One of the questions I get asked most often is “what is Natural wine?” That is a very good question because there is no real definition. So, I thought I would go some way as to explain what natural wines are and the current movement behind them.
So, as I just stated, there is no real definition of ‘natural’ wine, so the best way to explain it is by saying that natural wine is a movement. These wines are crafted by winemakers who want to go back to basics by using absolutely the most minimal human intervention to create a wine that is completely true to its terroir. Wine makers refer to this as to going back in time and making wine how it was once made before chemicals and machinery got in the way. This is where the hype has come from. It is one of the many natural trends at the moment and I believe what some producers are doing in this area is absolutely fantastic.
However, this seems to have started some sort of conflict out in the wine drinking world. The ‘conventional’ side saying that ‘natural’ wines are faulty and lack flavour. Whilst the ‘natural’ side saying that ‘conventional’ wine is full of nasty chemicals, that give people headaches and a bigger hangover. There is a lot of chatter out there on both sides of the fence and my opinion is that both sides are right and both sides are wrong and I think it’s time we start just looking at all wines on their merits and not put them into a box.
I believe that not all ‘natural’ wines are actually made completely naturally. On the flip side, not all ‘conventional’ wines are made with harsh chemicals and are over worked by wine makers. Some ‘natural’ wines are faulty and oxidised but most are amazing juicy wines with complexity and heart. Most cheap ‘conventional’ wines are full of additives but most wines over the $25 mark are made using only the bare minimum additions necessary to create a fantastic wine that is commercially viable.
Here is a bit more information behind it all
As we all know, grapes come from vines. In natural wine, they should be organically produced to remain as natural as possible. The grapes are then picked and, in the case, of ‘natural’ wine they should be hand picked to eliminate the use of machines. Then once in the winery the grapes should literally be crushed to create juice, left to ferment naturally. Then, once fermented, separated from its solids and then finally bottled without being fined or filtered. There are a few other ways the wines could be made due to how the winemaker would like the wine to turn out, for example leaving the juice on its skin to either generate colour for a red wine or add complexity and richness to a white. Or you could allow the wine to go through malolactic fermentation another natural ferment that can happen in wines to change a bitey malic acid into a softer lactic acid (mainly used in reds), just to name a few variations.
So, this is where it gets confusing. All wines are made in a very similar way but in conventional wine making they are using machines and additives to better control the outcome of the wine in the bottle. Here is a little breakdown for you.
Organic production – there are very many wineries who grow their grapes organically and most of them are not actually certified. As it costs a hell of a lot of time and money to certify and most wineries choose not to. And this includes some ‘natural’ wineries.
Hand Picking – Again this is done in both natural and conventional wines. The difference being ‘natural’ wines can be perceived as more valuable and can justify a higher price tag. In contrast, many conventional wines are made to be price friendly. You will not find a bottle of any wine, natural or otherwise, that has been hand-picked for under $20 a bottle. The cost of labour involved is way too high. The quality of the grapes is obviously significantly greater being hand picked compared to machine harvested.
Crushing/Pressing – As far as I am concerned unless you are using feet to stomp the grapes or an old-fashioned basket press, then all wines are crushed equally.
Fermentation – There is yeast in the air everywhere. If you crush grapes and allow them to sit, they will inevitably start to ferment. The problem with this is that this process if done naturally and may not be able to be controlled. This is why ‘conventional’ winemaking inoculate their juice with a yeast strain they know and that way they will be able to have more control over the ferment. There is a huge amount of ‘conventional’ wines that are naturally fermented.
The second side to this is the use of temperature-controlled tanks in conventional winemaking. These are used to ensure ferment does not get too hot or too cold to ensure they ferment all the way and that there is not too much residual sugar left in the juice after fermentation. If there is too much then the wine may be too sweet or, worse yet, go through a second fermentation later on in the wine’s life. As with wild ferments, there are also a lot of ‘natural’ wines that have been fermented in controlled tanks.
Sulphur – now this is the big one that gets everyone talking. There is a huge belief that wines that have sulphur in them are bad for you, give you a headache or make your hangover worse. Before we move on with this, I want everyone to understand that sulphur occurs naturally in fermentation and all wine will contain it. The addition of sulphur is used to protect the wine from a whole range of problems that can occur in winemaking, the main one being oxygen. Oxygen basically kills flavour. Like when you have had a bottle open for too long and there is nothing left, the same happens during the winemaking process.
Other Additions – winemakers can use a wide variety of additions to control their wines in ‘conventional’ wines. Things like tartaric acid (a natural occurring acid in grapes that have been extracted into powder form) to add or balance acidity then on the flip side there are de-acidifiers like Calcium Carbonate (aka chalk) to make the wine less acidic. Winemakers add oak chips (in cheaper wines) or add the wine to oak barrels to add tannin and to the wine. In Europe where it’s a bit colder, winemakers can add sugar to make the wines more alcoholic. They might also add Dimethyl Dicarbonate to stabilise the wine or lessen alcohol levels. This is just to name a few.
