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Much of Europe is way ahead of the United States when it comes to the demand and supply of organic products.

Ivo Nardi, one of Italy’s leading organic wine producers, makes the Italian sparkling wine Prosecco and has become one of that nation’s organic farming method leaders.

Nardi’s Perlage label was one of 587 at Millesime Bio organic trade wine fair in Montpellier, France, Jan. 23-25. I attended the wine fair as part of a press trip sponsored by AIVB, the French Languedoc wine region trade association. 
The Millesime Bio is in its 19th year. It’s an international trade show allowing wineries to connect directly to importers from countries around the world. All participating wineries are certified organic by their national governing bodies to be eligible for participation.
Ivo Nardi, right, toasting sales manager Marcella Callegari.

Nardi and his brother Claudio have run Perlage since its founding in 1985. Prosecco is the far northeastern region about an hour from Venice. 

The Nardi brothers began to use organic farming techniques in their vineyards from the very beginning.  In 2005, Perlage began working in biodynamic agricultural practices.
A basic understanding of organic versus sulfite-free is necessary for U.S. consumers. The Food and Drug Administration has ruled, as recently as Dec. 2010, that wines sold in the U.S. can only be called organic if they are 100 percent sulfite free. Most European standards allow some use of sulfites to preserve the wine.
Therefore, a bottle of European wine will be labeled “produced with organically grown grapes” if it’s sold in the United States.  And that’s a point that doesn’t set well with European producers. Still, European organic growers use the absolute minimum sulfites needed.
Nardi insists the demand for organic products is higher in Europe than elsewhere.  He tells the story of selling 10,000 bottles of Perlage wines to a grocery chain in Holland. The buyers were reluctant worried if the product would sell. But the wines started flying off the shelves because the product was good – organic or not. That supermarket chain ended up selling 100,000 bottles in six months, Nardi said.
Nardi discussing his wines with importer Paul Chartrand

“We have a dream not just to be organic but that all of the production of DOCG Prosecco becomes organic within 3-4 years from now,” Nardi said. “We would like to increase our research on all of our production with the goal to reduce sulfites in all of our wines. The knowledge we gain helps with all of our wines.

“The philosophy in biodynamics is better responsibility and better relationship between man and the environment.”
But organic and biodynamic practices are difficult for farmers. They don’t use pesticides, herbicides, or any chemical products in the production of their wines. Cleanliness in handling the product, the exposure to oxygen, and cleanliness in bottling is far more critical than in traditional wine making processes.
During the Millesime Bio I tasted through the Perlage wines, particularly their Proseccos. We tasted the wonderful and groundbreaking Perlage Animae. It’s groundbreaking because it is 100 percent sulfite free. It was every bit as palate pleasing as the other four Prosecco wines we tasted. It retails in the U.S. for $29.99.

Prosecco is a delightfully affordable and refreshing sparkling wine made largely around the district of Valdobbiadene. Good Prosecco choices can be found from a variety of producers for less than $20. It has softer bubbles and a softer taste than many sparkling wines.

Perlage wines are widely available in the U.S. and imported by Chartrand Imports of Maine. Indiana’s Graybull Wines distributes Perlage. The label is also available in Illinois.
Perlage Sangiovese and two of its Prosecco sparklers are available in Indiana. Derek Gray said his biggest selling Perlage label is the Pinot Grigio.

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