Is Chemical natural?
This Saturday, Julien Nemerlin was holding the “Salon des vins Natures” at Liège (Belgium close to Brussels, Antwerpen, Gent, and everywhere else in Belgium, even close from France).Liège is well-known for its waffles (very different from Bruxelloise waffles if you were asking) and for Sandrine Goeyvaerts (La PinardotheK) but not really for wines, further more nature wines, so I needed to investigate, for that I came with Pauline from les vins de Pauline. I am not gonna pretend here that I am convinced by the “nature wine movement”, those who came to my evenings knows how carefully I explain all the differences between “traditional”, “sustainable”, “Organic” and “Biodynamic” and how I refuse the concept of natural wine! No it’s not! Wine is a product from thousand years of “savoir faire” but of course, as well as the majority of wine lovers I take attention to the chemical use inside the wine production. But what do we really mean with chemical? Fermentation for instance, is it not a natural chemical process? If we don’t control it, would we have wine? Sulfite is it not a natural product of the fermentation process? Chemical processes exist in nature, and after thousand years of “Savoir-faire” we use them to produce wine as well as to cook. So the question with “Nature wine” might be more about the synthetic use and the addition of extra components, that’s why I prefer the english term “Raw wine” than the french version “Nature Wine”.
What is a Raw Wine?
IRL (#spoiler: In Real Life) there is no true legislation but a simple idea: Do not use any chemical, do avoid any addition into the wine. A simple idea but not as simple to apply and this for obvious reasons: Grapevine is sensitive to
-Climate, meteo and rot
It means that if you are not using any help to control the viticulture (no chemical, no pesticides, no fertilizing), to keep your winery sane (to avoid brettonomyces invasion) to stabilise your wine (no added sulfite) depends on your talent (or maybe on your luck) you can so produce 2 things: -Wine
-Something else from grape juice to pony dung juice.
The only one truth about nature vinification is that with no external addition your product will express the terroir, in which I include the wine maker.
Don’t count on me to tell you who produce the pony dung juice, I forgot his name straight away, but one tips when you go to a wine fair, always ask first to taste the entry-level wine, this one will show you the wine maker style and might help to gain some time. Julien Nemerlin also had prepared some routes to follow: Fun en bulles, to taste different sparklings, OVNI (UFO) to taste special productions, Cépages rares (rare grapes)…this rich idea gave us fun, help us to select our priorities and demonstrated how much Julien knows his exponents and how seriously it takes his wine fair.
Stéphanie Roussel: nature by herself
It is said that Normandy is about green grass and rain, Stéphanie undoubtedly was the exception there and when she took over her domain in 2002 in Côte du Marmandais (south est of Bordeaux), she expelled the clouds. Her wines taste like her personality: powerful, sunny, gourmand. She plays with her vine and she creates “des vins étonnants” (surprising wines). Her best creation is the Triple S, but it is so well-known that I prefer to talk about the other 3 ones.
Three different trips
I tasted “le blanc qui tente” made from Semillon aged for more than 100 years, refined pearl, with a onctuous palate, it gives a very nice wine probably as its best with japanese food or a saffron risotto.
The côte du Marmandais more classic and classy, gives liquorice, black fruit such as black currant, black cherry, a rich and well-balanced palate, with well-integrated tannins. A richer Bordeaux AOC like and in my point of view perfect with pork, BBQ or duck.
My favorite the 100% Cabernet Franc, Franc pied, which means non hybrid and so from before the phylloxera pandemic, I loved each wines but this was a revelation. A pure concentration of black fruit inside a velvety gloves. This wine can last for another ten years, I will drink it on its own as I love this kind of full-bodied wine but for sure is a meaty wine, and can also be paired with the south-west culinary specialities.
Julien Frey: The delicacy of minerality
In Alsace, parcelled selection is the rule. The Alsatian soil is a geological mosaic (granite, sandstone, schist, clay, loess and other component) and the inclination or in an other word the exposure orientation are the 2 main factors affecting the taste of Alsatian wines after the kind of grape. At the Domaine Frey they produce 2 cuvées of their wines when the vintage deserves it: the “Classic” every year, and the “Quintessence” on great vintage such as 2012.
Frey wines, my Quintessence selection
2013 was still closed, Julien said they had to let some residual sugar (between 3g and 6g) in some of the wines to reduce the acidity. The 2012 wines represent the Alsatian typicity, no big surprise, they are pleasant even if it’s a difficult vintage, the 2012 Pinot noir is called Harmonie and you couldn’t find another name for this typical Alsatian Pinot noir. Dominique and Julien signature is definitely “Minerality” this is something you got in all the wines. My preference goes for the Quintessence selection, and particularly the 2012 Pinot noir very surprising for its substantial body, and the Riesling for its superb expression of minerality. Both are bottled with a glass cork, so classy!
