Whilst it’s ultimately a subjective decision by the wine maker where the arrow sits along the scale, the International Riesling Federation has gone to some lengths to guide the accuracy of the pointer. After all, that’s the whole point; to remove some of the uncertainty when choosing Rieslings in terms of their flavour profiles.
As you can see, there are four areas into which a wine can be placed; dry, medium dry, medium sweet and sweet. The aim is to move beyond the overly simple “dry”/”not-dry” alternative when it comes to describing a Riesling’s taste.
Taking acid and sugar measurements as in grams per litre, and using the benchmark that the pH levels of most Rieslings will be between 2.9 and 3.4, so the base pH is 3.1 most wine makers are working with, then (using the IRF’s own explanation):
Dry: have a sugar-acid ration not greater than 1.0. Thus a wine with 6.8 grams of sugar and 7.5 grams of acidity would be in the same category as a wine with 8.1 grams of sugar and 9.0 grams of acid. Similarly, a wine with 12 grams of sugar and 12 grams of acid would be classified as dry.
Notice also that wines that are totally or “near-totally” dry (such as 4 grams per liter) will have a much lower ratio. For instance, a wine with only 3 grams of sugar and a total acidity of 6 grams per liter will have a ratio of .5, and clearly the wine is dry.)
Medium Dry: Here the ratio is 1.0 to 2.0 acid to sugar. Example: a wine with 7.5 grams of acid could have a maximum sugar level of 15.0 grams. And if the pH is above 3.3, it moves to Medium Sweet, and if the pH is as low as 2.9 or lower, the wine moves to Dry.
Medium Sweet: The ratio here is 2.1 to 4.0 acid to sugar. Example: a wine with 7.5 grams of acid could have a maximum sugar level of 30 grams. And again, the same pH factor applies as a level two wine: if the pH rises to 3.3, you move up to Dessert, and if the pH drops to 2.9 you move to Medium Dry. And if the pH is 2.8 or below (highly unlikely), the wine could be called Dry.
Sweet: Ratio above 4.1, but using the pH adjustment, a sweeter wine with a ratio of, say, 4.4 might actually be moved to Medium Sweet if the pH is significantly lower.
Whether or not your mathematical/chemistry knowledge makes this intelligible or not, it is clear that these are not arbitrary arrows designed to force a wine into a more marketable position as far as sweetness goes. The only caveat the IRF draw attention to, a “work in progress”, is the effect of alcohol on human perceptions of sweetness, and the particular type of sugar (glucose, fructose, etc.).
It is a pretty good start however, so keep an eye out for Rieslings with the scale and see where your preferences fall along it.
This is a wine that has so many facets, both in terms of its history and its aroma/flavour profile, it’s hard to better when it comes to a brilliant Australian white. The name harks back to Joseph Gilbert who named this area of the Eden Valley after his home in Wiltshire back in 1847. The contours part refers to the way the vine rows twist and turn around the gentle undulations in the hillsides, following them laterally rather than as square “blocks” imposed upon the landscape. There are wine growers today who are just now trying to emulate what happened naturally as a matter of course many decades ago in Pewsey Vale. It is also the designation used for this “Museum Release” Riesling, which is another way of saying “we’ve sat on it for a good few years so you’ll reap the benefits in the glass without having to”.
It is the Eden Valley’s first vineyard, enjoying an elevation some 250 metres higher than the Barossa Valley floor, and thus white varieties such as Riesling can thrive up here where they’d be punished down in the Barossa. The Riesling clone used at Pewsey is eponymously-named and can be traced back to some of the first vine cuttings brought to the country by James Busby.
Take a vintage like the ’05 (pictured above) and the extra few years before cracking the seal have added to the toasty/lemongrass aromas but retaining so much vitality thanks to the crisp acidity you’d imagine it lasting (and, all importantly, improving, for another 20 years). The current 2007 vintage sports a new addition to the back label (pictured below), the International Riesling Foundation’s innovation to categorise Riesling according to a scale running from “dry” through to “sweet”. This idea aims to avoid the all-too-common misconception wine drinkers have here in the UK (and especially the more important American market) that Riesling equals medium/sweet German wine.
