Wine with Leslie Williams: Organic and natural wines

May is sustainability month in the Irish Examiner and last week I wrote about the challenges facing wine makers and wine drinkers as we all try to lower our carbon footprint.

I’m sure some people were aghast at my recommendation of wine in a bag as despite it having a lower carbon footprint than glass it just feels wrong.

It is all about choices of course and in a modern world where simply existing has an impact on the environment I would argue that it’s the least we can do is try to improve the choices we make. Supporting small regional wine producers is always better than buying from large corporations.

EF Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’ economic philosophy is as relevant now as it was in the 1970s. I long ago gave up drinking macro beer, and if there is no craft beer available in the pub I drink whiskey and make my protest known. If enough of us do this the publicans will notice.

So this week I am focusing on small scale grape growers and wine makers that are working in harmony with their environment. All the suggestions below are organic and most are natural, as May is also ‘Real Wine Month’ sponsored by Le Caveau in Kilkenny.

Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau has one of the largest lists of ‘natural’ wines, by which I mean wines that are made with minimal intervention and with low or zero sulphur added. This is a risky business, as sulphur stops oxidation and taint from wild yeasts. But when it is done well you get a pristine purity. When it is done badly you can get volatile acidity (vinegar), brett (sweaty saddle aromas) and an after taste of ‘mousiness’. Thankfully these faults are getting rarer.

Le Caveau is not the only importer with a focus on sustainability. Another favourite of mine is Mary Pawle who only imports organic wines and has been in business for 22 years — two of her wines appear below.

For the Diary: Wednesday, May 15, Real Wine Fair, Chocolate Factory, 26 King’s Inn St, Dublin 1, tickets via www.everbrite.ie

Thursday, May 16, Ali’s Kitchen Cork sponsored by l’Atitude 51 Wine Bar

‘Preserving Georgia’s Wine Tradition’ with John Wurdeman of Pheasant’s Tears winery in Georgia. 7pm, €20, for tickets email: info@latitude51.ie

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Cantine Rallo Ciello Bianco Cataratto 2017, Sicily — €13.95

Stockists: Bradleys, World Wide Wines, Baggot St. Wines, Green Man, Winehouse Howth, Le Caveau, Redmonds.

The current vintage is even better than I remember. Made from organically grown Cataratto which is often a workhorse grape but can have finesse and character as here. Stone fruit and lemon oil aromas, textured and creamy with herbal notes and a bright fresh finish.

Alfredo Maestro ‘Viña Almate’ 2017 tempranillo, Spain — €14.95-€15.95

Stockists: Green Man Wines, Blackrock Cellar, Fallon & Byrne, Drinkstore, www.lecaveau.ie

From the high plains of Ribeiro del Duero and sourced from two high altitude vineyards with whole bunch fermentation, very low S02 added, unfined and unfiltered. Bright and juicy with spice and floral notes and concentrated plum and blackberry fruits.

Albet I Noya Curiós Tempranillo, Spain — €14.49

Stockists: Quay Co-Op, Fields Skibbereen, O’Donovans, Mortons, Clontarf Wines, Organico, www.marypawlewines.com

From Penédes in northern Spain. The white Curiós is creamy and supple and the red is a fine juicy example of Joven Tempranillo at its best. Sweet plum and damson aromas, red fruits at first with black fruits following through on the mid-palate with a blackberry finish.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Clos de Tue-Boeuf Le P’tit Blanc, Loire, France — €22.95

Stockists: Loose Cannon, Cass & Co Dungarvan, Green Man Wines, Le Caveau Kilkenny www.lecaveau.ie

From an organic Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in the Loire and made with spontaneous fermentation, minimal intervention and minimal sulphur. Peaches and cream aromas, textured complex apple and lime essence flavours on the palate and good balance.

Pheasants Tears Shavkapito 2017, Kartli Region, Georgia — €31.99

Stockists: Baggot St. Wines, Green Man Wines, Le Caveau Kilkenny www.lecaveau.ie

Made much the same way as it was 6,000 years ago — wild fermented in clay kvervri amphora with nothing added. Soft cherry fruit aromas, sour cherry flavours mixed with a pleasing purity and a juicy savoury quality with good acidity and balance. Fruit-driven juiciness, for any millennium.

António Lopes Ribeiro, Douro, Portugal — €22

Stockists: Quay Co-Op, O’Donovans Cork, Mortons, Clontarf Wines, Organico, Little Greengrocer Kilkenny, www.marypawlewines.com

From a creative team in the rocky high hillsides of the Douro (they also have a winery in Alentejo). A blend of Touriga-Franca (60%) and four other Douro grapes (Touriga-Nacional, Sousao, etc) this has old-school Douro flavours with layers of confit black fruits with lingering spice.

- Contact Leslie Williams at wine@examiner.ie

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