Monthly Archives: January 2018

Organic Wines

Organic WinesCertified organic (CO) and practicing organic (PO) wine is produced from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming, which typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

The process is audited by the recognised body in the wine producing country of origin, according to strict regulations and viticultural practices which allows the term ‘organic wine’ to be used on the wine label. In essence the concept is a return to old-fashioned, less intensive agricultural practices; however, it is only since the 2012 vintage that there has been a definition of ‘organic’ wine within the EU.

In organic wine production the vines are cultivated in vineyards where the environment is respected and biodiversity is encouraged. The use of artificial pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers is strictly prohibited; though certain fertilisers (typically derived from animal or vegetable matter) are allowed.

By adopting an organic approach to viticulture the vines are encouraged to draw essential minerals from the soil and so develop a better resistance to disease negating the need to use artificial interventions. Weed control is carried out by ploughing (horse’s are frequently used in this process) or by growing cover crops. The cover crops act in turn as hosts for beneficial natural predators (ladybirds for example) and provide an ecological form of pest control.

The process of converting a vineyard to certified organic takes three years. Any non-organic treatments are strictly forbidden and the growers can be inspected at anytime without warning. The use of any synthetic and chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides would mean the estate would have to begin the whole process again. Certification of organic wine is run by the relevant country’s examining bodies. In France for example certification is provided by ‘Ecocert’.

In addition to organic practices in the vineyard there are also restrictions with the winemaking process too, including a reduced use of sulphur dioxide.

It is worth noting that there are many wine-growers who elect to farm organically (or biodynamically) but who have no desire to seek certification or accreditation for their efforts and as such are seen as practicing organic (PO). Their reasons for converting from conventional practices are generally for health and sustainability issues and not marketing inspired. Therefore, whilst their wines are organic in the true sense of the word, they are not allowed to market their wines as ‘Certified Organic’.

Finally, there is another winemaking discipline which in French is called ‘la lutte raisonnée’. It is becoming increasingly popular in viticulture parlance but there are cynics who are wary of this practice as it is a rather grey area of organic and sustainable winemaking philosophy. Essentially growers adopting this regime have stopped treating systemically and essentially follow organic disciplines, but they reserve the right to treat the vines if faced with a particular problem. At its best this is just a common sense decision to farm as safely as possible, adopting organic and often experimenting with biodynamic viticulture, but remaining free of dogma. It can however, from the cynics’ perspectives, be seen as a rather cosy way of allowing the grower to do whatever he likes.

Hic! is pleased to support a number of outstanding wine producers in their efforts and offer for sale an excellent range of organic wines in the online wine shop.

Vegan Wine Collection at Pinterest

Vegan Pinterest

A growing number of customers who adopt a Veganism lifestyle are seeking guidance and advice in their wine selection to be sure that the wine choice suits their individual requirements. In order to ascertain if a wine is suitable for a vegan, or even vegetarian, you first need to know how the wine is ‘fined’. The substances used by winemakers for fining can be derived from many sources, some of which are animal based.

Our updated wine guide to Vegan & Vegetarian wines will hopefully help in the decision making process and you can view that here: Guide to Vegan & Vegetarian Wines

For those that would like to see our latest wines suitable for Vegans (and Vegetarians) for sale in our online wine shop then take a look at our vegan wine collection board at Pinterest – we will be adding more to this collection over time. Our Pinterest wine collections aim to be a great reference point for the discerning drinker seeking genuine variety and originality in their wine selection.

Pinterest Vegan Wine Collection

Biodynamic Wine Collection at Pinterest

Biodynamic Wines Pinterest

A growing number of winemakers are experimenting in biodynamic principles and gradually adopting what, ultimately, is a life changing way of working. You can find out more about biodynamic wines in our updated wine guide here: Biodynamic Wines

If you would like to see the latest biodynamic wines we have for sale in our online wine shop then take a look at our biodynamic wine collection board over on Pinterest – we will be adding more to this collection over time. Our Pinterest wine collections aim to be a great reference point for the discerning drinker seeking genuine variety and originality in their wine selection.

