It ain't natural!

Friday, April 8, 2022

Back on the 25th of February I had a bit of a rant about “Clean” wine – Well, today I am talking about Natural wine. Not ranting, just talking.

Currently, there is no legal definition of what constitutes “natural wine”. Die-hards define it as having no chemical additions at all, whereas more moderates define it as having the minimal necessary additions to ensure the safety and quality of the wine. This the die-hards label, “low intervention”, and thus the argument began!! There is a verbal war being waged out there as to what means what and who can call what, what.

So almost everybody in the Natural camp agree and acknowledge that the grapes must have been grown organically or even bio-dynamically – so far so good – no argument in the vineyard. Then, we get into the winery and this is where the “bun-fight” starts, with one side saying nothing (zero-zero) is allowed to be added to the wine. Whereas the other side says – Yes, it has to be fermented using natural yeasts, no added chaptalisation (added sugar), no filtration either BUT a smidge (minimal amounts) of sulphides to stabilise and preserve the wine is OK. They argue that this minute addition will stop the wine from going off too soon and help preserve the wine as the winemaker intended it to taste like. Unfiltered wine still has the dead/dormant yeast cells in the wine and without a modicum of sulphides, under certain circumstances, the yeast could re-activate and cause secondary fermentation in the bottle thereby ruining the wine.

The hard liners say – tough, that is the luck of the draw, while the moderates say we can add a drop of sulphides (like most of the food we eat has) and prevent this from happening without tainting or altering the flavour of the wine. This would be fine if all wine were consumed shortly after it was made and therefore did not need any preservative to ensure durability, like the homemade wines that the old Mediterranean men make at home and drink within a few months of making it. In the real commercial world, many “preservative free” or natural wines sit on a shelf for quite some time and therefore without preservatives can start to deteriorate. Imagine if your food items started to go off before you got around to using them, i.e. you had to go to the shops and buy fresh groceries every single day, trusting that the shopkeeper had not had the item for long enough, for rot or deterioration to set in – i.e. they were selling you edible food.

Another problem with the term “natural” is that it has been badly abused and overused in many other industries, especially in the food and cosmetics industries, so that it lacks the credibility it once had.

Like a number of other contentious issues in the world of wine (screwcap vs cork, glass bottle vs alternative packaging, etc.) this will not go away anytime soon. Therefore, until such time as there is a legal definition on these terms, I strongly suggest that you read the label very carefully when choosing a wine making claims, so as to determine exactly what the producer means by the terms they use on the label.

Personally, I am in favour of adding a smidge of sulphides so that my wine does not go off before I get around to enjoying it and as such I laud the increasing number of winemakers who rightly label their wine “Minimal Intervention” – it gives me the comfort that they care both about the environment as well the quality/drinkability of their wine when it reaches me.

So I say, cheers to the minimalists – even if it “isn’t natural”!!

This Week's Wine Review:

This week I am reviewing a very special DURIF. I have always been a huge fan of DURIF, ever since the late 1980s when I first encountered the magic elixir produced by Mick Morris, of Morris of Rutherglen. In those days, Rutherglen was DURIF, but over the next few decades DURIF spread successfully to a number of other wine growing regions, especially the Barossa, Riverland and in particular the Riverina. Where both De Bortoli Wines and Calabria make outstanding, ready to drink DURIF.

For the last decade I have been singing the praises of Calabria’s 3 Bridges DURIF. A big, rich, round wine that is raring to go when released. Well, Calabria has just released another DURIF. This one is very special as it is a one-off, 50/50 blend of Riverina and Barossa DURIF produced to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Calabria Family Wines.

Over the course of that journey their DURIF has gone from being an unknown to being the multi-award winning flagship of the family’s wine range.

The CALABRIA FAMILY WINES 75TH ANNIVERSARY RELEASE 2019 RIVERINA/BAROSSA DURIF is a sensational wine that is very big, with deep, dark, inky purple colour, delightful vibrant aromas of dark fruit, raisins, plums and a hint of dates.  The palate is also big and rich, oozing with lashings of deep dark fruit, a splash of liquorice and raisins balanced by solid, powerful, yet elegant tannins, making it a sensational mouthful of quite complex flavours. It finishes with a very smooth, lingering finish which leaves the palate asking for, no begging, for more.

This is an outstanding DURIF that is raring to go right now and does not need to be closeted away for eons to show at its best.

A truly fitting wine to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of this exemplary wine family.

Salute to Bill Calabria AM, the family and all the gang involved in Calabria Family Wines!

Winery Link: