Here’s four things about natural wines to start you thinking

I spoke to That Crazy French Woman  Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron before I visited the RAW wine fair –  her brainchild.

Isabelle told me about wine additives (read here) – but she shared more facts to make you think a little bit about natural wines:

Isabelle Legeron, and the RAW wine fair  team Credit Tom Moggach
Isabelle Legeron, and the RAW wine fair team Credit Tom Moggach

Think About It

If a wine label says grapes are organically grown, it doesn’t necessarily mean grapes are treated organically once they’re picked.

Isabelle: In 2012 the EU now has declared what is an organic wine, but the legislation is so lax.

Says Isabelle … It’s really meant for the big wineries to be able to call themselves organic but you can still add loads of sulphites, yeasts and dozens of additives.

The term organic wine really protects you in terms of the production of the grapes, but it doesn’t really mean much in terms of how the wine is made once it enters the winery.

Think About It

Biodynamic wine covers the entire  production of wine … from the farming to the winery. It is stricter than organic in terms of what winemakers can use.  It is based on a series of beliefs outlined by philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s.

Isabelle: Biodynamic winemakers  use the moon’s influence over a body of water.

Says Isabelle … The tide is influenced by the moon. The vines, the grapes, are mostly water, so the moon will have the same influence on the water inside the vines. It’s the same in a glass of wine.

Everything around you, even your body is being influenced by where the moon is.  So it’s just about using this knowledge to your best advantage.

Here’s a  simple example with a barrel of wine. When the moon is in a certain position the deposits are all tight and quiet and nothing is happening. If the moon is in a different position the sediments might all be floating because of gravity. So you would only want to bottle really when everything is settling down quietly, so you don’t have all this stuff floating around.

Biodynamics is also abut spraying with tea preparations; it’s about promoting the life in the soil; it’s about trying to be more sustainable; having your own cows for manure and so on.

Think About It

Do sulphites in wines give people headaches?

Isabelle: Much of this is anecdotal. There is research that shows that wine with elevated levels of sulphites means that you don’t digest the alcohol so well, it stays in your body for longer, it imbibes your body more.

Says Isabelle … Loads of people have come to me and said “I can’t drink wine” then they have tried to drink completely sulphite free wine and natural wine and actually they find they can drink it.

They’re not getting their symptoms; most complain about skin rashes so when they drink loads of sulphites they get red patches and perhaps palputations.

Think About It

We can’t keep on farming like this.

Isabelle: It’s one of the things which keeps me going. We have to do something  and stop having so many casualties.

Says Isabelle … The countryside in France and Italy is full of people who have got really sick from working in the vineyards. It’s a quite toxic industry. There’s loads of pollution … and there are even pesticide residues in your bottle.

There’s been lots of studies on it where random bottles have been selected from supermarkets and checked.

Pesticides are in the grapes, so of course it will be in the wine.

A final word

Isabelle: We need to get people to drink a bit less but maybe spend a bit more per bottle, its really worth it. I only ever drink natural wine; I only ever work with natural wine.
I won’t even taste anything else.

Wine Press: International Wine Challenge success for UK supermarkets

THE UK’s supermarkets have really upped their game in the past year when it comes to their own-brand wines. Many have excelled in the 2015 International Wine Challenge Awards.

Top of the awards pile is Marks & Spencer, which won 169 medals, including 12 gold, 52 silver and 105 bronze.

In all, 498 own-brand and exclusive supermarket wines received medals, which is 138 more than last year. Wines created for Aldi, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Co-operative and Waitrose all picked up gold medals, with 33 being awarded to supermarket wines.

International Wine Challenge 2015
Marks & Spencer Mount Bluff NV Sparkling Chardonnay

Marks & Spencer Mount Bluff NV Sparkling Chardonnay struck gold … and it’s just £13. World-famous sherry producer Emilio Lustau created Marks & Spencer Very Rare Dry Oloroso NV and Marks & Spencer Dry Old Palo Cortado NV (both £8 per half-bottle) – and both now glisten with a golden honour.

Aldi won Gold with The Exquisite Collection Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (£7.99) and The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling 2014 (£6.99). (They also picked up eight silver and 18 bronze medals.)

Over at Tesco, five gold medals were claimed, including Tesco finest* Vintage Grand Cru Champagne 2007 (£24.99); Finest Chablis 2013 (£9.99) and the Finest Sancerre 2013 (£11.99)

Three wines created exclusively for Waitrose were also awarded Gold medals; New Zealand’s Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2013 (£22.99). Polish Hill River Riesling 2008 (RRP £8.99) and Tre Fiori Greco Di Tufo 2013 (RRP £10.99).

The Co-op picked up a gold for its Château Roumieu 2012 (£11.99) as well as four silver and 17 bronze medals. Sainsbury’s £20 Blanc de Blanc Champagne Brut NV also won gold, as did its Taste the Difference Pedro Ximenez Sherry NV (£8).

Charles Metcalfe, International Wine Challenge
Charles Metcalfe

Charles Metcalfe, Co-Chairman of the IWC said: “Year on year, supermarket own-brand ranges continue to improve and impress the IWC judges.

“Shoppers really are spoiled for choice in the wine aisles, with medal winners to be found in all major supermarket chains. Supermarket buyers have demonstrated their talent for sourcing fantastic wines from all around the world, usually at pretty keen prices.”

Find all the winners at

In my glass …

I tried a trio of wines from thirty-something French brothers Nicolas and Arnaud Bergasse of Château Viranel, in the sun-soaked Languedoc and very nice they were too. (Available online from Berry Bros & Rudd, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Gerard Seel and Bancroft Wines.)

Château Viranel Trilogie rosé
Château Viranel Trilogie rosé

Château Viranel Viognier 2014 (RRP £11.70) has delicate apricot aromas, a tiny speckle of pepper on the nose, freshened by a summer breeze. Lemon and stone fruit to taste, with a little bit of waxiness. Château Viranel Trilogie rosé (RRP £9.70) is a blend of (a third each) syrah, cinsault, and cabernet sauvignon. Rosé flavours can be a bit “so what”, but the Bergasse brothers have created a pink which is floral, packed with summer fruits and dried strawberries, and with a bright but elegant finish.

Château Viranel Trilogie Rouge 2014 (RRP £10.05) uses a grape variety I’ve not come across before, alicante bouschet, which is blended with syrah and cabernet franc. There are plums, veiled with violets, a fleck of spices – perhaps a string of liquorice too. An easy, fruit-dip of a glass.

Published in the saturday extra magazine May 16, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

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