I looked up ‘furore’ on the internet and found that the word is used in reference to a wave of enthusiastic admiration; a craze. Maybe back in March 2012 this is what the wine world experienced with the advent of ‘natural wine’ which was beginning to appear and be championed by wine experts such as David Harvey.
Along with this movement has appeared such extremes as cloudy wine, spritzy still wine, orange coloured wines and jazzy alternative labels. As a child of the swinging sixties I always like a good ‘craze’, so in the spirit of exploration I made it this year to the Raw Wine show in London for some research. The style is larger than the variety or appellation so my choice is the ‘natural wine’ category of wines that is presently knocking on the door of the wine establishment and pushing the global industry sideways. Is this furore, I ask, a call to turn back the clock to those care-free days of wine-making, when wine was something anyone could do easily?
In the UK these remind me of wine sometimes in blue bottles, sometimes raffia-clad, and presented on gingham table clothes usually next to a candle and tasting – well, okay if you were lucky? In the words of wine buff David Harvey, natural wine is wine with nothing added and nothing taken away, that is no chemicals and additives, no selected yeasts or improvement processes (such as filtration). The grapes are grown organically expressing the beauty of the land clearly in the wine, flavour-neutral vessels are used, with no barrel maturation and a minimum sulphur added (that’s the bisulphite). Excusing the sixties link, it’s wine made in concrete and clay (hint: Unit 4 + 2).
For a chance to admire what in seven years has been achieved, I suggest looking for Le Quai à Raisins Syrault sulphite free wine from the Aubais limestone plateau, Languedoc, France. I met the producers in London and a happy and clever bunch they are. My recommendation, a Cinsault-Syrah blend - the fruit and structure of Syrah and the floral and aromatic notes of Cinsault grapes – is a truly flavoursome and food friendly wine. One topic not widely in the public domain in wine labeling in 2012 was the idea of ‘informed choice’. With this advance all bottles have to carry a ‘contains sulphites’ warning when the free and bound sulphur level reaches above the natural level of 10 mg/L.
Let’s therefore cheer the natural wine movement that has been successful in raising this potential health issue by dropping sulphite levels below 50 mg/L and even to zero, and at the same time drawing attention to the nasty effects of too much sulphite, minimal for most drinkers, but critical for some, and why shouldn’t everyone be able to enjoy good wine. In our present awareness of low preservative tolerance it’s refreshing to know of a ‘dropping out’ culture among peace-loving natural winemakers, fifty years after the crazy Summer of Love.
Aubais, Languedoc, France
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