In My Glass: Three Natural Reds
True vin naturel are naked cuvées, full bush gamines hiding everything and nothing. Like a one-night stand, you don’t know what you’re going to get until you open it up. She might be slightly sweet or salty in a hypnotic and charming way, or a bit too sharp and gamey for the evening’s desires. Natural wines are on the opposite spectrum of the ultra-ripe, new oak-seasoned mad dogs reared in a technically conscious winery. Nothing fake here, even the underarms are as God intended, slightly primitive and usually French. It can’t be mere coincidence that the natural wine movement took hold in the late 1970s. Remember your pop’s (or your) old nudie Judies? I rest my case.
Natural wine producers bank their reputation on biodynamic vineyard practices, eschewing chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and to various degrees of commitment, they prohibit tractors, prune and harvest by the moon cycle and plant cow horns filled with manure among the vines. They're all about soil health, which is a great thing to be all about. Take loving care of your vines and bushes and they will bring you great prosperity. This philosophy often continues into the winery, where the most militant of naturalists go bare-assed from harvest to bottling.
Natural wine lovers must embrace faults, though such details and disparities are left to the imbiber's perception. But when it comes to natural wine, so called "faults" are what give them their unique character. I confess, sometimes I like a little ass sweat and braised vegetables in my wine. What I like about these three wines specifically, is that they each have a nuttiness to them, an aroma born from a deliberate avoidance of sulphur at bottling, and most likely after harvest and at crush. It's the latter, which is the former in the order of things, that encourages bacteria like brettanomyces, which encourages funky aromas.
Each of these three reds is unusual, not fruity or sweet or lush and vibrant. They're a bit dusty and herbaceous, savory and sharp. I like them with a stinky goat or goat-sheep-cow cheese and some French dry sausage or prosciutto. Of course that's how I like most of my wines. Creature of habit.
The full bush experience may not be for everyone, and the movement may only be a few decades old, but natural was the only way in the beginning, some 8,000 years ago.
Christian Ducroux 'Expectatia', Beaujolais, France
This guy is famous for his natural gamay wines. All the die hards pray at his altar. It's freaking delicious.
Laurent Lebled Ça C'est Bon, Chinon/Tourraine, France
100% gamay with 0% sulfur treatment from the Loire Valley. Fresh, savory, slightly nutty, totally yummy.
Louis-Antoine Luyt País de Yumbel, Bío Bío, Chile
South American natural wine. Holla! Made from the país grape, aka mission grape, which used to be all the rage in California close to 200 years ago. What a coincidence, some of Luyt's país grapes come from 200 year old vines! It's smoky and cloudy - totally unfiltered, wild and tasty.