Pinterest Biodynamic Wine Collection

Biodynamic Wines

Biodynamic Wines 3

Biodynamic wine production is an approach to winemaking based upon the work of Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner. In addition to organic practices such as the exclusion of chemical or synthetic herbicides, fertilisers and pesticides, biodynamic farmers rely upon special plant, animal and mineral preparations to enhance the health of their soil and vines. Utilising the Stella Natura Biodynamic agricultural calendar, biodynamic farmers also consider the positioning and rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets and stars as guides for when to prune their vines, plant new vines or pick the fruit.

For winemakers the key principle of biodynamic wine production is totally logical. It makes no sense to extol the virtues on the geology of a vineyard, the unique aspects of its soil (its ‘terroir’) and what that imparts to the wine, if that soil is then totally transformed by a mixture of chemicals, herbicides and fertilisers. Healthy soil dictates healthy vines and experience has shown that biodynamic practices give rise to greater purity and precision in the resulting wines.

Steiner’s biodynamic disciplines date back to the early 1920’s, (twenty years before the organic movement) and followed the notion that in harnessing the metaphysical, the physical is improved. In his approach to agriculture, Steiner believed that the health of the soil, plants and animals depends on reconnecting nature with the creative forces of the cosmos. The practical methods he outlined were intended to be adopted by farmers and winemakers alike with the intention to revitalise the natural forces that were rapidly becoming depleted through modern agricultural techniques.

Beginning with a healthy living soil, often enhanced by judicious quantities of biodynamic, naturally-occurring preparations, Steiner felt that it was also important to recognise the role of the rhythms of light from planets, sun, moon and stars. Understanding this aspect allows for optimal timings in viticultural activity and thus it follows that, if the winemaker is tuned into their needs, the vines and soil will respond better.

Steiner’s concept is not that difficult to grasp, after all, we know about lunar cycles, tidal flow and seasonality, so have already accepted certain, very obvious aspects of these life forces without question.

Undertaking a biodynamic approach is far from an easy option and the problem for many winemakers is that in order to produce wine biodynamically, the adoption of its principles has to be wholesale, with no holds barred. Following the rhythms of earth and space is taxing and even very diligent organic farmers are wary of the extreme measures required to conform fully to the disciplines which are considered by many to be too expensive.

Thankfully, more and more winemakers are experimenting in biodynamic principles and gradually adopting what, ultimately, is a life changing way of working. Whilst the initial aim may have been the long term sustainability of the land and the health of themselves and their co-workers, the results of their endeavours has witnessed an intense and more honest expression of terroir.

Hic! has a range of biodynamic wines from some of the world’s finest producers available to buy at the online wine shop.

Vegan and Vegetarian Wines

Vegan Vegetarian BannerFor those who adopt a Vegetarian or Veganism lifestyle, choosing a bottle of wine as your preferred liquid refreshment may not be as straightforward as one would think. Whilst wine label information is slowly becoming more informative and regulations dictate certain details must now be disclosed, there are still aspects of a wines history missing from wine labels that could aid consumers further in their decision making process, especially those with a vegan or vegetarian philosophy.


Many would believe that a wine labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ would be a good starting point, but this winemaking process has no bearing on whether the wine will be suitable for vegetarians or vegans. What is important is how the wine is treated or finished in the final stages of production and it is this which can create a potential moral hazard!

Most winemakers choose to clarify and stabilise their wines before bottling by using a practice known as fining. There are good reasons to do this not least because fining a wine not only makes the wine look clear, but it also lowers the risk that the wine will take on unwanted flavours or aromas in the bottle before it is opened.

In order to ascertain if a wine is suitable for a vegetarian or vegan you need to know how the wine is ‘fined’. The substances used by winemakers for fining can be derived from many sources, some of which are animal based.

For example gelatine (protein from animal bones and cartilage), isinglass (swim bladders from fish) are certainly not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Other fining agents such as Casein (milk protein) and albumen (egg whites) would be considered acceptable fining agents for vegetarians but would still be unacceptable for strict vegans.

