Tag: Natural wine

#HOTGV: On natural wine with Isabelle Legeron MW

This episode of Heard on the Grape vine is all about natural wine, an unusually complicated subject in the world of wine. To throw some clarity on the issue, I went to RAW, one of the biggest natural wine fairs in the UK, and spoke to the industry insiders.

Tree in vineyard in Georgia

Natural wine is a complicated subject. Which is ironic given that the very definition of a natural wine is a stripped back and uncomplicated product.

It’s a complicated subject because there’s no legal definition of natural wine. This means that many people have their own versions of it while others deny its existence altogether.

I am, on balance, an uncommitted supporter of natural wine. This means that I like the idea of natural wine and I appreciate the results – because there are some very good natural wines out there – but I don’t want to commit to drinking just natural wines as there are also many wine makers who aren’t following the principles of natural wine making but who are creating equally delicious wines. Basically, I want to drink delicious and interesting wines, however they’re made.

But I love the infectious passion of the natural wine makers, so decided to make this episode on natural wine. To start, a few of the winemakers exhibiting at RAW will describe what natural wine is for them. Then we’ll hear from Isabelle Legeron MW, the organiser of RAW and long-time champion of natural wine.

Liked this podcast? Why not subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Amateur Wine » HOTGV Podcast

Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron

Natural Wine by Isabelle LegeronThe Book Natural Wine: An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines made naturally

The Author Isabelle Legeron MW is a writer, presenter and organiser of RAW fair www.thatcrazyfrenchwoman.com

The Publisher CICO Books

The Release date10th July 2014

Who’s it for? If you’re new to the natural wine world and want to learn from one of the foremost advocates of natural wine then this is the perfect resource.

What you’ll find inside The book defines natural wine as wine made with nothing added and nothing taken away but the approach encompasses the whole natural wine lifestyle. From anecdotes about tapping for birch sap and making herbal tinctures to milling your own flour and making bread, you’ll gain an insight into this often misunderstood world.

What’s missing The book serves as an introduction to the topic so there’s no real depth. However, Legeron does list additional books and resources if you want to delve further.

The best bit The sizeable book is a surprisingly easy read and without being too aggressive, it inspires a desire in the reader to live more naturally.

The Price (RRP) £16.99

Buy now from Amazon

South for Soif, a review

27 Battersea Rise, London SW11 1HG

Soif, Clapham

In South West London, we enjoy a slower sort of life. Not quite on Caribbean time but certainly noticeably less hurried than anywhere else in London. This translates to our restaurants too – more laid back, less formal. And that’s perhaps why it’s the perfect location for a delightful wine-centric restaurant by the name of Soif.

I chose a funny sort of day to visit Soif; inadvertently, I had booked in for lunch when I already had a long-standing reservation for dinner at The Waterside Inn. In the back of my mind, I was thinking how they were a world apart; where one had maintained 25 years of three Michelin stars, the other was still in its relative infancy. Having visited its sister restaurant in Covent Garden, Terroirs, I was expecting some very good things though.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Their handful of dishes were loosely split into starters, mains and desserts. Not quite tapas but certainly great for sharing over a glass of wine, or indeed several bottles if the mood takes you. And that’s really what Soif is all about, their wines.

The list, extending to six pages plus sweet/fortified and digestifs, offers some very affordable and, more importantly, interesting natural wine options. Indeed, when I later showed the list to a grape geneticist friend, he was very tempted by the varietals on show and even more intrigued by the mock offer of an ’82 Petrus at £1m.

But back to the food.

Duck rillette with toast and buffalo mozzarella, broad beans and savoury made contrasting starters where one said comforting winter and the other colourful summer. A sparkling something seemed apt and glasses of Camillo Donati Malvasia Rosa Rosato Frizzante and Benoit Courault Le P’tit Chemin Pet Nat were sunk. Needing some contrast in texture too, half a dozen well-shucked Maldon rocks followed as a palate cleanser.

Slightly more heavy set mains of turbot with samphire and Jersey Royals and loin of pork with roasted potatoes buttered cabbage and apple sauce arrived accompanied by Adegas Sameiras Blanco 2010 and AA Denavolvo Dinavolino Bianco 2010. There is a sense of Sunday brunch about the lunch. Perhaps much of it is down to the fact that the lunch rush seem to start from about 2pm with families and groups of friends.

