Wine Wisdom: Jonny Gibson on all things natural wine
- A Definition
- The difference between natural, organic and biodynamic wine
- Natural wine popularity
- Recommended natural wines
- Upcoming natural wines tastings
I get asked a lot about natural wines at our wine tastings in Brighton. What are they, what do they taste like and are they worth buying?
Let’s start with a definition. Les Caves de Pyrene, the UK’s leading importer of natural wines, puts it like this:
“Natural wines can be described as wine made from grapes that are grown organically or biodynamically (no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilisers) and made using their own yeasts (no added enzymes, no commercial yeasts, no colouring, no acid or added tannin) and the minimum of added sulphur (or none) to truly capture the taste of the grapes, the nature of the vintage and the sense of origin (terroir).”
What’s the difference between natural, organic and biodynamic wine? Organic farming simply precludes using a list of chemicals. Biodynamics is more holistic. It considers the environment and the role of biodiversity in farming. It involves working the soil with certain preparations at certain times of year to bring the vines to health and to ensure that they are resistant to disease. Much biodynamic activity works on natural and lunar cycles. Natural refers to the moment the grapes arrive at the winery. It describes the process of winemaking where the winemaking uses no chemical interventions (yeasts, acids, sugars etc.) – effectively the winemaker is gently guiding the juice rather than “making” the wine.
These types of wines have grown in popularity the past few years. They are made all over the world with hotbeds of activity in France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Spain, California and Georgia (where they have been making wines naturally for centuries). The wines are exciting – they often taste unusual, natural and refreshing, occasionally funky. They tend to be lighter.
People are becoming more interested in provenance and finding wines that have stories and also knowing that what they eat and drink doesn’t have unnecessary additives in it. If you enjoy food made from wild yeast like sourdough bread, live yoghurt and so on then you should warm to the natural wines message and at least want to taste them.
Natural does not always mean well-made or “tastes better” of course so proceed with an objective nose and palate. There has certainly been some disagreement between producers of well known, premium wines who use some interventions in their winemaking and the natural wine movement when it comes to wine quality. To some extent you need to have an open mind about natural wines, many of which can take years to ferment and settle slowly before the winemaker considers them to be ready to drink.
Here are some wines I recommend that you try. There is quite a broad church here covering lighter whites, a skin contact white, light to medium bodied reds and a sparkling wine. The wine shops are all in Brighton & Hove.
- Catherine & Pierre Breton Vouvray Brut Dilettante NV, France – Ten Green Bottles £20
- Orsogna Terre di Chieti Pinot Grigio ‘Ramaro’ 2014 (Skin contact) – Twenty One Wines £15
- Cantina Rallo Baglio Bianco 2016, Italy – Ten Green Bottles £14
- Davenport Vineyards ‘Horsmonden’ Dry 2014, England – Butlers Wine Cellar £15
- Gran Cerdo 2015, Spain – Ten Green Bottles £9.50
- Clos du Tue-Boeuf Touraine ‘Rouillon’ 2015, France – Seven Cellars £17.95
- Judith Beck Burgenland ‘Ink’ 2014, Austria – Seven Cellars £12.95
Upcoming Natural Wines Tasting:
Course Date/Time: Tuesday 6th June 2017, 7pm-9pm
Duration: 2 hours
Written by Jonny Gibson, Head Tutor and Owner of Sussex Wine School, an independent company that runs regular tastings and courses including WSET Levels 1-3 in Brighton (at Hotel du Vin Brighton), Lewes and Tunbridge Wells.
To sharpen up your wine knowledge in 2017 and enjoy and good evening out take a look at the Sussex Wine School tastings and courses coming up in Brighton and Tunbridge Wells at www.sussexwineschool.com
Featured and article images sourced from: Les Caves De Pyrene
Tags: Biodynamic Wine, Brighton, Butlers Wine Cellar, Hotel Du Vin, Jonny Gibson, Les Caves De Pyrene, Natural Wine, Natural Wine Tasting, Organic Wine, Red Wine, Seven Cellars, Sparkling Wine, Ten Green Bottles, Twenty One Wines, White Wine, Wine Lovers, Wine Wisdom
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