NATURAL WINE

Friday, October 30, 2020

In recent times there has been a growing murmur/rumble about “Natural Wines” and more recently about “Clean Natural Wines” – which tends to suggest that most of our wines are either “unnatural or artificial” and now “dirty” as well.

So far there is no exact definition of “Natural” as there is for Organic and Biodynamic – both of which are clearly defined. In principle, naturally made wine has had less manmade interference in its production than conventional wine.  When making normal wine the winemaker uses a range of additives, such as yeasts, acidity adjustment, micro bacterial inhibitors and sterilizers to aid and protect their wine. Whereas true natural winemakers only (possibly) have Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) in small doses at their disposal. They rely on natural yeasts for fermentation and the grapes arriving into the winery in pristine condition, as they have no other tools in their tool kit.

So on the surface, natural winemaking seems to be simpler than normal winemaking as there are less variables involved. However, this lack of tools, means that the making of a clean, natural wine without these backstops, requires greater skill and expertise in order to avoid flaws in the wine they make. Some winemakers achieve this and produce excellent natural and stable wines that have less inputs into them and produce a clean, stable wine.

However, in recent times I have seen and tasted a number of natural wines that were flawed, making them – not good wines, and in a few cases almost undrinkable. I actually received one sample of a white wine in a sparkling wine bottle, that was so cloudy it looked like dirty dish water. I promptly re-packed it and marked it “Return to Sender”.

The recently coined tag, “Clean Wine”, is nothing more than a marketing abomination that should be completely disregarded and ignored, as it infers that other wines are “dirty” and theirs is “clean”, which is not really the case. All wine made in Australia is clean and safe to drink. Yes, theirs may (perhaps) be more natural but it is all clean wine. Boycott anybody who is that shonky that they call their wine “Clean”!

Natural wine is nothing new. Georgia (the country) has been making natural wines for over 8,000 years with no inputs other than the grape bunches into clay qvervi, sealing them up and coming back and syphoning off the wine the next spring/summer. No additives, no oak, no preservatives, etc. You can’t get any more natural than that!

In closing I want to iterate that I drink wine for the flavour, not the alcohol content (lighter or higher).  Two of the fantastic wines I have enjoyed in recent times were a 25-year-old Riesling from Dr Ernst Loosen that was a Trockenbeerenauslese and if I remember correctly, it had just on 8% alcohol. It was nectar of the gods! At the other end of the scale, is the Warrabilla Wines Parola’s Reserve Durif 2009 that had 18% natural alcohol (no fortification) which was sooo big, rich, round and smooth that the high alcohol was unnoticeable. A truly magnificent wine!

Nor do I drink wine for its Naturalness (minimal intervention, minimal chemicals, minimal handling).  IF it is Organic, Biodynamic and/or Natural and tastes brilliant, then those attributes are a bonus, but they are not the reason for me seeking out that wine in the first place.

So as wine scribes have been saying since the times of ‘Pliny the Elder’ – “Life is too short to drink bad wine” – so disregard the marketing puffery and wild claims and go for the flavour of the wine. After all there are well over 20,000 new wines/labels/vintages to try each year.

Excuse me I have to go and try to do “my bit” towards trying them all – last year I tried/reviewed 2,552 of them – a long way to go!!!

This Week's Wine Review:

Thanks to the Adelaide Cellar Door Festival, three years ago I had the opportunity to visit and meet the delightful family at THE CUTTING wines at Stonewell, in the Barossa Valley. THE CUTTING team consists of Daniel (viticulturist), Belinda (winemaker from South Africa), their two young sons (the most important winery helpers!) and Daniel’s parents, Rod and Jude (who planted the vineyard in 1998 and tended it until fairly recently).

It is said that if you only do one thing, you have to do it bloody well in order to survive and thrive. Well, that is exactly what Belinda, Daniel, et al. do – they only make Shiraz and then only one batch/blend each year. AND this they do exceptionally well! I have tasted each of their releases since the initial 2014 vintage and they are all cracking expressions of Shiraz. Each a tad different, reflecting the evolution in the winemaking style as well as the variations in the seasons, but nonetheless all excellent, delightful wines.

The current vintage is the 2018 THE CUTTING BAROSSA VALLEY SHIRAZ which is the reason behind today’s review. I have just tasted it and was blown away by the elegance and sophistication of this sensational wine. Unlike many Barossa Shiraz that are big & brassy, this wine is medium-bodied, with lashings of delightful flavours and a svelte, appealing finish, making it very elegant and oh, so drinkable! It has an alluring, enticing, bouquet redolent with plums, a dash of spice, a hint of vanillin oak and a smidge of earthiness. The palate is bursting with slick, delicious flavours, excellent depth and balance and a tight, grippy, youthful finish that just needs some time to round out and mellow. If you have some patience, this wine will amply reward with 2-4 years in the cellar and come out the other end as a brilliant, delicious, sophisticated Barossa Shiraz.

I am not the only one impressed, as it recently won a gold medal at the Barossa Wine Show!!

So check out their website for one of the most elegant and sophisticated Barossa Shiraz around.

PS: It is not at all expensive for such quality Barossa Shiraz.

Cheers, have a great week and enjoy top quality Aussie wines.

Winery Link: www.the-cutting.com.au