Fining – This is basically getting rid of any particles in the wine that make it cloudy. The ‘conventional’ way is to add a mixture of coagulants into the wine so the heavy particles drop to the bottom and the clear juice can be separated. This process is done with a wide range of products but mainly egg whites and milk products. Natural wines will not (generally) be fined. This means their appearance is generally cloudy. This makes no real difference in the flavour of the wine it just adds texture.
This is all a big generalisation, I am just trying to give you an idea of what happens in the winemaking process to differentiate between ‘conventional’ and ‘natural’ winemaking. I personally believe both styles of wine can be absolutely fantastic and they should be all judged on their individual merits and not be put into a box and determined based on opinion of style.
Let’s start talking about how the Australian wine industry is diverse and ever evolving. Our winemakers are amongst the best in the world and should be celebrated no matter how they decide to make their wines.
Here’s to trying a broader range of wine in 2019 and not be blinkered with our thoughts but rather completely open to trying new styles!
Sunshine Coast Hotels Wine Specialist
Rosé ... The Summer Wine!
Rosé, which used to be one of the most unfashionable wines on the Australian market, is now moving forward in popularity in leaps and bounds. This week, I would like to chat to you about the wonderful world of Rosé. What it is, where it has come from and the amazing wines we are now seeing on our shelves.
Rosé is the fastest growing wine category in Australia at the moment, growing at a rate of approximately 200% a year. And the Sunshine Coast is right behind this push with the postcodes of 4551 and 4556 being the second and third highest volume postcodes in Australia for Rosé consumption.
The biggest question is why?
Well, it’s pretty simple really. Not only is Rosé super delicious, but it suits our warm climate, goes with almost any food and there is a style out there to suit every palate.
Once upon a time, Rosé in Australia was a very sweet, one dimensional wine that was an after-thought of the winemaking industry. Now, almost every winery in the country is fighting to produce the newest most sophisticated Rosé wine. Why? If you look at the rise in popularity of Rosé in Europe, you will get your answer.
Provence Rosé has had a significant rise to popularity over the past 10 years mostly due to the palates of the UK changing from sweet to dry. This rise in popularity there sparked a chain reaction down under. Once Aussies who went on holidays in Europe tried these wines, they started to ask for it back home. Winemakers who saw this rise also jumped on the band wagon and started to make Rosés in a style that replicated southern France. Now there are hundreds of amazing Rosés being made here in Australia. Every time you look there is a new Rosé launching on the market and this is great news for us consumers.
What actually is Rosé?
It’s not really a red wine and it’s not really a white wine ... it's sort of in between. All wine, if crushed and the juice is separated from its skin, is actually white. You just have to look at champagne which is made using Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier, both red grapes with chardonnay. So to get red wine, you have to gently crush the grapes allowing the juice and the skins to stay together then you leave it for a certain period of time depending on how much colour the winemaker wants. With most red wine, you’re talking 3-4 weeks or sometimes longer. For Rosé you do the same, but obviously for a shorter period of 1-2 days, depending on how much colour is required.
Making Rosé in the category of red, right?
Well maybe not. Part 2 of the story of making Rosé is very much white in style. Once the juice is separated from its skins, the wine is made the same way a white would be made. It would be fermented and fined and thrown in a bottle. Most white wines are left with their natural acid style making them crunchy and refreshing, like Rosé is. Whereas most reds are allowed to go through an acid changing ferment making them more soft.
Rosés are made from almost all the red grape varietals you can think of and as they rise in popularity, the rarer the grape varietals you will find. Not only are there traditional Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet and Shiraz Rosés, but now it’s easy to find a Sangiovese, Nero de Avola, Tempranillo, Grenache or Cinsaut Rosé and the list goes on.
The best part about Rosé is not only its diversity in style, but also its amazing ability to match most foods and situations. So, whether you are down the beach having some fish and chips or if you are at a mate’s place throwing a few steaks on the BBQ, Rosé can fit into any situation. Most importantly, it’s fantastic on its own, being super juicy and refreshing.
Picking the right Rosé
As we are now only one day away from New Year's Eve, I thought I should talk about the original party drink, Champagne. And what better story to tell at this time of year, when family is so important, than about the brother and sister wineries of Champagne, Bollinger and Ayala.
Bollinger would have to be one of the most recognisable Champagne brands in the market. It has been around for 190 years and is synonymous with James Bond and the TV show Absolutely Fabulous. It also has one of the most distinct bottle shapes in Champagne. But none of this compares to why it tastes as amazing as it does.
The grapes come from over 85% Grand Cru and Premiere Cru vineyards. Pinot Noir represents 60% of the House’s vineyard, corresponding to the exact proportion of this demanding grape variety in the Special Cuvée blend. Complex and powerful, it provides Bollinger wines with their remarkable structure. After primary fermentation in small stainless steel or wooden casks, the wine is bottled in spring and taken down to rest in the pervading silence of the chalk cellars. Special Cuvée champagne will remain there for at least three years, this is 18 months longer than what is required for Champagne, meaning the complexity and flavour of the wine is at its peak when you pull the cork. This is in direct contrast to most of its competitors who will only leave their wine for the bare minimum time. This is just the beginning of the story of what the Chef de Cave (winemaker) Gilles Descôtes does to make sure this wine is one of the greatest representations of masculine, pinot noir dominant Champagne there is.
