The London raw wine fair was on last week-end, an unique moment to meet 150 growers and taste more than 500 wines from all around the world. I went there with my friend Pauline a talented wine connoisseur. At the artisan wine fair the wine is just natural…
What defines a natural wine ?
Isabelle Lengeron MW and co-founder of the London raw wine Fair explains in this article that “organic and biodynamic essentially govern practices in the vineyard rather than the winery. By contrast, natural wines extend this philosophy into the cellar, and are far stricter about what is and isn’t permitted.” As Alexandre Bauin (Pouilly Fuyssé) claims ‘organic and biodynamic are the tools, natural is the philosophy’.
No pesticides, no chemicals, not even added yeasts, just anything you find in the vineyard.
The philosophy: Seeking for the originel taste of the wine, preserve the soil, respect the terroir and the nature, and for that come back to ancient and traditional wine making method. By definition a natural wine should be alive.
In natural wine the only additive permitted will be the controversial SO2, remember that SO2 is a natural wine component and so a natural preservative. Now the controverse is about the quantity used. In the conventional wine world it’s usually something between 150mg/l (red wine) and 200mg/l (white wine), and still not every conventional or sustainable wine makers will go to this level. But for sure only natural wine makers won’t add any sulfite, and some of them will add something between 30mg/l and 40mg/l. This quantity of SO2 will preserve the wine and keep it alive.
what’s about the taste ?
Let’s be clear the conversation now will go straight to what’s about the natural wine faults ? Reductive, oxydated, brett flavours, and other micro organism infections. The question is should we accept those aromas as default or as natural wine characteristics ?
My answer will be a question: What’s about beer ? We accept 3 kinds of beers lager, ale and lambic. Lambic are made from brett, is it a default ? No just a style. Do you like it ? Some do, some don’t…Are they all strong in flavours ? surely not (and I am not talking about cider…) Maybe we should consider to look at the wine with a more opened mind, just saying.
It’s very important to note that not every natural wines have those characteristics. Actually a lot don’t. so don’t stop your exploration with your first “bad” experience. Choose a domain which have a long time experience with natural wine making. Then in my own observation I can see clearly 2 kind of palates the conventional one and the natural one. You need to get used to natural wines to understand it. Most of the time they need to breathe much more than the conventional wine. Due to their lack of SO2 they don’t like to travel, again depends on the grapes and origin, but still when you don’t know first start with a wine not too far away.
- Choose a recognised natural wine domain
- Open it at least 5 hours before serving it
- Use large glasses
- Take time to swirl it and to observe its evolution.
- Be open minded
Not that adventurous ? Start with biodynamic wines with the DEMETER or BIODYVIN certification, not sure ?Best is to ask to your favourite independant wine merchant.
Here are some great domains to start with:
- Domaine St Nicolas (Demeter, Biodyvin)
- Champagne Fleury
- Champagne Hugues Godme
- Domain Buerklin-wolf, Germany, Pfalz
- Domaine de la Moussière, loire valley
Check on here to find more biodynamic domains
Recognised natural wine domains (we tasted on the LRWF 2017)
- Gratavinum, Spain, Priorat & Montsant
- Mas Martinet, Spain, Priorat & Montsant
- Foradori, Italy, Trentino-alto Adige
- Strasser wein, Switzerland, Uhwiesen am Rheinfall
- Alexandre Bain, France, Pouilly fumé
PS1*: Visiting the raw wine fair with my dear friend Pauline Vicard we found that a lot of white wines were made using the skin maceration, which is normally due to produce orange wines. The reason given to do so is often to express the terroir but most of them tasted the same and they all have a lack acidity that we, wine lovers, appreciate and find necessary to call a wine a great wine. Maybe something to consider for the future of natural wines.
PS2: Even spitting out all day we usually find ourselves very tired after a conventional wine fair, here and not surprisingly nothing, we felt fresh and maybe even more lively than before visiting the artisan wine fair. Thanks to all those vine growers and natural wine makers, the change is happening !