celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mary Pawle Wines this year. It was then, and still is now, as far as I am aware, the only Irish wine importer working exclusively with organic wine.

Organic wine is now an accepted part of the mainstream wine business, and to many consumers a sign that a producer is serious about wine quality. Younger readers may not remember, but there was a time when it was viewed with great suspicion. “It was seen as something a bit odd. People were puzzled and bemused, sometimes sceptical. Some people thought we were selling country wines made from gorse and blackberries. It took a while to explain what organic meant. At that time, chemicals were generally being sprayed very liberally on vineyards. People are much more aware now and all growers are cutting back,” Mary says.

“From the start, we decided all of our wines had to be certified as organic. So many producers say they do it, but won’t get certified, either because it has a bad name, or it is time-consuming, with lots of paperwork and extra costs. But I felt, because I was selling to a shop, which was selling on to a customer who is paying a little more, there always had to be proof.”

They now have more than 200 wines. “I keep adding,” Mary says. “I should be trimming at the same time, but I’m not very good at that. When we started there was such a limited range of good wines, it was very easy, but now there are so many to choose from.”

Nowadays they work only with Europe. “There are so many fantastic wines. Most of our list is French, with a decent amount of Spanish and Italian, a smattering of Portuguese, plus one Austrian.” Mostly they work with small producers. “You build up great working relationships and friendships over the years. Right now, I’m dying to see these people again and go rambling around the vineyards.”

Sales are mainly through food shops, wine shops and off-licences, although they have a website (marypawlewines.com, currently being renovated) and welcome emails. They have customers all over the country, but their heartland is Cork city and West Cork, where they work closely with restaurants and retailers.

The image of organic wine has changed completely over the years. “We don’t have to explain anymore. The range of organic wine in Ireland is terrific. It’s great to see other people doing it, even if it means more competition. The best part of it is the increased awareness, and the move towards sustainability. It’s not just about what is in the bottle.”

This week four organic wines that “tick all the boxes”, according to Mary. 

Albet i Noya Petit Albet Negre 2019, Penedes (Organic) Catalunya
13.5%, €13.50
Delectable soft ripe sweet red cherry and strawberry fruits, with light tannins on the finish. Perfect everyday drinking with a wide variety of dishes.
From Connemara Hamper, Clifden, connemarahamper.com; The Grainey, Scarriff; The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny, thelittlegreengrocer.ie; Taste, Castletownbere; O’Donovan’s, Cork, odonovansofflicence.com; Lettercollum Kitchen Project, Clonakilty, lettercollum.ie; JJ Fields, Skibbereen, fieldsofskibbereen.ie; Quay Co-Op, Ballincollig, quaycoop.com; Organico, Bantry, organico.ie; Harrington’s, Ardgroom, harringtonsardgroom.com; Hudson’s Wholefoods, Ballydehob.

Château de Bastet 2020 Côtes du Rhône Terram (Biodynamic)
14%, €15.95
Medium- to full-bodied with supple spice-laden raspberry and strawberry fruits and a nicely rounded finish. Try it with braised lamb or beef. 
From Connemara Hamper, Clifden, connemarahamper.com; The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny, thelittlegreengrocer.ie; Mortons of Galway, mortonsofgalway.ie; The Vintry, D6, vintry.ie; Ardkeen Quality Foodstore, Waterford, ardkeen.com; Lettercollum Kitchen Project, Clonakilty, lettercollum.ie; Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey, manningsemporium.ie.

Diwald Grüner Veltliner vom Löss 2020, Wagram, Austria (Organic)
12.5%, €16.75-€17
A classic Grüner with baked apples, spicy ginger and plenty of refreshing acidity. Perfect on its own or with herby Asian chicken dishes, pork, smoked ham, or a Wiener Schnitzel.
From The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny,thelittlegreengrocer.ie; The Vintry, D6, vintry.ie; Toon’s Bridge Dairy, D2, toonsbridgedairy.com; Taste, Castletownbere; O’Donovan’s, Cork, odonovansofflicence.com; Ardkeen Quality Foodstore, Waterford, ardkeen.com; Organico, Bantry, organico.ie; Mortons of Galway, mortonsofgalway.ie.

Morgon Grands Cras 2017, Domaine Bonne Tonne Morgon (Biodynamic)
14%, €26
A superb Beaujolais with plenty of structure and crunchy dark cherry, blackberry and savoury liquorice fruits. Lovely length too. Try it with grilled or roast chicken, creamy mushroom dishes or charcuterie. 
From Connemara Hamper, Clifden, connemarahamper.com; The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny, thelittlegreengrocer.ie; The Vintry, D6, vintry.ie; Ardkeen Quality Foodstore, Waterford, ardkeen.com; Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey, manningsemporium.ie.

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