Wine: An excellent choice of natural wines

The buzz word in the wine world is ‘natural’. While many of the best wines are made with minimal interference, producers of natural wines are more rigorous.

Wine: An excellent choice of natural wines

For example, most eschew the winemaker’s best friend, sulphur, which acts as a disinfectant, as an antioxidant (crucial in wine-making) and as a preservative.

Sulphur occurs naturally during fermentation, so ignore any label that says “contains sulfites”, as this is merely to satisfy US labelling laws. If you are sensitive to sulphur, look for labels that say “contains no added sulphur”.

Sulphur is natural and has been used in wine production since at least Roman times, and copper-sulfite is used in almost all vineyards (especially by organic producers) to prevent mildew, just as it is used in Ireland to prevent potato blight.

The best ‘sans sulfite’ natural wines are bright and packed with juicy fruit, and the worst taste of brett and funk, or like sour, flat cider. Some “orange wines” (white wines fermented on their skins) fall into the latter category, but by no means all of them.

Bars that serve natural wines are increasingly popular in Paris and London and I have huge respect for many advocates of natural wine-making — eg, Pascal Rossignol, of Le Caveau, in Kilkenny, who has recently been joined by Colm McCan, of Ballymaloe.

If you would like a primer on the subject, I recommend booking a ticket for Natural Resistance, which will be shown at The Grainstore as part of the Cork French Film Festival.

Also speaking at the event will be wine importer and blogger, Doug Wregg, who organises London’s Real Wine Fair and you can sample the film’s wines at a “rustic Italian” banquet afterwards.

For the diary: Friday, March 6, 7pm, film premiere of Natural Resistance, The Grain Store, Ballymaloe House. Tickets from: www.corkfrenchfilmfestival.com , €10 (film only), €45 for film plus food, and wines from the film presented by Le Caveau.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Cantine Rallo Ciello Rosso Nero d’Avola, Sicily — €12.50-12.95

Stockists: World Wide Wines, Waterford; Le Caveau, www.lecaveau.ie

Made from organic grapes and picked a little earlier than most Nero d’Avola to ensure freshness and clean, bright fruits (too often, Nero d’Avola can taste rather baked). Ripe plums and dark fruits with lingering hints of coffee and chocolate. One of the post-movie wines at Ballymaloe on March 6.

Gran Cerdo Tempranillo, Rioja Alta, Spain — €14.95

Stockists: World Wide Wines; Le Caveau, www.lecaveau.ie ; Fallon & Byrne, Blackrock Cellar

An excellent ‘natural wine’, made with organic Tempranillo grapes and minimal interference. Dedicated to bankers everywhere, Gran Cerdo (great pig) is the kind of well-made natural wine I am delighted to promote. Floral and red-fruit aromas, juicy and drinkable, with a mineral, stony core.

Chateau de Clotte 2010, Cotes-de-Castillon, Bordeaux — €12.99

Stockist: Lidl

Lidl’s French wine sale begins on Monday and this is one of my top picks from their range of Bordeaux wines under €15 — I’ll feature one or two more next week. Chocolate and black-fruit aromas, with good weight and ripeness and a structured, but fruit-driven, finish.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Coste Piane Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Naturale, Italy — €23.95

Stockists: Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau www.lecaveau.ie

This fragrant, soft Prosecco will be served following the showing of Natural Resistance at Ballymaloe House. Aromas of tropical fruit, apples and pears, with mineral, touch on the middle palate. Has a fresh brioche and citrus finish. At 11% abv, it is also (almost) a diet wine.

La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso, Emilia Romagna, Italy — €19.60

Stockist: Le Caveau, www.lecaveau.ie

A blend of 60/40 Barbera/Bonarda grapes, grown organically and made ‘naturally’. Aromas of fresh cherry and red fruits, with a sweet-sour hint and a lively palate and a touch of residual C02. It has a slightly funky, yeasty quality, but it is very refreshing and will match rustic Italian food.

Albet i Noya Lignum! 2011 Penedès, Spain — €16.99

Stockists: Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop, Field’s of Skibbereen, Morton’s of Galway, Clontarf Wines

Mary Pawle in Listowel is the other excellent organic-and-natural-wine importer in Ireland, and I am a fan of the Albet i Noya range from North Eastern Spain. A blend of Cabernet, Grenache, Merlot and Tempranillo — packed with spicy bramble and dark fruit flavours and a hint of tobacco.

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