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Tasting some natural wines

The natural wine movement is a loose coalition of growers who all work with certain shared principles, although there's no official body and no certification.

Basically, they try to add as little as possible to their wines, and as closely as possible adhere to the principle of making wine just with grapes - fermentations are carried out by the yeasts naturally present (on the skins of the grapes or resident in the winery), and sulphur dioxide, the almost universally used wine additive that protects against oxidation and unwanted microbial growth, is done away with. In most cases a little sulfur dioxide will be added at bottling, but sometimes this step is omitted. 

The goal is to produce wines representative of their origin and true to themselves, fiddled about with as little as possible. Sometimes the results are thrilling. Here are my notes on some 19 wines made naturally. Further coverage of natural wine can be found on my blog posts on this topic.

Champagne Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgeux Blanc de Blancs NV
o dosage. Lovely aromatic nose is gently lemony with real refinement. The palate is lively and crisp with savoury citrus character, and really good length and balance. Doesn’t seem harsh despite the lack of dosage. 93/100

Domaine de la Cadette is an organic estate of 13.5 hectares in Vézelay, Burgundy. See: http://www.domainedelacadette.com/accueilanglais.html  for more information.

Domaine de la Cadette Melon 2007 Bourgogne Vézelay, Burgundy
A bit of a rarity, this is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety. Tight, herby nose. The palate is crisp, pure and mineralic with nice density of flavour, but all the flavour is green apples and minerals – it’s very pure. Not really fruity, but full of interest. 90/100

Domaine de la Cadette Claudius 2007 Bourgogne Vézelay, Burgundy
Bright nose is quite friuty and slightly minerally. The palate has lemony fruit and minerals, with good acidity. Crisp and fresh. 87/100

Domaine Valette Mâcon Villages 2005 Burgundy, France
There’s a bit of matchstick reduction on the nose. Powerful, intense palate is quite herby and minerally, with dense citrus fruit and some reductive notes. Striking stuff. 90/100

Domaine Valette ‘Le Clos de Monsieur Noly’ Pouilly-Fuissé 1999 Burgundy, France
Deep yellow/gold colour.
Intense, nutty, toasty, slightly bready nose with hints of oxidation. The palate is concentrated, intense, broad and nutty with lemony freshness and some bready notes. Amazing acidity. A concentrated, striking wine. 93/100

Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2007 Beaujolais, France
Pale-ish colour.
Bright cherryish nose is quite fresh and expressive. The palate is light and fruity. Simple but with nice freshness and purity. 88/100

Christophe Pacalet Moulin à Vent 2006 Beaujolais, France
Light colour.
Elegant, fresh cherry fruit nose with spicy, earthy notes in the background. The palate is beautifully expressive and elegant with subtle spice under the smooth, pure fruit. 91/100

Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgeuil ‘Trinch!’ 2007 Loire, France
Beautifully perfumed bright fruit on the nose, with cherries and berries. Very fresh and pure. The palate is elegantly fruity with a nice grippy edge. A beautiful bright wine. 90/100

Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgeuil ‘Clos Sénéchal’ 2006 Loire, France
Vibrant red with a purple fringe. Bright cherryish fruit here on the nose with some spicy notes. The palate is bright and vibrant with beautiful berry fruit and some grippy tannic structure. Pure, structured and intense. 91/100

Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgeuil ‘Les Perrières’ 2005 Loire, France
Earthy, spicy cherry and berry fruit nose. Perfumed, fresh and quite complex. The palate has a nice earthy depth to it. Quite savoury and structured with a firm finish. Serious effort. 91/100

Dard & Ribo: a natural wine producer with a cult following. See http://www.wineterroirs.com/2004/06/dard_ribo.html for more background.

Dard & Ribo C’est le Printemps Crozes Hermitage 2007 Northern Rhône, France
Very pure, elegant, light nose with fresh perfumed cherry fruit. The palate has a hint of fizziness but it’s really well focused and quite long with amazing purity of fruit. Approachable and more-ish. Remarkable stuff. 91/100

Dard & Ribo St Joseph 2006 Northern Rhône, France
Wonderful pure, meaty, olive-like nose with sweet, pure raspberry fruit playing second fiddle to the savoury meaty notes. The palate has a lovely purity to the fruit with a subtly green meaty character and some spicy tannin on the finish. It’s intensely fruity. A really interesting expression of northern Rhône Syrah. 91/100

JM Stephan: a small producer located in Tupin, close to Condrieu. He makes just 10 000 bottles, and that’s in a good year. He uses no sulfur dioxide at all.

JM Stephan Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes 2004 Northern Rhône, France
Spicy, earthy, complex nose, showing warm spicy notes together with earthiness. The palate is complex and earthy with nice elegance. Lovely wine. 93/100

JM Stephan Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes 2005 Northern Rhône, France
Assertive, bright, focused red and dark fruits here with a bright spiciness to the nose. The palate has real structure and depth with firm tannins than clamp down on the fruitiness. Earthy, too. One for the future. 93/100

Clos Fantine Faugères 2004 Languedoc, France
From schistose vineyards, in which no chemicals were used except for a bit of sulfur for the Carignan.
SO2 just used a little at bottling. Elegant, fine red fruits nose with some spice and earth notes. The palate is smooth with lovely texture and earthy, spicy notes under the bright fruits. Lovely. 90/100

Domaine des Marquises Lou Carignan 2007 Vin de Pays de l’Herault, France
Pure red fruits nose with forward cherry fruit.
The palate is pure with lovely vibrant fruit and nice freshness. A joyful wine. 89/100

Cuvée Cariña Coste Longue Vin de Table NV France
Made by Pierrette and Claude Navare from St Chinian terroir, by maceration carbonique.
Very aromatic open, perfumed nose with floral red fruits and a bit of meatiness. The palate is quite dense with an open, fruity, meaty character and an earthy, spicy finish. Quite elegant in an oxidative style. 90/100

Château Sainte Anne 2005 Côtes de Provence, France
Open, sweetly fruited nose is fresh and spicy with elegant red fruits. The palate is soft with spicy earthy depth and a hint of meatiness. Sweet, but with a nice savoury spiciness. 89/100

Château Sainte Anne 2005 Bandol, France
90% Mourvèdre.
Forward, bright red berry fruit nose is quite tight with some sweetness and spiciness. The palate is dense, focused, savoury and spicy, showing firm tannic structure. Really intense, this is one for keeping. 91/100

See also: my blog posts on natural wine and notes on another natural wine tasting 

Wines tasted 05/08  
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