Friday Tasting: The Natural Way

A new phenomena came up recently on the London wine scene:  Natural wine. I find this term a little bit misleading, as all of the wines are the result of a natural process: fermentation. But the true definition of what all the fuss is about is removal of the thing called sulphur.

Lets make a couple of things clear at the beginning. Sulphur is a very useful substance, it has been used by the wine industry for centuries without anyone thinking poorly of it. Another point also to make is that wine naturally contains sulphur most of the time. Sulphur’s function is pretty simple. To protect the fruit aromas in the wine. But then, of course, like all things good, it has to be used in moderation.

This simple chemical reaction of sulphur with the oxygen creates Sulphur dioxide (SO2). It is this good stuff that floats over the wine, sealing it shut – protecting it from oxidation and turning into vinegar.

Sulphur is basically a useful substance, but obviously, when winemakers use it excessively, it has its disadvantages. First of all, it can hijack the nose of the wine. If you have had the joy of opening a wine and a small ‘eau de flatulence’ follows the cork, you can be pretty sure the winemaker has been heavy-handed.

In the meantime – like in all fields of the food and drinks industry – organic, and natural ways are making their way to the attention of the alert consumer. A couple of winemakers started to experiment in making wine without the addition of sulphur. This was the general practice of all our predecessors, but it did not necessarily result in a better quality of wine.

But these new avant-garde makers, equipped with more knowledge on the activity in the wine before, during, and after the fermentation made life is a lot easier and certainly more consistant. Requiring more care, these new buckaroo’s need to protect their wines from microbes, because the only safety barrier to protect the wine are it’s own antioxidant content and not a thing more.

But most of the low sulphur wines I’ve encountered have been massive and solid, and can hold themselves proudly next to any more commercially produced rivals. They are drinking perfectly well. However you have to get used to the idea of having a few different aromas than the “regular” ones. A bit of an overly apple character because of the natural yeast, or a little bit of volatile acidity is sometimes found – but hey, this is what wine used to be for centuries and centuries!

If you have a real interest in the Natural Wine Movement – you can pop down to visit Terroir and Brawn,  restaurants that are there to celebrate this New (Old) Wave of wine. Or pop down and see us today, as we are going to open a bottle at our shop on Borough Market. It is a beautiful Bordeaux, a 100% Merlot, made by Mr J. Duffau, “A Cuvee a Mon Loup”.

Come and have a taste!

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