Happy Birthday to Green Man Wines in Terenure who had their fifth anniversary recently. I’m delighted for their success.
Green Man sells classic Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rioja, etc, but is better known for their ‘natural’ wines. I sat down for a chat with owners Dave and Claire recently and soon we found ourselves discussing the mini explosion of wines in restaurants and shops these days made from organic grapes, wild yeasts and minimal (or zero) addition of sulphur. A few grams of sulphur added at bottling prevents oxidation and helps a wine stay clean — if you are not careful ‘off’ aromas and flavours can develop including volatile acidity (vinegar), oxidation and brettanomyces which gives an animalistic, sweaty saddle taint to the wines. To be fair these faults are sometimes found in conventional wines also. Omitting sulphur affects a wine’s shelf life and can dull or obliterate terroir — a natural Sancerre won’t taste of Sancerre but of something else (which admittedly you might actually prefer!).
“I hate the word ‘natural’,” said Dave. “I much prefer ‘minimal intervention’ as ‘natural’ implies the others are ‘non-natural’. We love them for their energy and for how food-friendly they are, they have personality, character, they are less homogenised and less extracted, lighter in alcohol, less tannic and definitely more digestible.”
Both agree that some producers take things too far: “You need to know the rules really well before you can go about breaking them.”
Dave admitted that he can’t risk the ‘super-natural’ funkier wines as a dissatisfied customer might not return. “Natural wines may currently be the focus of the cool kids that watch sweary Acton Bronson videos on YouTube but we think they are for everyone.”
I found myself agreeing with Dave and Claire, good natural wine (like the ones below) really do work well with food and I like that they have shaken up the industry. I spent an evening in Allta wine bar with the ultra natural winemakers from Gut Oggau from Austria and their zero sulphur natural wines are not usually to my taste but they came into their own with Allta’s intensely flavoured pasta dishes. See what you think.
Best Value Under €15
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Bradleys, World Wide Wines, Baggot St. Wines, Le Caveau, Redmonds
Made from organically grown Cataratto grapes which is often used as a workhorse in Sicily but if used carefully can brim with fragrance and fruit. Peach, apricot and lemon oil aromas, textured and creamy with herbal notes and a bright fresh finish.
The Manchuela wine region is near Valencia, just inland of Utiel-Requena which also specialises in the underrated Bobal grape. From a bio-dynamic producer with lots of old vines this has a rich dark red hue, bright cherry and sweet plum aromas. Dave’s favourite wine under €15.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Baggot St. Wines, Drink Store, 64 Wines, Wicklow Wine Co, Independents
Made with organic Tempranillo grapes, minimal interference and no sulphur. Dedicated to the bankers who refused to loan the winemaker any money, Gran Cerdo (great pig) is fresh and floral with beguiling purity and pleasing soft fruits, juicy with bright flavours rounded out by minerality.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Bradleys, World Wide Wines, Greenman Wines, Le Caveau www.lecaveau.ie Fallon & Byrne, Blackrock Cellar
Best value over €15
Gut Oggao makes some challenging ‘natural’ wines but they certainly have character. Winnifred is from Zweigelt and Bläufrankisch and has soft red fruit aromas, pungent textured cranberry fruits and quite sings on the palate. A touch funky but it comes into its own with umami-rich foods.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Bradleys, Loose Canon, Alex Findlater & Co. Limerick
From near Lake Garda this is a rare thing, an actual gris (grey-pink) coloured Pinot Grigio. Floral red fruit aromas, textured silky pomegranate fruits, supple and textured with a pleasing gustatory softness but a crisp finish. Imported by the excellent Grape Circus who supply Sheridans.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Sheridans Galway, Meath & Dublin, Blackrock Cellar, Wine Pair, www.siyps.ie (Sommelier in your Pocket)
Leclerc Briant are one of only a few bio-dynamic Champagne producers, converting in the 1960s. This spends two years on its lees and has soft lemony aromas with remarkable purity and elegance, citrusy and bright on the palate with silky bubbles and lemon verbena on the finish. Elegant.
Stockists: Greenman Wines, 64 Wines Glasthule, www.SIYPS.ie (Sommelier in your Pocket)