It’s another nice piece of Pewsey history that this was the first winery in Australia to use Stelvin screwcap. It’s still a matter of debate amongst many as to the pros and cons of cork versus screwcap; Pewsey made the decision back in 1977.
Pewsey Vale “The Contours” Riesling 2006/7 - £15.90 (£14.31 if buying 6 or more)
You’re looking at a line-up that’s akin to a Ferrari, Bugatti and Lamborghini here; three Tuscan greats that are all Sangiovese in purezza. Fontodi’s “Flaccianello della Pieve” 2009 is a selection of the best Sangiovese from the Fontodi vineyards. It’s by no means “limited”, with a production twice that of their “Vigna del Sorbo” Chianti Classico Riserva (some 60,000 bottles); a Tre Bicchieri winner. Isole e Olena’s “Cepparello” 2008 (note it’s under Stelvin screwcap, and although it could now be allowed to be classified as Chianti Classico Riserva, they’re sticking to the original designation outside, which allows for this) picked up the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards Sangiovese Trophy. Finally, Conti Costanti’s Brunello di Montalcino 2008 is perhaps not as well known as Brunello’s “big guns”, but their modest size is outweighed by their knack with the variety in this most demanding of regions.
Expensive, yes; but then again I believe that Italian wines at this level are, paradoxically perhaps, amongst the best value wines on the planet. Think cru classe Bordeaux (but not having to wait a decade before broaching them), or top-flight Napa Cabernet as probably a good bit more pricey, but nowhere near as versatile with food, or as satisfying, and you have premier league Sangiovese pinned down.
You know someone’s taking their Italian wine seriously when they order all three in a week; these are destined for Cornwall’s premier Italian wine destination, Fifteen Cornwall.
Fontodi “Flaccianello della Pieve” 2009 – £52.50 (£47.25 if buying 6 or more)
Isole e Olena “Cepparello” 2008 – £54.70 (£49.23 if buying 6 or more)
Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino 2008 – £46.30 (£41.67 if buying 6 or more)
Selvapiana is in Chianti Rùfina, the smallest of the Chianti sub-regions, located to the east of Florence, with a continental climate and vineyards that are at 400 metres or more above sea level. Wines from Rùfina are often cited as being more fragrant and with more pronounced acidity than those of Chianti Classico. Altitude plays some part in this, as does a pass in the nearby Apennine mountains to the north which allows cooling breezes to reach the vineyards. This has led to a widespread belief that the wines from here are the longest-lived of all Chianti; Nicolas Belfrage (The Finest Wines of Tuscany & Central Italy) cites a tasting in Florence in the ’90s with the Tuscan big names putting forward their older vintages (including Antinori, Frescobaldi and Biondi-Santi) and the 1947 Selvapiana unanimously cited the best.
The estate’s history goes back centuries, with the Giuntini family acquiring it in 1827 and the current incumbent, Francesco Giuntini Antinori (he doesn’t use the last name, from his mother’s side, not wanting to piggyback on that side of his family’s fame) taking Selvapiana’s reputation to new heights. The day-to-day running of the estate is now undertaken by Federico and Silvia Masseti, Francesco’s adopted inheritors (and children of his estate manager), for he didn’t marry.
Awarded the coveted ‘Snail’ symbol in the Slow Wine guide, this is one of those wineries whose size is not modest – a production of around 200,000 bottles annually from some 60ha of vineyard – making their insistence upon organic methods all the more impressive. Indeed, the Giuntinis have made a point of focusing their attentions upon first-class vineyards key to the burgeoning acclaim for their wines. In 1988 a programme of replanting with new clones and massal selection from the famous “Bucerchiale” vineyard began and is now complete. They differ from other high-quality producers, according to Belfrage, in not bunch-thinning, instead choosing to keep yields under control by aggressive pruning (reducing the fruiting arm by 50% to 40-50cm), little if any fertilisation, and fastidious canopy management.