Thankfully, for vegans there are non-animal alternatives that do exist and which are used by winemakers all over the world. Some of these include bentonite (impure clay), kieselguhr (sedimentary rock), kaolin (clay mineral) and silica gel. In addition there are winemakers who choose not to fine their wines at all, those who choose to filter only and those that choose to neither ‘fine’ nor ‘filter’ and often declare their wine ‘unfiltered’.

It is worth noting that none of the fining agents actually remain in the wine at all after clarification, but the fact that they have had contact with the liquid is an important consideration for some people.


  • Bentonite (clay base)
  • Kieselghur
  • Kaolin
  • PVPP (polyvinylpolypyrolidone)
  • Use of tangential filter
  • No fining


  • Casein (milk)
  • Albumen (eggs)


  • Gelatine (protein from animal bones / cartilage)
  • Isinglass (fish swim bladders)

A wide range of wines and sparkling wines suitable for both Vegans and Vegetarians are available to buy online by the bottle, case or as part of a mixed case from the Hic! wine shop.

Wine By Region | Spain – Andalucía

Andalucia Wine GuideThe Andalucía region of southwestern Spain is home to the world famous fine wines of Sherry, which takes its name from the town of Jerez and also the dessert style wines of Montilla-Moriles (DO).

These ancient lands have been planted to vineyards for nearly 3,000 years. But this part of Iberia was long under the control of the Moors and Islam and winemaking was discouraged, if not outright forbidden, here from 711 to 1492.

For many visitors to the region Andalucía can appear to be more moonscape rather than landscape; hot and arid, rugged and hard. But remarkably Andalucía’s mountains carry other possibilities. With abrupt shifts in elevation, fascinating dessert wines have been produced within areas such as Montilla-Moriles and Málaga and with temperatures easily surpassing 100°F in the summer, this is an area ideal for the production of fortified and dessert style wines.
Andalucía’s most famous wine area, Jerez (Sherry), receives more rainfall than most other parts of southern Spain. That rain is captured by the special limestone-rich soils of the area, called ‘albariza’, that bake in the summer sun into a hard crust, trapping cool moisture for the vines’ needs.

Understanding Sherry and its complexities is a bit of a minefield and can leave many bewildered by the various styles and types. But it is quite simple: Sherry is fortified wine. However, it’s fortified after the fermentation, so unlike Port, all Sherry begins its life as a dry wine.

Sherry is initially classified as one of two wines: Fino or Olosoro. A Fino is intended to be a light, crisp, delicate wine even at its usual alcohol level of 15% or more. The great Finos are aged in barrel underneath a yeast film called ‘flor’ (or ‘flower’) which protects the wine from oxygen, adding flavours and aromas as well.

Great Finos have the tangy aroma of the ‘flor’ with its distinct almond character and aromas similar to mushroom and sometimes cheese rind. The Finos aged in the bodegas of the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda take on even more of the aromas of the ocean and are given the distinct name of ‘Manzanilla’.

Finos that eventually lose their ‘flor’ will be topped up, fortified to a higher level of alcohol (around 18 percent), and allowed to age into something called amontillado. Amontillado’s contain echoes of the character of the Fino from which they grew, but pecans, honey, caramel, toffee, nuts, dried fruits, and many other aromas and flavours begin to take over.

The other great category of Sherry is Oloroso. These are usually made sweet, although a handful of them are left dry. The term Oloroso can be loosely translated into something powerfully aromatic, and the long barrel ageing required for great Oloroso certainly gives it aromas, which might include toffee, walnuts, prunes, cherries, orange rind, spices, chocolate, and myriad other delectable, dessert-like characteristics.

Sherry is also defined by its ‘solera’ process of ageing. Solera is a system of graduated blending whereby a portion of Sherry is drawn from an old barrel, which is subsequently filled from a barrel of younger Sherry. Barrels of younger and younger Sherries cascade downward so that old and new Sherries are gently and systematically blended together.