A rather seasonal strawberries and cream was on the menu though I took on the bitter chocolate mousse and hazelnut sablé instead, keen to sample their pastry offering. Its intensity on the palate begged something even sweeter to tame. Happily, the staff recommended something mysterious that did the trick.

Satisfyingly filled with wine and food, I leave reflective. How interesting was the assault on my palate from the wine where, for once, the food took more of a back seat. How well adapted this little gem was to South West London living without being in any way inefficient. And how perfect a place it would be for long discussions late into the night. There aren’t many places that will tempt North Londoners south of the river. Soif is surely one.

(First seen on BespokeRSVP)

Georgia on my mind, Georgia for the wine

Man by grape crusher at Pheasant’s Tears vineyard in Georgia

Somewhere in the back of my mind was always the idea that knowledge should have solid foundations; maybe it’s a philosophical thing about justified true beliefs or maybe it’s the way I’ve always been taught. But when I began exploring wines more extensively, it seemed apt to start from its origins – Anatolia.

Often referred to as Asia Minor, Anatolia is the ancient region comprising the modern day countries of Turkey, Armenia and Georgia. A place that’s fertile in soil, accommodating in climate and rich in cultural history, Anatolia has been shown by scientists and archaeologists alike to be the oldest region in the world where grapes have been cultivated and wines produced.

With hundreds of varietals and thousands of years of wine making history, where do I start?

I travelled to Georgia to begin my journey.

Hailed as the cradle of wine, and that of natural wines in particular, Georgia claims to boast some 8,000 years of history in wine making. With a plethora of indigenous varietals and a landscape of terroirs, the scope for interesting and unique wines is a connoisseur’s dream. Wine is also an integral part of Georgian culture and economy and the thing which links the country’s history to its present day affairs.

The majority of Georgians make wine at home for personal consumption but it also helps to ease the economic burden of regular toastings during Supras (Georgian feasts). After all, no guest is truly welcomed until they’ve experienced the hospitality of a Georgian fare complete with toasts made by the Tamada (toastmaster). Naturally, no toast would be complete without wine and Georgians are very hospitable people.

As a nation, Georgia also made wines for export. In fact, wine was consistently one of the top three products for export. During the Soviet era, its wines were distributed across the rest of the USSR and was recognised as being of the highest quality. After the dissolution of the USSR, Georgian wines continued their popularity in Russia and Central Asia. Over 80% of the wines exported from Georgia went to Russia so it came as no surprise that when Russia banned all import and sale of Georgian wines, the two came to blows.

Georgia is no stranger to conflict of course – its history is peppered with battles. It is said that the statue of Kartlis Deda in the capital Tblisi bears a bowl of wine in her left hand to greet those who come as friends and a sword in her right for those who come as enemies – the perfect personification of Georgian character.

But it was really the traditional Georgian method of wine production that caught my eye and enticed me to learn more.

Qvevris, giant handmade vessels of rounded clay amphora with a pointed base and no handles, are buried up to the rim in the earth. Crushed grapes – stems, pips, skins and juice all go straight into the qvevri which is then covered by a stone slab and sealed with wet sand. The subterranean conditions maintain a stable temperature in the qvevri and fermentation occurs thanks to the natural yeast found on the grapes.

Six months to a year later, occasionally even longer, natural wine is produced – nothing added, nothing taken away.

Wines produced in this way are very different to its European-style counterparts. Red wines, typically made with Saperavi grapes, produce a deep plum stain. White wines, made with Rkatsiteli grapes alone or blended with Mtsvani grapes, take on an auburn hue. Then of course there’s the spectrum of colours created by the other indigenous varietals. Tasting the wines straight out of the qvevri at the Pheasant’s Tears vineyard in Kakheti, it’s impossible to deny the vibrancy of the fruit and natural sweetness of the wine. And there’s really few phrases which would describe that feeling well, except perhaps “the overwhelming sense of being alive”.