Consultant Franco Bernabei is also employed to assist the Giuntinis in their endeavours, a man whose touch with Sangiovese is legendary. Starting out with Selvapiana in 1978, Bernabei went on to play key roles in the development of such Tuscan greats as Fontodi’s “Flaccianello” and Fèlsina’s “Fontalloro”.
The flagship wine is the Chianti Rùfina Riserva “Bucerchiale”, a single-vineyard, 100% Sangiovese first produced in 1979, when technically it shouldn’t have been called a Riserva since the regulations didn’t allow for a pure Sangiovese until the 1990s. Whilst the oak influence is tempered by only using 10% new, the consensus seems from all whom I’ve read that this is a wine that excels when the growing season is just right, and needs a little time to mellow and soften. Of course this tends to mean it’s outshone in comparative tastings by more “internationally-styled” Chianti, but is capable, as Belfrage notes, “of outlasting almost any other wine Tuscany can put up.”
Others agree. Tom Hyland: “…not just one of the most accomplished examples of Chianti Rufina, it’s simply one of the best possible realizations of any Chianti” (Beyond Barolo and Brunello). And Ian D’Agata:
…epitomizes everything great Chianti should be (but unfortunately often isn’t): it has a medium- light hue typical of sangiovese; aromas of violets, porcini, and strawberries; and loads of crispy juicy redcurrant, strawberry, and licorice flavours with mouth-cleansing fresh acidity and tannins.
The Ecco Guide to the Best Wines of Italy
The normale Chianti Rufina shouldn’t be overlooked however, offering, I think, tremendous value when compared with similarly-priced Chianti, no doubt in part due to the decision to not produce a Riserva since 1997 and instead incorporate that fruit into this wine.
There are wineries where the place and ageing potential aren’t words that are bandied about but tangible proof of their history. Such places are immune to passing fashions, hence an example to follow for anyone looking for local character in wine. We are increasingly fascinated by the world of Selvapiana, a farm that’s a symbol of Tuscan wine history. With impressive consistency and admirable restraint, Federico Giuntini produces wines that stand out for their cellarability and ageing capacity, a paradigm of Tuscan Sangiovese. At Selvapiana, everything seems to happen simply and naturally. And assigning a Snail symbol is just as natural.
Slow Food Editore
Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2010 – £12.80 (£11.52 if buying 6 or more)
Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva “Bucerchiale” 2007 – £20.30 (£18.27 if buying 6 or more)
Over on Jamie Goode’s blog at the moment he’s running a series of posts on what “minerality” in wine actually relates too, or at least he’s trying (http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/wine-science/the-mystery-of-soils-and-wine-part-1). It’s a term that I conveniently skipped over in my own post a few back on “nebulous tasting terms”, precisely (as opposed to “precision”) because it’s a topic I too find fascinating and very much so up-in-the-air.
A relatively new term, used perhaps far too readily as an excuse to override any manner of other options, here’s what Jancis Robinson had to say about it back in the Financial Times last year:
But there is one relatively recent and extremely popular wine tasting term that excites an enormous amount of comment: ‘minerality’… For many tasters, ‘minerality’ in a wine is a sensation that seems derived less from anything animal, fruity or vegetal and is more reminiscent of something stony, especially wet stones, or redolent of something once smelt in a chemistry lab. Scientists scotch the attractive but simplistic idea that such a wine might be expressing the minerals present in the soil in which the vines were grown, pointing to a difference between rocks and the sort of mineral nutrients a plant is capable of absorbing. And anyway, the vine then does all sorts of things to those minerals; it certainly doesn’t act as a passive conduit of them into the grapes.