Then there is Ayala, which is literally next door to Bollinger. Founded in 1860, this phenomenal champagne has flown under the radar for far too long. This little-known winery was purchased by the Bollinger family in 2005 and has since been refreshed. Ayala crafts wines that are popular for their precision and feminine delicacy and their style based on freshness and elegance. Well-balanced blends giving Chardonnay a major role (unlike there Pinot dominant big brother) and low dosage (sugar) levels. These are all elements that define the House’s unique personality provided by one of only 3 female Chef de Cave’s (winemaker) in all of the major Champagne houses, Caroline Latrive. Caroline also rests her wines for a minimum of 3 years and has the joy of being able to pick her grapes from a high level of Grand Cru and Premiere Cru vineyards.
So, if you want to indulge this New Year’s and see what the Champagne region is really capable of, you have to check these two wines out. From the soft elegant style of Ayala to the more robust full-bodied Bollinger, these wines will surely send your and your guests taste buds into celebration mode.
For any other recommendations please do not hesitate to send me an email or Facebook message.
From all of us at All in Good Taste, we wish you the most wonderful New Year’s Eve and look forward to spending time with you in the coming year.
For this week’s wine of the week, I would like to talk about Yalumba's The Signature. We were so blessed to have the wonderful Jane Ferrari join us last week at our Birtinya Cellars opening and showcase this amazing wine, so I thought I would say thanks by naming this our wine of the week.
It all started with Sir Robert Menzies, who in the early 1960’s declared Yalumba’s claret the best red he had ever tasted. Claret at the time being classed as a dry red wine with a firm finish (meaning it could be made from what the maker felt like). So, on the back of this Wyndham Hill Smith, the head of the Yalumba family at the time, decided that the best barrels of his Cabernet and Shiraz would be put aside to make an exceptional wine and with the 1962 vintage that wine was named The Signature.
Each vintage would recognise someone who lives and breathes the culture of Yalumba, a contract between the world’s wine lovers and Yalumba’s winemakers, signed with the name of a true believer. The Signature is a celebration of wine and people – more than 50 vintages, 50 names and 50 stories – encapsulated in one historic Cabernet & Shiraz.
Since 1962, more than 50 signatories have been recognised, with their name and story on the bottle, for their hard work, inspiration, dedication and that most old-fashioned of virtues – loyalty.
This wine has always been made using the very best of cabernet and shiraz that Yalumba produce. As quoted from Jane Ferrari (winemaker at Yalumba) “the cabernet provides this amazing structure almost the backbone of the wine, whilst the shiraz has this gorgeous juicy fruit that sits beautifully on that framework”.
Yalumba has been around for almost 160 years and have some of their very oldest grape vines still producing fruit. This wine comes from vine plantings as old as 1925, 1935 and 1945. This makes the fruit super concentrated and dense allowing for a full bodied beautiful red wine.
This wine opens with perfumed fruits, showing pretty blue exotic florals and cranberry with milk chocolate and liquorice depth. Very stylish, very approachable and very drinkable. Decant and enjoy with a char-grilled rump or eggplant steak with all the trimmings.
If I was to ask viticulturists and winemakers what the most challenging grape varietal to grow and make a good wine from, they would definitely say Pinot Noir. Due to very small leaves and tight bunches, it is very susceptible to fungal diseases. Due to a thin skin, it is susceptible to mould and the vine in general is very low yielding.
However, ask them what their favourite wine to make is and almost all of them would say Pinot Noir.
Stolen straight out of Wikipedia - Joel Fleischman of Vanity Fair describes Pinot Noir as "the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic." Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon calls pinot "sex in a glass".
The thing I love about Pinot is that due to its small bunches and thin skin, it is very impressionable to its terroir. Without getting too wine nerdy on you, that just means it will taste very different when grown in different regions. You can get a super light wine with juicy strawberry and blue berry flavours on one end or you can get a heavy, rich version with plums and blackberry or savoury medium bodied versions with a grippy tannin structure - all depends on where it's grown and who’s making it.
For anyone who likes any red wine, I bet I can find a Pinot Noir to suit you!
So, lets chat, what’s your favourite Pinot Noir?
If you were to ask anyone who worked in the wine industry what their go to white wine was, I guarantee that 99% of them would say it was Riesling. This would have to be the most under rated white wine in Australia. A lot of people also still think this wine is sweet…oh how wrong they are.
Most Rieslings are bone dry with lemon, lime zestiness. It is super refreshing with amazing floral notes. One would have to say that our Queensland weather is made for this wine. It matches perfectly with all types of seafood, Asian fusion and fresh salads
Do yourself a favour and visit one of our stores (Cellarbrations Brightwater Hotel or Cellarbrations Wises Road) and grab yourself a bottle, I promise you won’t be disappointed.