Natural wines have been all the buzz recently, but what are they? I stopped by a wine lab at Florida Wine Academy to get the skinny on the latest wine fab. The fabulous Nicole Ramos was leading the lab and gave us a lot to sip on—both metaphorically and physically. Natural wines are…
- Farmed sustainably, organically, or biodynamically
- Sustainable agriculture is farming in sustainable ways, which means meeting society’s present needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
- Organic farming is a method that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones.
- Biodynamic is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements.
- They are made (or transformed) without adding or removing elements in the cellar
- Intervention is kept to a minimum, no fining or filtration
- And it’s a “living wine”
They are made/transformed without adding or removing anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and ‘intervention’ in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. As such neither fining nor (tight) filtration are used. The result is a living wine – wholesome and full of naturally occurring microbiology. The appearance of natural wines may be cloudy, and they may have more gamey or yeasty aromas and flavors. I personally never sought them out, but I guess I did because Orange wines are natural, and I think they’re super funky and fun.
The first wine we sipped on, Jean-Baptiste Adam Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose, was from Alsace, one of my favorite regions. It has a blend of French and German culture, making it an interesting mash-up of a place. Unlike most other regions in France, the grape is listed on the label. In May 2014, Jean-Baptiste Adam and his family celebrated the 400th anniversary of their family being grape growers and winemakers in Ammerschwihr. This is Crémant made from Pinot Noir grapes. The nose was full of strawberries, raspberries, some funkiness, and earth. It had a nice mouthfeel—it wasn’t so effervescent, but still gave a nice sensation. Nice acidity too.
Wine number two was one I had actually tried before—Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray l’Ancestrale. The l’Ancestrale is a natural sparkling wine made in the pétillant style. The fermentation starts in tank and the wine is then bottled while still fermenting (at around 18-20 grams sugar) and then finishes in the bottle without the addition of any sugar and using only the natural yeasts. It was pale gold with some sediment in it, and it had way more bubbles than the first. It had a funky, ripe nose with yeastiness. The mouth was more muted than I had expected. It was earthy and less fruit forward, but had notes of green apple and there was slight bitterness.
The next wine was Bisci Verdicchio di Matelica 2018 from Italy. Bisci practices organic agriculture, but is not certified organic. To thwart mold and pests, sulfur and copper-based products are used in the vineyards. For nutritional purposes, vineyard owners use “managed” cover crops between the rows of vines. The soil is tilled to avoid competition between the roots for nutrients, water, and oxygen. When needed, organic fertilizer (manure) is used after the harvest. Low doses of SO2 in the wines help preserve the wine’s quality. This wine was pale yellow with a bit of green. It was so fresh and had a floral nose—the best word that came to my mind was pretty. There was slight citrus on the tail end, like grapefruit. It was on the sweeter side than I had expected, but had nice acidity to balance it out. It was refreshing and an easy drinker.
The fourth wine I knew very well—Tears of Vulcan from Day Wines—an orange wine. It is made from Le Beau and Nemarniki Vineyards in Chehalem Mountains AVA in Oregon. Vines grew in volcanic soils and some silty Missoula floods deposits, so they are similar to the Sicilian wine that winemaker Brianne Day was inspired by. The wine is made of 44% Viognier, 36% Pinot Gris, and 20% Muscat. You can read all my notes here. This one is always a favorite of mine.
I was happy to try the next wine—Occhipinti Il Frappato 2011—because I love the Occhipinti SP68 Bianco 2017. Occhipinti is located in Vittoria, in the southwestern corner of Sicily, and winemaker Arianna Occhipinti’s reputation seems to grow with every vintage. Her first vintage was 2004, and she has a total of 10 hectares of Nero d’Avola and Frappato vines that, since April of 2009, have been farmed using biodynamic methods, which she believes has added to the overall expression of the soil. The grapes, planted largely on chalky soils, are trained using albarello or guyot and are left to vigorously grow leaves to maintain freshness. Fermentation for Frappato takes place in stainless steel, though her goal is to eventually ferment everything in cement. This wine, in particular, was pale red, kind of in between ruby. It had red fruit, spice, pepper, and earthiness. It was really dry, but still on the lighter side.
And the final wine—Alois Lageder Tenutae Lageder Lagrein Riserva Conus 2015—was another familiar one to me because I love the Alois Lageder family. I haven’t met them in real life, but I’ve connected with their eldest son on Instagram. I last tried their Pinot Grigio. This wine was made from biodynamically grown grapes and Demeter certified (a weird thing when you start reading into it). The wine is a beautiful color and has a purple tinge. The nose has coffee, dark fruit, earthiness, and smells high in alcohol. It doesn’t taste as funky and has nice tannins, and the fruit continues onto the palate.
All the wines were wonderful in their own way and the company was even better. If you ever get a chance to take a wine lab or class at Florida Wine Academy, you definitely should!