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.

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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power