Natural wine tasting
Nine wines presented to the Oxford Wine Club, November 2012

Here are the tasting notes of nine natural wines from the portfolio of UK importer Les Caves de Pyrene that I presented to an audience of some 50 wine lovers in Oxford. The idea was to choose wines that were a little out of the ordinary, but which I thought were of interest, to try to provoke some discussion around the topic of naturalness and authenticity in wine.

TestalongaEl Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc 2011 Swartland, South Africa
No added sulfur dioxide. Unfined and unfiltered, with fermentation on the skins. Complex, tangy apple and pear nose with hints of cheese and straw. The palate has lovely tannic grip and great acidity, with notes of apples, herbs and spice. Lively and complex, this is a profound expression of Chenin Blanc. 95/100

Thierry Puzelat Romorantin 2010 Vin de France
From Touraine in the Loire, this is a powerful, complex expression of the Romorantin grape variety, which is quite rare. Deep coloured and highly aromatic with notes of honey, spice, pear and peach, as well as some warm toastiness. The palate is grippy and powerful, with a streak of limey acidity and notes of nuts and honey. Real depth of flavour here, finishing with some citrus peel notes. 94/100

Alaverdi Monastery Rkatsiteli 2010 Kakheti, Georgia
This is made in qvevri (large clay amphorae) with skin contact. The monastery has been making wine since 1011. Orange colour. Beautiful perfume here: nuts, apricot, peach and honey, with a spicy twist. Sweetly aromatic. The palate has lovely grippy structure from some drying tannins, which contrast nicely with the sweet almond, apricot and peach stone notes. 94/100

Domaine Matassa Cuvée Marguerite Blanc 2010 Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, France
Wonderfully aromatic reductive nose with minerals, matchsticks and herbs, as well as some richer pear and peach notes. The palate is lively, powerful and quite grippy, with notes of spice, cheese, minerals and crisp green apple. Really extreme style, and far more 'natural' than many of the Matassa whites I've had before. 93/100

Cuatro Manos Malbec 2011 Mendoza, Argentina
An organic, naturally made Malbec. There's definitely some volatile acidity here, providing a lift to the nose, but it works, and the dominant theme is pure, fresh, smooth cherry and berry fruit, with more than a hint of elegance. Quite delicious and pure, and so distinctive. 92/100

Clos Fantine Faugères Tradition 2010 Languedoc, France
A blend of Mourvèdre, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. This has a rich, warmly aromatic nose showing farmyards, black fruits, leather and spice. The palate is dense, rich, spicy and quite full, with lovely savoury, spicy blackberry and plum fruit. It's a ripe, warm style – yes, there's Brettanomyces here, also showing on the finish which is a bit pinched and metallic, but in the context of the rich, ripe fruit, it works. 91/100

Philippe Bornard Ploussard Point Barre 2010 Arbois Pupillin, Jura, France
Made from biodyamically grown grapes with no added sulfur dioxide. Pale cherry red in colour. Lovely aromatic cherry, strawberry and herb nose. Nice fresh palate, combining sweet cherry and plum fruit with some subtly grippy tannins and just a tiny hint of wildness. A lighter red, quite Pinot-like in style, but with its own identity. 94/100

Romaneaux Destezet Syrah 2010 Ardèche, Northern Rhône, France
Herve Souhaut grows this Syrah on granite soils, and no sulfur dioxide is used. It's also low in alcohol (11%). This wine normally doesn't let me down, but there was just a hint of spritziness here that was troubling. Apart from that, it shows floral, lightly weighted black cherry fruit and good acidity. Very expressive. 92/100

Domaine Les Roches, Alain & Jerome Lenoir, Chinon 2005 Loire, France
No added sulfur dioxide. This is the current release, at 7 years of age. Lovely chalk, gravel and black fruits nose, with a lovely supple character. The palate is fresh with a chalk/gravel edge and lovely blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Stylish with nice structure, and ageing well. 93/100

See also:

Another natural wine tasting
My blog entries on natural wine

Wines tasted 11/12  
Find these wines with


Back to top