Some point out that this elusive character goes with relatively high acidity – which I think is true in white wines (think Chablis, Pouilly Fumé, Saar Rieslings) but then there are very rich, full-bodied reds such as those from Priorat in Spanish Catalonia where there is a particular sort of schist they call llicorella together with a very particular ‘mineral’ sort of taste to the wines. Indeed schist, also found in north west Spain, some parts of Roussillon in southern France and Côte Rôtie in the northern Rhône valley, seems to me to be associated with a notably strong ‘mineral’ imprint on the wines made there.
One thing is sure: whatever minerality is, it is extremely modish.
Stepping aside from wine for a moment, why should those of us who enjoy wine assume that the vine is somehow more capable of capturing “minerality” than any other food-bearing plant? We’re all so focused upon the soils and what the vine anchors its roots in that we tend to overlook the impact of the leaves, and what photosynthesis does to the grapes over the course of the growing season. What part does climate, and in particular sunlight contribute? This isn’t a new thought; Dr. Richard Smart’s seminal work on canopy management Sunlight into Wine was so titled, presumably, because he views its impact upon grape development and ripening more important than the soils upon which it’s planted (Dirt into Wine just doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?).
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with romanticism, I think we should think a little more laterally along these lines. Take root crops, with the very item we taste and eat no less than enveloped by the very same soils that a vine’s roots dwell in. Do we look at the origin of our Maris Piper potatoes, our swedes, parsnips, carrots, etc. and pretend to discern differences between the flavours we’re experiencing dependant upon where they’ve been grown? And that could quite easily be discerned now, with supermarkets happy to supply the information that “John Blight” grew your potatoes in Cambridgeshire clearly stated on the label. A little digging (no, really, no pun intended), could enlighten you as to the soil composition of his farm, but would you really notice the impact upon the vegetable?
That, no doubt, is why when I last looked in my local Sainsbury’s I was horrified to see how far most vegetables have travelled; sweet potatoes from the USA, asparagus from Peru, butternut squash from Argentina… barely a vegetable from Europe on display. So much for keeping it “local” and fresh; but it all tastes the same anyway.
Even if we examine soft summer fruits, the likes of strawberries and raspberries, how often do you hear of soil types and the impact that has upon the flavour? Locally our fruit farm here in Cornwall grows its soft fruit on tables under polytunnel plastic, away from slugs and the like and with maximum ripening effect from the amplified sunlight. That’s what makes a good-tasting strawberry with clotted cream it seems. Those strawberries are as connected to Cornish soil as a bag of Irish peat.
But when it comes to grapes to be used for wine (I rarely see the same “minerality” arguments directed towards the Thompson Seedless vines used to make Sun-Maid raisins strangely enough), then it’s all about soil and its impact upon the final drink.
It’s high time that we stopped accommodating mumbo-jumbo into our pitch in the wine trade and focused upon the infinitely variable options that wine offers its consumers, and that’s far more likely to come from good viticultural practice and wine making than it is from cold, hard rocks.
Modish, it might be, hogwash it might well be proved to be.
This is a producer whose wines, at least the vintages we currently have from them, are drinking superbly but are definitely beneath the radar as far as most UK-wine drinkers are concerned. Indeed, it’s a problem most “premium” wines (by which I mean wines over, say, £15 a bottle) have when they originate from the Languedoc-Rousillon it appears.
Luc Michel and his wife, Marie (an artist, who designed the striking labels) work this demanding territory by themselves, and their efforts were first brought to the UK by Richards Walford (now part of the Fields, Morris & Verdun/Berry Bros company) after Roy Richards tasted a bottle in a local restaurant. Apparently one of the main draws for him at the outset was that they don’t use wood in their wines, and for him at least that allowed the terroir to shine through unencumbered.