The Do’s of Andalucía are:

DO Condado de Huelva – Read more….

DO Jerez-Manzanilla – Read more…

DO Málaga – Read more…

DO Montilla-Moriles – Read more…

DO Sierras de Málaga – Read more…

DO Ycoden Daute Isora – Read more…

Browse a range of sherry and wines from the Andalucía wine region for sale online at the Hic! Wine Shop.

Wine By Region | Spain – Duero River Valley

Duero River Valley

The Duero River Valley wine region is located in North Central Spain and encompasses the wine production area of Castilla y León based around the River Duero. This is the old seat of Spanish nobility when the Moors still controlled the southern portion of the country, and it extends as far northwest as the Bierzo (DO) and the beginning of the Green Spain wine region.

The Duero River travels 460 miles from high in the Sistema Ibérico and forms part of the border between Spain and Portugal. It empties into the Atlantic ocean at Oporto, a town in Portugal that gives its name to a famous Portuguese fortified wine…. Port!

The table wines grown along the banks of the Duero River can be nearly as intense as Port, but are far more practical as drinking red wines. Roasted spring lamb on a BBQ of old-vine cuttings  is fantastic here, and the cold Atlantic seems far away in both climate and cuisine. Though many of the vineyards have only a gentle, round contour, the viticulture here is at high altitude: days are warm and can get hot, but nights are cold thus slowing down the ripening period. Consequently, the wines become rich and ripe, the less expensive ones destined for immediate, delicious drinking, whilst the top wines (Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Pesquera and many others) can last for decades.

The region’s success has seen vineyards expand, and now names such as Sardón del Duero, Arribes, Arlanza, Cigales and other satellite regions are garnering well-deserved attention. In the Cigales DO Rosé wine production has been the mainstay, however, the Tempranillo grape is having a greater impact on their reds now it would seem.

The Tempranillo grape performs extremely well in the DO wine region of Toro too, making powerful, even massive wines. On the other side of the Duero River, the Rueda DO has claimed its own international spotlight with the success of the white Verdejo grape. Here it is likened to (and occasionally blended with) Sauvignon Blanc, however it posses its own unique citrus aromas and pear texture and flavours.

The DO’s of the Duero River Valley wine region are:

DO Arlanza – Read more…

DO Arribes – Read more…

DO Cigales – Read more…

DO Ribera del Duero – Read more…

DO Rueda – Read more…

DO Tierra de León – Read more…

DO Tierra del Vino de Zamora – Read more…

DO Toro – Read more…

To buy wines online from the Duero River Valley wine region of Spain visit the Hic! Wine Shop.

Wine By Region | Green Spain

Green Spain Wine GuideThis region of Spain, exposed to the northern Atlantic, can be cold, wet, and green, hence its name, España Verde or ‘Green Spain’. The wine region stretches from Galicia on Spain’s northwest coast to a portion of northern Spain that includes the Txakoli DOs of the Basque Country. The regions of Ribeiro (DO), Ribeira Sacra (DO), and Valdeorras (DO) enjoy pockets of protection from the cool, sometimes cold, and often wet coastal influences.

Green Spain’s cool and misty climate dictates that wine producers focus on earlier-ripening grapes, especially white varieties. It is the aromatic grape varieties that prosper, with Albariño one of the most successful in international markets. Grown along the coast, or along the rivers that give Rias Baixas (‘lower fjords’) its name, Albariño is the dominant white grape variety producing styles that can vary from crisp and tangy to round and peachy.

As you move inland there are other white grape varieties that fill the vineyards; the rich and complex Godello grape rules in Valdeorras (the “valley of gold”, reflecting Rome’s interest in the place 2000 years ago). Godello, Treixadura and other varieties are grown in the regions of Monterrei and the picturesque DOs of Ribeiro and Ribeira Sacra.

Away from the coast temperatures rise and so red grape varieties are planted; the Mencia grape is arguably northwest Spain’s best red variety producing lip-smacking wines packed with raspberry tones and floral aromas.

