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Natural wine tasting

March 2007 

‘Natural wine’ is an ill-defined, but useful term, which encompasses a range of approaches to making wine without too much intervention. There’s no ‘official’ movement, but there is a loose association of growers who attend periodic natural wine conferences where they show their wines together. At the extreme, the term ‘natural’ refers to wines made without any additions at all, including sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is added to almost all wines: it acts as a microbicide and protects the wine against the deleterious effects of oxygen. Most natural winemakers will still use a little SO2: the choice to eliminate it is a brave one, and most people consider it to be a risk too far.

Working successfully without SO2 is challenging: the fruit needs to be free from any rot, the winemaking needs to be hygeinic and perfect storage conditions are required. A degree of luck helps. Not many people try, so it was fun to get a chance to try a variety of wines made this way all together in one sitting. These varied wines were tasted blind, and notes are reproduced as written before the identity of the wines was known. The exception here is the first two wines: while we didn’t know the identity, we were told that these were the same wine, one with no sulfur dioxide additions and one with a little added at bottling. I confess that I guessed from this snippet of information and the wax capsule that they were Beaujolais from Lapierre.

Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2005 Beaujolais, without added sulfur dioxide
Quite deep coloured with a pure dark cherry fruit nose. Quite soft and lush with a spicy overlay. Reasonably elegant, but the earthy, spicy character sticks out a bit on the finish. Sweet an open but with some tannin. Very good+ 87/100

Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2005 Beaujolais, with sulfur dioxide
A bit sweeter and brighter on the nose. The palate is pure and elegant with smooth berry and dark cherry fruit, a bit of spice and some softness. Good purity of fruit here. Very good+ 88/100

Domaine Gramenon Tout’en Bulle de Gramenon, Vin de Table de France
This is a sparkling wine. It has a nice nose that shows vanilla, spice and some apple, plus some sweetness. Alluring. The palate is unusual but delicious with rich, warm, spicy, toasty flavours complementing the fruit. Nice zippy acidity, too. Very good/excellent 90/100

Sebastien Riffault Sancerre 2005 Loire
A golden colour, this has an oxidised nose that’s honey, bready, appley, sweet and nutty. The palate is sweet, soft, smooth and quite flat, with a rich texture. It is distinctive, showing apple and herb and cheese notes. Really more-ish even though it’s a bit off-beat. Very good/excellent 90/100

Domaine de Chassorney Saint Romain ‘Combe Bazin’ 2004 Burgundy
Yellow gold colour. Distinctive, intense nose is a bit lemony at first but also has some honeyed melony richness. The palate is quite flat: soft, concentrated, a bit tangy with flat fruit. Unusual. Very good+ 86/100

Eric Pifferling Côtes du Rhône L’Anglore 2005 Rhône
A bit cloudy. Sweetly spiced, delicious, rather exotic nose with a savoury edge. Lovely open elegance on the palate with a spicy finish and some earthy, savoury notes on the finish. It has that sort of natural wine palate that I rather like. Odd but nice. Very good/excellent 91/100

Eric Pifferling Tavel L’Anglore 2005 Rhône
Strikingly pale, rather turbid pink colour. Lovely complex spicy nose is a bit fruity and quite sweet. Soft, flat palate with a bit of spiciness. Unusual with a rather earthy aftertaste. Interesting, but let down by the palate a little. Very good+ 86/100

Jean Foillard Morgon 2005 Beaujolais
Deep coloured.
Spicy edge to the full dark cherry fruit nose. The palate is full with a smooth elegance to the rich, dark fruit. Supple and smooth with nice richness, and more than a jot of elegance. I was surprised by how dark and full this wine was. Very good/excellent 91/100

Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2004 Beaujolais
The fresh, bright nose has a herby edge to the bright cherry and berry fruit. It has a smooth ultra-elegant, supple palate with real class. Very pure. A bit of spice, too. Delicious. Very good/excellent 92/100

Yannick Pelletier St Chinian L’Oislet 2005 Languedoc
Deep coloured, this shows sweet ripe fruit on the nose with a spicy complexity. Chocolatey, rich and bold. The palate has lovely soft open fruit with great density. Elegant and rich without being harsh in any way. Soft, long and moreish. Very good/excellent 92/100

Maxime Magnon Corbières Rozeta 2005
Rich, striking spicy nose with dark fruits predominant. Interesting. The palate is soft and full with nice freshness of fruit and good tannic structure. Appealing. Very good+ 89/100

Stellar Organics No Added Sulphur Merlot 2006
This was the surprise of the tasting. Very dark, spicy, intense, savoury, deeply fruited nose. Rich, sweet, ripe fruit dominates the palate, but is underpinned by a minerally earthiness to the blackcurrant fruit. Lovely in a sort of Australian style. Very good/excellent 90/100

Wines tasted 03/07
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