The domaine has 12ha of vines, of which some 11.5ha are planted on the prized Gravette deCorconne (http://www.zelige-caravent.com/the_vineyard/geological_shape) . Michel has taken over the vines that his grandfather, Etienne, first started working, learning his craft from scratch since his elder had died long before he became interested in taking such a path. There’s plenty of useful information on the region, family, vines, and wine making on the website (use the link above and chose the various sub-menu options to explore for yourselves) without me needing to repeat everything here.
I’ve seen comments that wines from the Languedoc-Rousillon can be divided between those from the hills and mountains, with a sense of freshness from their lithe acidity, and those fuller styles from the plains, where often single varietal wines tend to thrive. Here, with “Ellipse”, that altitude and the tough conditions the vines have to rail against to produce meagre yields of grapes is strikingly evident four years into its life beyond vintage.
Picked up by Isabelle Legeron MW to show at the 2011 Real Wine Fair due to their organic, biodynamic and minimal-intervention stance, the domaine was also hailed by David Schildknecht of Wine Advocate last year. His tasting note for the ’08 “Ellipse” reads far more eloquently than I could muster:
From Syrah and Carignan with a bit of Cinsault, the Zelige-Caravent 2008 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup Ellipse evinces a haunting perfume suggesting violet, iris, and rose petal, along with ripe dark berries and black tea; and like other wines of this estate is memorable for its combination of flattering – here, subtly creamy – texture with vivacity and invigoration borne of infectious primary juiciness along with berry seed and tart berry skin impingements. Deep seams of roasted red meat juices and pan drippings; salt and crushed stone; as well as walnut oil carry into a finish of superb persistence and finesse. I can imagine this highly distinctive variation on its appellation being worth following for another half dozen years.
So, with all the critical hubbub, a strong local support network of restaurants (take a look at their website for some nice recommendations should you ever be in the area), it’s a crying shame the wines are not being enjoyed by as many as they deserve. The “Nuit d’Encre” (“black as ink”, as Alicante-Bouchet tends to create intensely dark-coloured wines) is no longer imported to the UK, such was the lukewarm reception upon the 2007 hitting our shores. As for the other wines, these are currently being offered ex-cellar only, with the risk of bringing more over to the UK without certain buyers is too great.
If those interested in good wines can’t find room to venture off the beaten track a little more frequently then I’m sure we’ll see a similar pattern emerge from those who import here. They’ll simply stick to the tried-and-tested and that’d be a great pity for our general health as an enthusiastic wine-drinking nation.
Domaine Zélige-Caravent “Ellipse” 2008 Pic Saint-Loup – £16 (£14.40 if buying 6 or more) 60% Syrah and 40% Carignan
Domaine Zélige-Caravent “Velvet” 2008 Pic Saint-Loup £20 (£18 if buying 6 or more) 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 25% Carignan
Domaine Zélige-Caravent “Fleuve Amour” 2006 Pic Saint-Loup £25 (£22.50 if buying 6 or more) 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah
Domaine Zélige-Caravent “Nuit d’Encre” 2007 Vin de Table de France £20 (£18 if buying 6 or more) 100% Alicante-Bouchet
This is a question that surfaces regularly, with the “average” wine consumer stuck in a rut buying supermarket wines at the £5 level or thereabouts. It doesn’t seem to occur that in the very same shop, a joint of lamb or beef to feed four might cost £15-20, or a decent free-range chicken around £10. But, when it comes to wine, no need to match what you’re spending on you’re eating habits with the wine that’s going with it seems. Then it’s simply a case of grabbing what has the most tempting “deal” on the “shelf talker”.
A little joined-up thinking would go a long way here. Lamb and beef normally come from farms that are farmed to pasture, otherwise known as grass, and that land fetches around £14,500 a hectare (or €17,000). The animals feed on the grass, have to be looked after (vets’ bills are high), before slaughter and sale to the shops (who of course add on their margins). At the point of sale there’s no VAT involved; but there is with wine. For each and every bottle the 20% kicks in, and that’s on top of the £2 per bottle duty, so already we’re on uneven territory.
