Frederic Grappe talks us through a list of his favourite natural wines and winemakers.
VDF “ Comax Ethylix” 2018 by Le Casot des Mailloles
When Alain Castex started to produce natural wines in the ’90s, he appeared to be a mad man by fellow wine producers. Now regarded as one of the best natural wine producers in France. Jordie took over Alain's legacy and his 3-hectare estate in Banyuls. Alain took this decision as he was getting too old to work on very steep slopes of vineyards looking over the sea, which are typical of Banyuls.
Both Jordie and Alan believe in a more hands-off approach in the vineyard and the vines are not fed, so they grow deep in the soil to get their nutrients, attracting minerals into the finished wine. As with Alan, Jordie believes in using no additives in the cellar, making mostly red wines. This Shirah is medium to full body wine that has a great balance and harmony.
Ribolla, Oslavje or Jakot by Radikon
Radikon is the undisputed best natural wine at the moment “judge it from the balance of its structure as there is more than just an aromatic profile.”
In 1994, Stanko Radikon was the first winemaker in western Europe to produce orange natural wine skin-contact using white grapes.
Radikon was convinced right after the first vintage, that only the use of the whole grape, not just the juice, and prolonged skin-contact, could provide a full expression of the terroir and the grapes. Today his son, Saša, has taken over his father's legacy, producing wine using all the techniques he learned from his late father. Ribolla, Oslavje and Jakot are aged in old oak barrels for at least 5 years, then kept for two winters once bottled, before being released to the public. It’s a slow process that is necessary to show the natural wine's true character.
If you want to work naturally it takes time and you cannot cut corners.
Gazii by Montesecondo
Silvio Messana produces Gazii using the petit natural method which includes only one fermentation in the bottle, unlike the two fermentations method used in the Champagne method. This provides a lighter fresher style. Grapes are 100% San Giovese which originally made it a red sparkling wine. Over time it slowly evolved to its final pink colour.
Gazii is an unfiltered natural wine, slightly cloudy with sediments. This allows it to keep all the best parts of the wine, and providing you could drink the Gazii filtered, you would still choose the unfiltered one for its better taste.
It’s easier to work naturally with sparkling wines without additives or sulphites as the CO2 naturally protects and preserves the wine.
Gazii has a slight bitter finish that gives a nice lift at the end and its 11% vol alcohol makes it easier to enjoy the extra glass, which is always good.
Winifred Rose by Gutt Oggau any vintage
Winifred is a deep colour rosé, and the energy of this wine is incredible. Grapes varieties used are Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt, where the grapes are hand-harvested, de-stemmed and subsequently are skin contact for 1 day then fermentation and ageing in wooden barrels with no filtration. Only few simple passages are needed to describe a very iconic natural wine beside its label. So researched by wine lovers that the few bottles produced are allocated by the end of July and usually by November/December it is almost impossible to find, good luck!
Any natural wine by Domaine de la Tournelle
Domaine de la Tournelle are making natural wines since 1991. The vineyards are located in Jura region of France. The estate is free of synthetic chemicals, with use of compost and manure over the 6 hectares. Pascall and Evelyne are working tirelessly in the vineyard to get the best out of the vines, and this translates in the quality of their iconic natural wines, and the rest is time in the cellar.
Any wine produced by Domaine de la Tournelle spend a minimum of 2 winters in the cellar in old oak barrels and only after that they feel the wines are “strong enough to go and discover the world” are they released to the public.
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