Wine Drinking No. 2: Biodynamic vs. Conventional, this time in Manchester

Last Friday, I made my way from a foggy London up to Manchester by train with a clinking suitcase full of bottles, the whites wrapped in ice packs. I needn’t have bothered cooling them because it was icy when I arrived into a strangely deserted station. Call it some kind of sixth sense if you like, or some kind of alignment in the heavens, but I had this funny feeling that we might get exactly the same results as my previous Biodynamic vs. Conventional drinking (full write-up here), held in London two weeks ago…

But they were completely different. Just as a quick recap, we all got together to see if a group of non-expert wine drinkers could taste the difference between biodynamic wines and normal ones. In contrast to the London crowd, almost everyone had actually heard of biodynamics. Again, before the tasting they said they felt as if they wanted to like the biodynamic wines more. But this time, the favourite wine from all but one of the five blind pairs of wines was made conventionally.

There was some disparity between the two groups as far as which bottle from each blind pair of wines was the considered the best. With three out of the five pairs of wines, both Manchester and London agreed which was the winner, but on two they did not. Attitudes towards one of these disputed pairs were particularly divergent: the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (New Zealand) from Seresin (biodynamic) was the most highly scored wine of all in London – in Manchester it was the opposite, where it came last and was actively disliked. Its opposite number, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc by Kim Crawford, came 6th in London – in Manchester it came 1st (though I should point out it was a different vintage). There was no bottle variation between the two Seresins that I could detect, and there was little vintage variation between the two Kim Crawfords. Compared to the more restrained Kim Crawford, the Manchester crew considered the Seresin too intense and overpowering, but this assertive trait was seen as a positive attribute in London. It’s often the case with Marlborough Sauvignon – though very popular over the past few years, it can be made in a very pungent style that’s not to everyone’s taste.

One wine that was universally disliked was the Chianti Classico ‘I Colombi’ 2009 by Castello di Querceto (Italy). Although generally considered a good estate, it came second from bottom for both groups. It does have prominent oak influence, and it seemed to be this character in particular that many seemed to find unappealing. Perhaps this oakiness will fade with time to reveal more fruit flavours, but at present it seemed out of balance.

At the other end of the scale, one wine was enjoyed very much by both groups (coming 2nd in Manchester, 4th in London), despite being the cheapest of all – the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine ‘Les Grands Presbytères’ 2009 by Nelly Marzelleau (Loire, France). This is a cracking Muscadet made from 50 year old vines with concentration of flavour and a refreshing, dry, mineral finish. Muscadet is never hugely intense in flavour, but is crisp, fully dry, and works well with food – and is often relatively inexpensive. In the North you can buy it at Corks Out for £11.50 and in the South you can get it from Wholefoods Market for £10.99. Highly recommended.

On both occasions the crowd guessed the biodynamic wine correctly with just six out of ten wines. So it seems that average drinkers can’t really tell the difference between normal wines and biodynamic ones from the taste alone. But it’s certainly fun trying.


Score /100 Preferred wine Bio or Conv Overall Rank Price
Wine 1 Vouvray Brut, Non Vintage, Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau, France 61.5 Bio  =7 £16.99
Wine 2 Vouvray Brut, ‘La Dilettante’, Non Vintage, Catherine et Pierre Breton, France 68 Winner Conv 3 £14.99
Wine 3 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, ‘Les Grands Presbytères’, 2009, Nelly Marzelleau, France 76 Winner Conv 2 £10.99
Wine 4 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, ‘Expression de Gneiss’, 2009, Domaine de l’Ecu, France 63.5 Bio 6 £14.99
Wine 5 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, Seresin, New Zealand 59.5 Bio 10 £16.95
Wine 6 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2011, Kim Crawford, New Zealand 77.5 Winner Conv 1 £14.95
Wine 7 Bourgueil, ‘Cassiopée’, 2009, Domaine de la Chevalerie, France 61.5 Bio  =7 £11.99
Wine 8 St Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil, ‘Les Mauguerets’, 2009, Domaine de la Cotelleraie, France 66.5 Winner Conv 5 £13.99
Wine 9 Chianti Classico, ‘I Colombi’, 2009, Castello di Querceto, Italy 60.5 Conv 9 £13.95
Wine 10 Rosso Toscano, ‘Monteleccio’ 2008, Sesti, Italy 67.5 Winner Bio 4 £16.95


Big thanks going out to Yasminah Beebeejaun for suggesting we do the drinking at her place. Additional thanks to Nicola Headlam (@gastroporn1977) for supplying excellent grub to mop it up, especially the macaroons so moreish they were renamed ‘crackeroons’. Any ideas for themes for the next one in the box below please!