Green Spain’s vineyards extend all the way to Basque Country, often backing into the Pyrenees or the Sierra Cantábrica, sheltering more famous wine regions such as Rioja.

The DO’s of Green Spain are:

DO Arabako Txakolina

DO Bierzo – Read more…

DO Bizkaiko Txakolina – Read more…

DO Getariako Txakolina – Read more…

DO Monterrei – Read more…

DO Rias Baixas – Read more…

DO Ribeira Sacra – Read more…

DO Ribeiro – Read more…

DO Valdeorras – Read more…

Shop for wines from Green Spain online at the Hic! Wine Shop.

Wine By Region | Spain – Ebro River Valley

The Ebro River Valley

Snaking between the Sierra de Cantábria mountains and the Sierra Demanda, the River Ebro and its tributaries have helped carve out vineyards that have been celebrated for at least two centuries.

Rioja DOC/DOCa is a wine region that has traditionally carried Spain’s reputation for high quality wine production and is made up of three sub-regions: Rioja Alavesa; Rioja Alta; and Rioja Baja. They each have distinct differences but any notion of a hierarchy between them is now somewhat misguided. As is the fashion with grapes too, for whilst the black Tempranillo is still king, Garnacha, Mazuelo (Carineña), Graciano and increasing numbers of other indigenous grapes are generating new ideas and styles in the region.

Rioja produces a collection of red, white and rosé wines, but it is the reds that account for the greater part of its fame. Ageing classifications have, until recently, been the primary means for separating one wine from another.

Rioja Joven (‘young’) wines are destined for early drinking and they often see little or no oak and are only aged for one to two years before release.

Rioja labelled as Crianza are aged for two years (one year in oak and one year in bottle) and are best suited for early or mid-term enjoyment.

Rioja Reserva wines are aged for three years, often one year in oak and two years in bottle; however there are producers who go above and beyond this requirement with their Reserva wines. Rioja Reserva wines can be age-worthy or offer serious immediate consumption.

Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been regarded as the region’s pinnacle; they are at least five years old (two years in oak barrel and three years in bottle) and are generally ready to drink. But they can age for years too; their long barrel ageing often renders them gentle and complex, rather than big and rich.

Whilst Rioja has often been seen as the traditional area of quality wine production nearby neighbour Navarra has generally been known for quantity. Navarra is a region historically renowned for its rosé wines made from the Garnacha grape, although it is now gaining popularity for quality driven red wines made from more fashionable international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.

Farther south, Calatayud (DO), Campo de Borja (DO), and Cariñena (DO) provide a range of great value wine styles. To the east, vineyards are nestled along the base of the foothills of the Pyrenées, where the cool-climate region of Somontano (DO) can be found.

To buy a selection of carefully chosen wines from the Ebro River Valley wine region of Spain please visit our online wine shop and browse our great range of Rioja for sale online: Hic! Wine Shop

Wine By Region | Spain – The Islands of Spain

The Islands of Spain

Away from the Spanish mainland, Spain also has two wine producing groups of islands, the Balearic Islands and The Canaries. The Balearic Islands is a single province region consisting of the islands of Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera as well as other small islands. The Region is located in the Mediterranean Sea, to the east of the Iberian Peninsula. The capital city is Palma de Mallorca. The area’s winemaking tradition is protected by two Designations of Origin: Binissalem-Mallorca and Pla i Llevant. Quality wines are also produced in small wineries on the islands of Ibiza, Formentera and Menorca.

The Canary Islands is located off the north coast of Africa, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean. This Autonomous Community includes seven main islands: Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. The islands remain phylloxera–free, and so grapes that may exist nowhere else still survive here and amongst which include: Listán Negro, Negramoll, Tintilla (red grapes) and Malvasía, Listán Blanco and Albillo (whites) among others.

Spain’s highest mountain is on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, and most of the island’s vineyards are grown on these fertile, volcanic soils. There are a number of DOs on these islands, and most are very interesting and certainly worth seeking out.