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Low Intervention wines?

At the risk of courting controversy (not for the first time) I am starting a thread for those members who are trying what some describe as “Natural wine.” I am troubled by that phrase because the word “natural” carries connotations that in the minds of various groups of drinkers is meaningless, for others it carries a vague notion of the moral high ground, and some just think it is a fad. I am interested to hear other members’ views.
Whilst France has put into practice a definition (two tier) on a trial basis my own view is that the Natural wine movement is more in the category of aspirational. There is nothing wrong in being aspirational but the current offerings that I have sampled (quite a few) in my humble opinion can really only be labelled as “low intervention.” I accept that “low” is a relative term but it is about the best I can come up with. (please feel free to shout me down). In the sense that at some point sulphites are used, and some copper and sulphur spraying is permitted by some certifying bodies.
Anyway, here is this evening’s wine, Jean-Francois Ganevat is I think from a many generation family who have made wine in the Jura. He has about 10ha. He farms biodynamically (although not yet certified…but if he is then it is very, very recent) wines are fermented in old oak, and this particular one is a bit of a mish mash. It is a blend of Chardonnay (from both the Macon and Jura) plus some Aligoté. Unfiltered and not fined, no added sulphur. Aged in old oak for about a year. Lovely wine, beautiful medium gold, very refined and great fresh fruit flavours, some lemon, lime and pineapple with some green apple, hint of toasted nuts. very dry, great acidity and very compact long finish.

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Few threads already that may be of interest to you:

Natural wine thread:

Sulphites thread:

A friends sells some in his shop, some are really quite good, some are dire. I find they tend to be quite pricey in either camp, and there’s a certain amount of logic to me in the theory that winemaking has evolved with added sulphites to produce better / more stable / consistent wines.

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It will be interesting to know which ones people have tried and their reaction…

@Andrew1990 have you had any from TWS that you would recommend?

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FWIW I like your controversy and I think you’ll find a few members here who enjoy the odd foray into ‘natural’ wines.

I’m a fan of Lapalu in Beaujolais for instance.

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I’ll skip over my (reasonably well documented) issues with Biodynamic and chip in on “low intervention”.

Some of them are great (Andreas Tscheppe Blue Dragonfly really blew me away recently - you’d hope so at £50 a bottle though!), some of them really aren’t but there seems to be a certain level of marketing/hype/cult that believe that Natural automatically means good, which clearly isn’t true.

They also tend to not offer particularly good value. Very few of the ones I’ve tried have ever warranted the price tag purely on the quality of the product, there’s a certain amount of buying into the “brand” as well (I am well aware this happens to a massive degree elsewhere in the wine world too). I am lucky enough to live in an area where I have several wine shops which either specialise in or have a large range of natural wines. Since I enjoy trying new things I’ll often give them a go. I guess what I am saying is I won’t pick a wine purely because it’s natural, but also won’t dismiss it on similar grounds. Regardless of what it is, it has to be good!

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I do enjoy trying Natural wines but to be honest the ones I have bought myself and had at home have been disappointing which is why I tend to leave them for when we go to some of our favourite restaurants who deal in these types of wine.

One of the best I have had is:

Smockshop band ‘Spring Ephermeral’

Absolutely lovely on a nice summers evening!

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Another one that really impressed me was ‘Ismael Gozalo Microbio Sin Nombre’

Not sure if they are stocked in the UK much as I had them both out but would recommend if you can fine them

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I absolutely loved this wine at a community tasting last year

Edit - fact sheet
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Was an excellent random purchase, wasn’t aware of its low interaction status, but it was so vibrant and delicious.

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David
I have not had any from TWS, but have had low intervention/Natural wines from

Ismael Gozalo
Azul Y Garanza
Dominio Urogallo

Sebastien David (Loire)

J-P Reitsch
Durrmann
Ganevat

Radikon
Gravenat (sp?)

Others I cannot recall!

Some bottle variation, one or two completely oxidised, others tasting like cloudy apple juice.

The cost point is that as Natural winemakers aim for organic/biodynamic certification that does cost them considerable sums and you get lower yields.

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There is so much to say about natural wines, it is hard to know where to start.

I think my main point would be to suggest you set aside any preconceptions about what wine “should” taste like - what you have been taught is “high quality”, and what is “faulty”. Also ignore any marketing spiel.

Just concentrate on what’s in the glass. Do you like it or not? I would bet the vast majority of people would like some natural wines and not others. Fine - buy the ones you like and ignore the others. But don’t slag off a whole category because there are some you don’t like, or because someone has told you you shouldn’t like them. Actually, I think that is a good approach with ANY wine.

Personally I like some of the “faults” in natural wines, but not others. Either way, I like the variation and uncertainty, and can tolerate a few misses a lot easier than I can with Burgundy at around £100 a bottle. Yes, I like Burgundy too, but often the stakes there are too high for me now.

(I don’t want to recommend any particular natural wines, as I think it depends far too much on personal preference)

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Broc Cellars is my favourite of the new wave of low-intervention winemakers.

