What is an authentic, or ‘real’, wine? Is it made from organic grapes, using biodynamic practices? Is it natural, in that there is nothing added (bar – maybe – a pinch of sulphur) and nothing taken away? Has the fermentation taken place indigenously, with native yeast? Where does egg-fermented wine fit in? Does the wine have a bit of wildness or ‘funk’? Is the wine sustainably produced? And, is it vegan-friendly?
That’s the mother of all wine rabbit holes, isn’t it? But as it is Real Wine Month and whether or not you are a convert, I am going to lead you to the entrance of that hole and ask you to stick your head into it.
Personally, I prefer not to think about the list of permitted additives in industrial, homogenous, unsustainably produced wine but, if you do, the list would be longer than the Brexit process and the chances of you being left totally befuddled and with a very sore head indeed are high. So, think about moving on from drinking such wines: it will be your gateway to a more enlightened existence.
What follows are recommendations of three great authentic wines for first-timers, selected because they are not too funky and they express a transparency often found only in natural wine.
An inexpensive ‘antipasto’ would be Ciello Bianco: a nimble beauty derived from organic Catarratto grapes grown and made by a Sicilian family with minimal intervention. The lightest possible filtration, with non-animal products, leaves the wine a little cloudy and endorses its vegan-friendly credentials. A fine lees sludge is often visible at the base of the bottle and contributes a little extra lemony flavor and pithy texture. Convention destroyer alert: give it a vigorous shake to get maximum flavour from it!
Ovum ‘Off The Grid’ Oregon dry Riesling was mentioned in Margaret Rand’s 101 Wines to Try Before You Die. An honest, ‘fruit comes first’, minimal intervention strategy allows the vintage and vineyard to shine, not the winemaker. A native fermentation takes place in both old, neutral wooden barrels and small concrete eggs so that the heat produced is distributed evenly and the temperature remains cool. Thus, the wine retains a naturally bright freshness. The grapes are grown on a stony site and a light flinty wine results with flavours of mirabelle, quince and galangal root.
Terre de Mistral Cotes du Rhone is from a small co-op that works according to the principles of Terra Vitis using no chemical treatments other than a very little sulphur. Last month this unfined and unfiltered, natural Cotes du Rhone was the highlight of the week for Josh’s Wine List and “the best affordable red I’ve had in a long time.” Think freshly-picked black cherry, cracked black pepper and a waft of a sliver of saucisson sec.
With numerous other authentic wines available at The Good Wine Shop look out for our ‘real wine’ neck tags in-store or ask our knowledgeable staff. Beyond that, why not explore The Real Wine Fair on the 12th and 13th of May – https://therealwinefair.com/tickets/ – or follow #realwinefair and #realwinemonth on social media.