Sébastien Mann: The action man in real
Sébastien Mann is so full of energy that you cannot take a net picture, and this energy you find it into his wines. Tasting the Crémant d’Alsace the perfect tension and the minerality tell he has been trained in Champagne and did I tell you about parcelled selection in Alsace? We stayed at his stand for an hour, 4 wines of each kind of grape to taste, he produces more than 30 different wines (they talk about theirselves as “generation terroir”, using massal selection, Pinot noir from the epenaux in Burgundy. The Mann signature: spiciness and tension. the perfect balance between acidity minerality and peppery. And so I recommend before all their Pinot Gris. Gosh… not less than 4 Pinot gris, and all are brilliant. If you have to choose only one, go for the Pinot Gris lieu-dit Rosenberg 2012, fan of dessert wine select the Pinot Gris SGN Letzenberg 2009.
My Mann Selection
What I kept from this tasting was 3 unusual wines for what they show about Sebastien personality. “Le mouton bleu” made from 100% Sylvaner, because this grape has suffered of a bad reputation due to its lack of taste, the mouton bleu has a very expressive nose, white flower, citrus and wet stone, the mouth express tension and roundness, well-balanced with a nice final. The Ortel for its originality as it’s from a complantation vineyard (Sylvaner, muscat, Pinot gris and Gewürztraminer), the nose expresses the Muscat and the Gewürztraminer (Honey, flower, peach) with delicacy, the mouth is full, round, velvety a very good balance, a nice wine to make people discover those grapes. Finally the Pinot Gris Rosenberg for its right expression of the terroir and the perfect balance between pepper and tension, and a long final. You need more than one day to understand the Mann wines, they take part of the Pique-Nique at the vineyard day on the 24th of May 2015, an opportunity Alsatian wines lovers shouldn’t miss. Find more about here.
First you stop there for the labels, then you stay for the Amiel family story of 14 generations of wine makers. Today hold by 2 brothers Aymeric and Jordan. Aymeric has been trained has an international Wine & spirits trader at the ESC Dijon made some vinification experiences in Argentina, chile, California and south africa, and his brother Jordan studied traditional chinese therapy, which awake him to the importance of nature diversity and respect. Bref, At Domaine des Amiel everything is made by hand, with no added sulfites after the harvest and only when is necessary at the bottling (exe: Pink wine), the grape selection is completed in the vineyard, and so the grapes start the vinification straight away when arriving at the winery. The fermentation is naturally made with the indigenous yeasts, no addition of any sort. Their first cuvée was released in 2013, before that the family used to sell their production to the cooperative. The range is large: 2 Pet’Nat (Natural sparkling wine) one pink and one white, 4 AOP (Appellation d’origine protégée, quality wine certified) du Languedoc and 7 IGP (indication Géographique protégée, vin de pays) de Thongue in which they can express all their personality. The distinction is made in 2 kind of wines, La gamme des frères (Brother’s range) a celebration to the freshness, juice and fruit and la gamme Hommage (Hommage range) with wines named as some family ancestor, like Jean their grand father. Fan of Vermentino, Grenache blanc, Syrah, Grenache noir and Cinsault stay here, and taste the new flavours of Languedoc-Roussillon which is still badly treated into the wine world.
To be franc we stopped here first because of the Pineau d’Aunis, it is so rare to find it…Elisabeth and Benoit are not only a couple, they are in love, really, I know it’s hard to believe that it still exists but it’s true. They are lovers and not only loving each other but loving their terroir. They brought some stones to show how it affects the taste in the white wine made from Chenin Blanc and in their red wine made from Pineau d’Aunis. This last grape sometime called Black Chenin is told to be the chenin blanc ancestor, its red grape with a white flesh, similar to pinot noir, tastes very peppery with no astringent sensation at all. It’s a perfect combination with fish, white meat, really good to pair with chinese food or pad thaï, I won’t go necessarily with spicy food. They work Biodynamicly with a biodyvin certification.
Stones from Jasnières
Marie Chauffray’s daughter and her smile
I cannot finish without a word on one of my favorite appellation. Since 2004, 10ha cultivated in biodynamic certified Demeter, with the idea of creating a natural reservoir for the flor and the fauna. Those wines have everything from their terroir, the 400m of altitude help to cool the climate, peppery, earthy, velvety, black currant, those wines are as strong as delicate. My favourites “La reserve d’O” 2012 just followed by “Hissez O”.
Terrasses su Larzac, Reserve d’O selection
Want to know more about “vins natures” ? find here the next salon des vins natures in France list, the raw wine fair in London on the 17th and 18th of May 2015.