I’ve posted about the Love Red in this forum, which I found fruity and delicious.

" We started making our Love Wines because we want to provide a more affordable everyday drinking wine to a larger market while still espousing the key tenets we believe in — minimal intervention and no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides in the vineyards."

Oh, I forgot to mention, Jancis likes them too.

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Steve
Many thanks for your excellent post. You have, as always, encapsulated all the relevant points much better than me.

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Ismael Gozalo is terrific.

Could you imagine if low intervention /natural wine really became the wine preference of the majority and the impact that this would have on the established wine houses/framework?? (an opinion that one of the Bordeaux producers touched on and how they are having to adapt with an eye to the future but accept the increased financial outlay in the present ) This is what I think drives the slow oozing destain for natural wine from certain quarters.

With that being said, like all wine categories present at the moment, there are some great tasting wines and some awful ones and this is down to the wine maker and grape quality. I mean who is to say that some of the wines we currently think are lovely are in fact only this way because they have been tarted up by additives :man_shrugging:t3:

What have we tried :thinking: too many good ones in bologna natural/LI wine bars but my last one at home was by Vinos Ambiz – Sauvignon Blanc Acacia 2018. It was flat, it had no discernable body, on the nose - not alot really, perhaps a little star fruit, persimmon. On the taste, a faint waft of a zesty lemon forgotten in a fruit bowl for too long.

But at its heart what it had was a wine producer doing his best for the environment and a wine that I know didn’t contain anything that wasn’t already present in the grape. This is the reason I try N/LI wines.

I shall keep exploring and the next ones shall be:

Alfredo Maestro – Consuelo 2018
Kamara Winery – Stalisma White 2019

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Hey Steve,
I think the biggest problem with the whole natural wine category is that its name and entire concept is an oxy-moron. There is nothing that is natural about wine making. From the moment the vines are deliberately planted in the ground, through the viticulture and then vinification process, right up until the fermented juice is put into a bottle, the entire process is created and controlled by humans (I’m aware that grapes naturally ferment from the yeasts found on their skins, but this happens naturally in the earth around the vine they fell from, not in a stainless steel tank). To suggest that one way of doing this is natural and one not is at best naive, at worst arrogant and aloof.

Even with low or minimal intervention wines, there will have been hundreds of decisions the vine grower and/or wine maker will have made to achieve what is finally produced. Even if they just throw the picked grapes into a Qvevri, it will have been scrupulously cleaned by humans first to have any hope of creating something drinkable at the end.

Like most people on this thread I have tasted some delicious wines marketed as ‘natural’ or ‘low intervention’ and have also had some absolute howlers. Wine making has come so far in the last 40 years that now there is no excuse these days for making faulty or bad wine.

Personal taste is of course everything - I don’t like the ‘faults’ in wine (particularly volatile acidity and brett, two of the most common complaints of natural/low intervention wines) and I think there is a very good reason they are, and have been for many years, described as ‘faults’.

However - without wishing to throw the baby out with the bath water, the natural and low intervention wine movement is also a champion of sustainability and more ecological vineyard management which is a wonderful thing. Maybe if the name changed a wouldn’t have such I problem with it…?

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When it comes to ‘no sulphur’ wines a piece written by Hugh Johnson that included the off-putting phrase ‘bacteriological time bomb’ always seems to pop into my head.

That said, I’m always curious to try new things and have had some excellent Southern Rhone wines from biodynamic producer Domaine Gramenon in the past which met the criteria mentioned. Unfortunately, due to the method of production, I never had the confidence to age any of them to see how they developed.

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I’m not surprised as the fact sheet says

No racking or filtering
Lightly filtered (so which is it?)
SO2 added during press and added during bottling

What natural yeasts? From a packet? Is there any such animal?

Yes, there are natural yeasts that exist on grape skins, in the winery and are wild, as opposed to commercial yeasts grown in a lab. Natural or wild yeasts are always tricky, because although they can bring more complex flavours they are rather weak and there is always the risk of a stuck fermentation, that can cause microbial spoilage. Commercial yeasts ferment to dryness usually without any problems.
I cannot explain the apparent contradiction about filtration.
My experience of natural wines is that some SO2 is added but usually only at bottling. If it is a slow press and it is an open one then some SO2 will help prevent oxidation.
One point to make is that Biodynamics is a farming system not a winemaking one. But Demeter now does cover winemaking but a separate second certificate is needed. I am not sure precisely what the regulations are about sulphites but the new French trial regulations for Vin Methodé nature allow for two tiers. One for no added sulphites at all and another up to (I think) 30mg/l. are added.

David, the wine preference of the majority is a bottle at £5.50. (That is about the average price paid in the UK give or take a few pence). The costs for large scale brands/producers (Constellation, Gallo, etc) would be prohibitively high and take several years for them to obtain the certification anyway.
Natural wines are slightly easier to produce in warm dry climates. Bordeaux is a maritime climate and rot/mildew is always a high risk. Spraying in needed far more often than say in California (although they have Pierce’s disease spread by sharpshooter insects so insecticide in much needed).

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