Now take a popular region like Marlborough in New Zealand, and you’ll find the same hectare of land required to produce the Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir grapes hitting around some €65,000-100,000 per hectare. Try factoring in that you’ll need to allow vines to grow for four years before you can actually make a penny back, and you’ll see what good value wine actually is. The lowest, after poor harvests and finance crises, that you could’ve bought land suitable for vines here was some €33,000, almost twice as much as pasture land here in the UK. Then, of course, you’d have to convert the grapes to wine and ship them halfway around the world, with bottles, labels and closures much more expensive than that your beef or lamb comes wrapped in.
Marlborough, however, is merely the tip of the iceberg. Back in October last year Andrew Jefford in Decanter penned an interesting column on how the value of vineyard land is a sure determinant of why terroir when it comes to wine is so important. After all, could you tell what kind of grass and where it’s grown that your cow or sheep has fed upon simply by tasting the meat? I’d bet you could when it comes to wine.
Perhaps that special chicken or seafood meal deserves a great white Burgundy, Chardonnay at its zenith? Then if it’s Montrachet you’d be looking at a mere €23.4 million per hectare. Fancy Champagne as a good option? Think about an average in 2011 of £900,000 per hectare. Then think about why really good Champagne costs a little more than English sparkling or Cava.
Chablis is always a popular choice for those too unadventurous to venture off the trodden path, so here you’ll find land in a premier cru vineyard hitting some €280,000 a hectare, down to a mere €75,000 for a Petit Chablis-designated vineyard. Over in Bordeaux, you could opt for Pauillac at €1.65 million for ideally-sited vineyards, or Pomerol for €900,000. Bargain basement areas (in France) include Muscadet at a trifling €6,500-9,000, or down in Corbières the average is €9,500.
There’s also no simple formula to wine, like “21-day hung” steak or “corn-fed” chicken. The vagaries of the year’s climate make all the difference to a great or an ordinary wine. No need to stick your beef in oak barrels costing €350 for a year or two before release, no impetus to employ a design agency to come up with an attractive label. The grass requires some “topping” and fertiliser using large tractors and a single employee; the vines require constant attention requiring many hands, skilled at pruning, canopy management and harvest (whether by machine or not).
Ultimately, the question is not why wine is so expensive, it should be why is it so cheap? Compared to pretty much everything else you’ll ingest in your life, it surely has to be one of life’s bargains. It’s also a certainty; no chef can botch up your wine as they can with your lamb or beef. Pick a good producer, region, vintage and you’re guaranteed satisfaction. If only that were the case with food.
The other week I was fortunate to crack open a bottle of his top wine, “l’Ebrescade”, and found no problem whatsoever with the closure. It did, however, throw open a whole new bunch of interesting questions. The first, as you can see from the front label, is that on this wine Marcel Richaud chooses to put his own name, not use the “Domaine Richaud” tag. The second is the complete absence of vintage on the label, mirrored by the back label (below).
It’s the humble “Vin de Table de France” that allows this (in actual fact, it disallows the vintage, but we’re splitting hairs), the lowliest of the French categories. But, as you’ll see below, this wine costs £34.15 a bottle, not exactly a lowly price tag. It’s a mystery as to why this vintage has taken this route; I’ve seen a post by a fellow blogger (http://blog.polishwineguide.com/2011/12/09/marcel-richaud-ebrescade-08-domaine-viret-mareotis-07/ ) of the 2008 and it clearly has vintage and “Cotes du Rhône Villages” on the front label, and another from a French blogger with the 2006 and the same is true. So what exactly happened in 2007 to cause this aberration is unclear. The only thing I can think of is the 15.5% alcohol level; perhaps this is outside the limits for the region’s tasting panels?
