The wine style I want to promote doesn’t come from a specific region, although most of its exponents are French and Italian. More frustratingly still, it has no legal definition and is dismissed by many as a fringe movement peopled by eccentrics, dreamers and random nutters. I’m talking about natural wines.
Natural wines come in various guises, but most are organic or bio-dynamic, use indigenous yeasts and eschew winemaking additives including (in their most extreme form) sulphur dioxide. They are often cloudy, sometimes funky, yet consistently fascinating. You could argue that they fly in the face of modern winemaking, with its insistence on rigorous control in the cellar, but I love the idea that the grapes are expressing themselves, rather than being told what song to sing.
The natural wine movement is growing in importance, thanks to retailers such as Green and Blue, Les Caves de Pyrène, Artisan & Vine, Zelas, Dynamic Vines and Oddbins. It’s significant, I think, that many of these bottles show best with food, which is why Terroirs (owned by Les Caves) has established itself as one of the best wine bars in the world. Natural wines should be adopted by the Slow Food movement. They demand that you sit down, take your time and listen to what they have to tell you. They are wines with a true sense of place.
2008 Clos Ouvert Primavera, Maule (£21.60, 14.7%, Artisan & Vine)
Frenchman Louis-Antoine Luyt has applied Burgundian techniques in Chile’s Maule Valley. This blend of Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and País is elegant, aromatic and finely textured with remarkable finesse and length.
Drink now to 5 years. ***** 18.5
2006 Pétillant Naturel, Thierry Puzelat (£19.99, 13%, Oddbins)
What do you mean you don’t like a naturally sparkling wine that reminds you of a dry cider? Thierry Puzelat’s Menu Pineau (that’s the grape, by the way) is weird and strangely wonderful: cloudy and appley with an undertone of acacia honey.
Drink now. 17. ****
2006 La Stoppa Ageno, Emilia-Romagna (£19.50, Les Caves de Pyrène)
Once described by the Californian winemaker, Randall Grahm, as tasting like “Gewürztraminer on acid”, this blend of Malvasia, Ortuga and Trebbiano is floral and peachy, yet tannic and amber-coloured, thanks to 30 days’ maceration on its skins.
Drink now. 17.5 ****
Originally published in Decanter