jamie goode's wine blog: No added sulphur

Friday, May 25, 2007

No added sulphur

Went shopping to Kingston with Fiona this morning, who was of the opinion that I needed an image makeover. I'm not terribly good at clothes shopping: I tend to find things I'm comfortable in, which I then wear until they disintegrate. Today we spent quite a bit of time and money, and I'm really happy with the new me. I guess I just need to lose about a stone in weight and 10 years of age.

Afterwards, on the way back through Bentalls I had a quick browse through their wine selection. It's an impoverished relic of their range of several years ago, when it had its own dedicated space - this is where I first discovered Portuguese wines. Now the Bentall's wine range is relagated to a few shelf units, with lots of the usual suspects. But I did find one wine that caught my eye: the Stellar Organics No Added Sulphur Merlot 2005 from South Africa.

I was recently involved in a tasting of wines made without sulphur dioxide, which I wrote up here. Among the selection, one of the stars of the show was the 2006 version of the Stellar Merlot, which I was very impressed by. The worry with these wines is that without the protection of sulphur dioxide, they won't live long, and sure enough the 2005 vintage is at the stage where it needs drinking up. It's interesting 'n complex 'n all, but it's taken on a prematurely evolved character.

This Merlot has a distinctive rich fruit nose with a freshly turned earth character. The palate has bold blackcurrant fruit with a nice spicy savouriness and more of that savoury earthiness. It's almost like an old Port, with earthy ripe fruit and high alcohol. Kudos for the Stellar crew for trying to make this 'natural' wine, but retailers buying this need to make sure it turns over quickly, and should keep it at low temperatures. UK availability of this wine, apart from Bentalls, is www.vintageroots.co.uk.

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At 10:43 PM, Blogger Marcus said...

In terms of temperature here, how low is low? I know that in New York at Astor Wines which specializes in natural wines there is a nifty cool room around 15 degrees.

Wonder if taking one of these bottles back to an un-air-conditioned apartment is risky?

Makes me think that there should be a warning sticker on it because the consumer could easily not have any idea...

At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Doug said...

I presume one would want all wines to be kept relatively cool and at a constant temperature.

The really volatile combination is when the wines are unfiltered, with a wild yeast ferment and unsulphured to boot. There is a famous Gamay from the Auvergne from Domaine Peyra which ticks all these boxes. The wine is just delicious, but in summer unless you wish to observe its "volcanicity" you must store it in a very cool place (preferably a fridge). Interestingly, it tastes exactly like cider.

Conversely, some unsulphured wines (from the Jura) will easily last 40 years, if stored correctly. I have the evidence in my cellar. Or rather the wine rack that I call a cellar. These wines have extraordinarily high acidity.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I think storage at or below about 15 degrees is needed to be safe, but a few days at room temperature should be OK.

I have had good, great and bad experiences with wines without added SO2.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Jamie said...



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