Anthony Rose: 'Natural wineries feel that the pendulum has swung too far towards technology and science'

Do you think of wine as a natural product? It is, after all, the fermented juice of fresh grapes, so what could be more natural? Quite a lot, according to the natural wine movement. Natural wine is the latest addition to the green well-spring of organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines. Natural winemakers are the naturists of the wine world. They may not prance naked under a full moon, but they think of themselves as stewards for wines that taste of their location and vintage with no make-up and no clothes beyond the bottle they stand up in.

Natural wine is a reaction against mass market wine from wine's equivalent of the military industrial complex: the big brand. Natural winemakers feel that the pendulum has swung far too far towards technology and science, both in the vineyard with the devil's chemicals and in the cellar with the additions to wine aimed at creating consistency. Unnatural organisms that distort the living personality of wine are their bugbears, the main two being cultured (as distinct from natural) yeasts and sulphur, the all-purpose disinfectant.

The main protagonists of natural wine are the French. They're growers who are co-operative, not competitive, who wear quirky T-shirts and don't own ties or have an advertising budget. In the UK their great champion is Guildford-based Les Caves de Pyrène, an evangelistic merchant which has won awards for getting natural wines on the agenda. Their site, lescaves.co.uk, is well worth a visit for an understanding of what they call "real wine".

The Loire Valley has yielded some of the best natural winemakers. Franz Saumon in Montlouis makes consistently great chenin blanc, with a superb 2009 Minérale Sec + , around £15.99, North & South Wines (020-7228 2431), Whistle Wines, Exeter (01392 421 363) and a superb barrel fermented 2008 Montlouis Sec Clos des Chênes, £28.49, Caves de Pyrène (01483 554750), a dry white with an intensity of pear fruitiness that finishes indelibly fresh. Also from Montlouis, try the late Stéphane Cossais' magnificently appley, mineral Montlouis Sec Le Volagré, £29.99, Oddbins.

The Roussillon is another once-hidden corner that's springing to life as the perfect location for natural wines. The biodynamic producer Olivier Pithon is making great dry whites like his 2008 Cuvée Laïs, around £22.49, slurp.co.uk, Smiling Grape (01480 403100), an exotic blend of macabeu, grenache blanc and gris, with its baked apple flavours. And from the Fenouillèdes, the fennel-scented foothills of the Pyrenees, Tom Lubbe and Sam Harrop produce a superb dry white in the 2007 Domaine Matassa Blanc, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, £34.49, Caves de Pyrène, smoky with a mineral finish.

The future for natural wine is as predictable as the wines. Unlike organic and biodynamic wine, natural wine has no rulebook, which is a strength, in that lack of definition gives it flexibility. Among disadvantages are high prices and, as California winemaker Paul Draper puts it: "the term 'natural wine' seems to mean different things to different people". A friend of his pointed out how the term natural lost all meaning once the meat industry got hold of it, and he's now "waiting for the large wine producers to render it meaningless in reference to wine". As naturally they will.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen