12.04.2016 | Words by: Rebecca Donnison
Enjoying organic, biological or sustainable foods is something we are all becoming more fond of and although in the world of wine, it has not reached the masses yet - it’s definitely gaining momentum. You’ve might have come across terms like: organic or biodynamic on wine labels or maybe even heard of the term ‘vin nature’. In general, winemaking itself is considered to be quite the complex matter and it will take one years of studying - and drinking - to become an expert. Thus, the difference can be somewhat confusing.
On the basics: the type of grapes, present climate, soil and agriculture have great impact on how the wine tastes, but don’t forget about the importance of the actual winemaking process. Unlike organic wine, 'vin nature' is not merely produced from organically grown grapes, but overall with minimal chemical and technological intervention. Originally, a counter cultural movement that went against industrialisation of winemaking for the mass. Their ideology was to harvest a natural product whilst maintaining and keeping a healthy agriculture and ecosystem.
Nowadays the term is used for the style of wine, in particular to point out the differences in cellar practices. No additional yeast or yeast-starters (converting the sugars into alcohol) are added to the naturally present yeast in the grape juice. No clearing of the wines, some even leave out ageing on oak - both influencers of colour, flavour and texture. Above all, no or limited use of sulphite, used to preserve the wine and destroy bacteria. This entails that the ‘vin natural’ winemaker has to be skilled, hygienic and precise otherwise the quality of wine could be at risk. Some even assume sulphite is the malefactor for headaches!
How different does it taste, you might wonder? Well, some compare it with apple cider and say that it is everything a wine shouldn’t be — orangey, cloudy, fizzy. Others argue that these somewhat lighter wines have a unique crisp and the acidity flavour is usually well balanced with a soft finish and a lower alcohol content. In the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France lays the beautiful vineyard and hippie-ish home of grower-winemaker Isabelle Frère. She is the living image of everything what vin nature back in the days stands for. Her passion and hard work on the vineyards is very inspiring and have resulted in beautiful wines. A favourite is her P’tit Scarabée; a nice and delicate fruity red style mostly made from carignans with a touch of grenache gris.
It is useless to debate that natural winegrowers are better winemakers than traditional ones. They just do things differently, there is no right or wrong. At DS they believe that passion and determination are key for making fantastic wine - au natural or not. However if you like to try P’tit Sacrabée in particular you have to be quick, since Isabelle unfortunately will no longer produce wines in the future and a little bird told me that stock is already running low.