Is it just because it’s a natural wine? Having tasted a sizeable selection of other natural wines and  non-qvevri Georgian wines, I’m not so sure. There was definitely something about the qvevri which gave the wine its special characteristic, unrepresented anywhere else. Perhaps that’s why qvevri wine production has gained increasing popularity outside of Georgia with Josko Gravner in Italy being one of the most well known amongst the international wine crowd. Sadly, production and export is so limited that it’s extremely rare to find qvevri wines for sale.

Returning from Georgia, my mind was filled with abstract ideas on wine – the trip has certainly whetted my appetite. Tours around Pheasant’s Tears vineyard, Schuchmann Winery, Twins Old Cellar and Alaverdi Monastery all offered detail and perspective on the Georgian wine story. But have I found the wine grounding I was looking for? Perhaps a little, but mostly on natural wines.

I was sure of one thing though – my next learning destination will be Turkey, a lesser known wine destination offering even more indigenous varietals.

See more photos from Georgia here

(First seen on BespokeRSVP)

Terroirs Wine Bar, Covent Garden, Review

5 William IV Street, London WC2N 4DW www.terroirswinebar.com

Terroirs menu

Terroirs is the sort of place that you’re warned away from if someone you know despises natural wines. That’s the only sort of wine it serves you see. The determined deterrence is not necessarily because the wine is bad but rather, it’s out of principle and perhaps ignorance. The truth of it is that wine, whether natural or not, can be good or bad. Terroirs, equally, offered a sizeable selection of wines, some of which shone brilliantly whilst others were much less impressive.

Having recently returned from a wine trip to Georgia, the cradle of wine, and in particular, natural wines, I’ve found myself gaining an affinity for this contentious product. Listening to the likes of Alice Feiring and Isabelle Legeron talk about their love of natural wines, how of the hundreds of thousands of wines they have tasted during their careers, the natural ones were the most vibrant and limitless, I couldn’t help but be impressed by their enthusiasm.

While it’s true that a natural wine will never stand the test of ageing because of the ultra-low levels of preservatives present, it is also true that the minimal chemical intervention helps the characteristics of the grape, the terroir, the weather and numerous other contributing factors in the wine making process to develop in the final wine. There’s a market for fine vintages with complex characteristics but there’s also a market for wines for drinking right now, which equally deserves to be something other than bland and homogeneous. And that is what the appreciation for natural wines is largely about, and perhaps Terroirs too.

Back to the restaurant – it’s more of a wine establishment than a restaurant really but a fellow journalist with a love of natural wines suggested it for dinner. Partly owned by Les Caves de Pyrène, the biggest importer of natural wines to the UK, Terroirs always gave me the impression that it was just a wine bar. While there is a bar in the restaurant to lean to with your drink and bar snack, they also have space on three levels for diners who are looking for something a bit more substantial.

A bit more is probably the operative phrase here though – the food is more or less a side serving to the wine with majority of the menu made up of cheeses, charcuterie and small plates. The food was good though. Really good. And seasonal too.

Dining with a reasonable appetite, we opted for a serving of pumpkin, chestnut and parmesan soup each plus duck rillette and pigs trotters with celeriac remoulade to share. The pumpkin soup was lusciously smooth, richly creamy and well contrasted with the nutty, sweet crumble of the chestnut. Pigs trotters, perhaps a little too rich as the last thing to arrive, made for sumptuous comfort eating. The thing that really excited, though, was the duck rillette. Intensely flavoured and well textured, it wholly satisfied the game rillette craving which I’ve been harbouring for some two weeks.

The wines we sipped as we supped was a selection of white and sparkling, all available by the glass. The 2009 Thierry Germain Bulles de Roches Saumur Brut was a particular favourite while the 2010 Cascna degli Ulivi Bellotti Bianco didn’t fare so well. The other two wines, 2010 Domaine du Moulin Pet Nat Bulles Rosé and 2010 Bodegas Ameztoi Txacoli de Guetaria, lied somewhere in the middle of the two, towards the positive. There it was, the good and not so good of natural wines.

With talk of wines, food and juxtapositions of the two, we could have happily stayed and indulged in our romantically framed window seats for a few more glasses. But with a running tab of some £60 and adventures with a travelling bar planned, it was time to pay up. Besides, the elegant service allowed a young night of interesting landscapes to navigate for a pair of girls in the most fabulous of heels.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...