In any event, it was the 2007 we drank and that’s confirmed once the capsule’s off and the year is printed on the top of the cork, a neat way to circumvent the label rules if ever there was one. This is still the current vintage of this wine in the UK, which is a very good thing, because it was a truly mesmerising wine. I knew it was unfiltered and unfined and thought that six years since vintage meant it might be worth decanting (and with “big” reds from this region, not a bad idea anyway). And that is where this wine scores 100 points without trying. The aromas that wafted from the decanter as it was being poured from bottle to decanter were astonishing. Imagine a punnet of freshly-picked blackcurrants, grabbing a handful and crushing them between your fingers the sticky juices coating your hand, the overwhelming appetising perfumes hitting your nose like some incredibly rich compote. That’s what this wine hides behind the label, more so than virtually any I can remember.
We drank it with roast beef on a Sunday, and it paired perfectly. The intensity of the fruit on the palate more restrained than the nose, not as “big” as many an Australian Cabernet or Cab-Shiraz blend for example, but beautifully balanced, savoury and vibrant. It’ll be a fascinating wine to follow its maturation over the next decade or so.
But why did I title it using that very contentious term “natural”? That’s the third and most enlightening curiosity about this wine. It comes from our friends at Liberty Wines, not the most forthright “natural” wine proponents in the UK, and indeed their website makes no mention of the term in depicting Richaud’s wine. Turn to Louis Dressner in the States, however, and you’ll find an entire interview with Marcel Richaud talking about “natural” wine (his picture below comes courtesy of the Dressner site).
It’s a short but revealing interview in which Richaud tells of leaving school at 17 to study viticulture, fascinated by the vineyards and wine, how he started working with his aunt’s vines, before buying up small parcels, independently of the family, that he felt special. L’Ebrescade, on the borders of Rasteau was one such acquisition. There are certain bits of the interview that echo with so many of the winemakers that we represent that they’re worth repeating in full:
After deciding to break off from the cooperative, I was able to make my own wine that I could sell because of its high quality and production value. I also became heavily involved in what is now referred to as natural wine in France and abroad. As an advocate and member of the A.V.N (Association des Vins Naturels),I’ve believed for a long time that real wine is wine that sees no chemical treatment, no filtering, no commercial yeasts and no other technique that would specifically alter a wine.
You mentioned earlier how you are part of the natural wine movement. As a vigneron who’s been making wines in this style decades before there was even a term to describe it, how do you feel about the current climate of “natural wine”?
It’s a movement I defend, but in no way am I a radical or an extremist. I acknowledge that nature does not always give us all the elements to respect the criteria of natural wine. On the other hand, the philosophy of working this way is a virtuous one worth defending. What we have with natural winemaking is artisanal winemaking as opposed to industrial winemaking. I think that customers arereally starting to notice that compared to standard industrial wine, natural wines are original, rich and full of character.
I believe that in the future, we should be forced to put sulfur amounts on bottles. The customer has the right to know! And not just sulfur, but everything that goes into a bottle of wine. After all, we are obliged to list ingredients for every single nutritional product in the world. Wine is the only exception. This is no coincidence: a lot of people don’t want you to know what goes into their bottles.
If you use the legal limit of sulfur in my appellation, 190 mg per liter, you can make wine with rotten grapes. And why are we allowed to do this? Because this ensures that vignerons can continue to machine harvest, not worry about the quality of their grapes and keep big businesses running. So that’s why I defend natural wine.
So why no shouting from the rooftops from Liberty, or us, about “natural” wine then? Simply because what Richaud is describing is what so many winemakers want to do anyway, they, and we, have no need to align, or even create one could argue, a banner under which these individuals should be corralled. From Pieropan to Isole e Olena, from Cullen to Charlie Melton, from Ata Rangi to Greywacke; it’s all about exactly the same things Richaud describes, so why belittle that with diatribe and dictate?
So you see my point about these “badges” being nothing more than façade? All good winemakers are striving towards the same objectives above a certain level, and that’s to be applauded, not crowed about.
Marcel Richaud “L’Ebrescade” 2007 – £34.15 (£30.74 if buying 6 or more)