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Biodynamic Wines

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Biodynamic wines (such as above) are fairly popular. Fork & Bottle lists 521 Biodynamic wine producers around the world. Demeter owns the “registered certification marks” associated with this term and describes it as follows:

Critical to the BIODYNAMIC® method of farming is Goethean observation of nature and the application of such view to a farming system. Observation in this manner embraces nature as an interconnected whole, a totality, an organism endowed with archetypal rhythm.

It involves manure, skulls and deer bladders. Wineanorak describes these steps:

Cow manure fermented in a cow horn, which is then buried and over-winters in the soil. … Flower heads of yarrow fermented in a stag’s bladder. … Oak bark fermented in the skull of a domestic animal. … Flower heads of dandelion fermented in cow mesentery.

The Zinquisition is skeptical about the benefits, and Vinography describes it as: “a maddening, paradoxical mixture of scientifically sound farming practices and utterly ridiculous new-age mysticism.”

A long, detailed article in the San Francisco News sums it up this way, quoting Peter Cargasacchi of Cargasacchi Vineyards:

“A lot of these guys have MBAs and science degrees, and they’re out there using Biodynamics as their marketing program. Well, shame on them.” Ted Hall of organic Long Meadow Ranch in Rutherford adds, “It’s important that people understand that organic farming is a sophisticated, science-based approach not based on a belief system. … [Biodynamics] is a fad, because it is not based on substance. It will not persist over a long period.” … And yet many of the world’s most influential wine writers, including Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, have become enthusiastic supporters of Biodynamics. Its self-proclaimed position as the “Rolls-Royce of organics” has allowed winesellers to win over overtly environmental shoppers, while Biodynamicists’ claim to craft the world’s most distinctive wines has ensnared connoisseurs.

So far as we can tell, TTB has its hands full with organic, meritage and allergens, and has not set forth a policy on Biodynamics to date.

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Cucumber Flavored Vodka

All of a sudden there are at least four cucumber flavored vodkas. All seem to be first approved during 2008.

Why all of a sudden? Is cucumber especially refreshing or versatile? If so, why didn’t somebody do this decades ago, inasmuch as the venerable cuke has been around for quite some time? Maybe it’s an advance in flavor technology, finding a way to capture what would appear to be a rather delicate flavor. In an attempt to understand the rise of cucumber flavored vodka, we looked to Morgenthaler and The Intoxicologist and Alcademics but still we don’t understand why cucumber and why now. If we had to guess, we’d say it’s a tribute to Hendrick’s gin. It came out in 1999 and refers to an “‘unexpected’ infusion of cucumber and rose petals” on the back label. The producer’s chief chemist explains:

we didn’t know exactly how to introduce the cucumber into the blend. No one had ever put cucumbers in gin. We did a lot of experiments macerating and steam-distilling cucumbers before we came up with the right formula. And it was the same with the rose petals. … Hendrick’s is made in small batches using a 550-liter pot still from the 1880s. The cucumber and roses are added at the very end so that their flavors and aromas don’t disappear.

Square One (above) is made in Idaho from rye by master distiller Bill Scott. Crop is made in Minnesota from grain more generally. Two others are Rain and Pearl.

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Green Gin, Green Shiraz

Red Deer wine claims to be “Tree Free.” We could only guess that this means the labels are made from rice, or something other than trees. But no. The UPC label explains that the wine is “Untouched by oak – The ‘naturelle’ fruit characters of the wine are not overwhelmed by additives commonly introduced by man – LIKE OAK.” We are getting the impression they don’t like oak. The label says the producer is part of a sustainable resource initiative. It also refers to the “Intense body,” and TTB often disallows “intense” on table wines (where it suggests a high alcohol content). In other green beverages, Rainforest Gin claims it “Saves the Rain Forest with Every Bottle.” Of gin. Made in Cleveland.

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22 Ounces of Weed

Here is Weed Lager. The brand name refers to Weed, California, where the beer is made. Before this 2008 label approval, the labeling said “Try legal Weed.” The current label also says “Vegan: No Animal Testing or Ingredients” (as opposed to, for example, wine with egg, milk and fish protein). Greg Beato explains the controversy in First Amendment Lite, his excellent article in the August/September issue of Reason magazine.

Every year, the TTB reviews more than 100,000 proposed labels, and because the statutes and regulations it has at its disposal are both extremely specific and extremely vague, its agents often end up behaving more like cultural critics than government bureaucrats — parsing puns, interpreting illustrations, determining the artistic value of the occasional female breast.

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