A bunch of winemakers in the garden…

We are delighted to welcome a ‘bunch of winemakers’ to the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday 10th May, for truly special wine talk and tasting – outside in the garden. Winemakers travelled from wine estates in France and Italy in association with Le Caveau, including Elena Pantaleoni, and Francesca, of La Stoppa, Rivergaro, Emilia-Romagna, Italy; Theo from Foradori in Trentino, Italy;  Gulio from Ampelia, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy; Bertrand Ambroise of Maison Ambroise, Premeaux-Prissey, Cotes-de-Nuits, Burgundy, France; Nicolas Donne of Domaine Guy Allion, Touraine, Loire Valley, France; Guilhaume de Conti, of Tour des Gendres, Bergerac, South-West France and Thibaud Chaume of Domaine Chaume-Arnaud, Vinsobres, Rhône Valley, France.

We were fortunate with wonderful May sunshine to be able to have the wine class outside, in the timber amphitheatre in the gardens. A magical evening and our thanks & appreciation to all of the winemakers, who had travelled over, in association with Le Caveau.

Each of the winemakers spoke about their region, their wines and vineyards. All of whom have a focus on low intervention wines, organic, biodynamic and natural viticulture and winemaking. In turn, each of the winemakers gave a tutored tasting of one of their wines by way of illustration (and enjoyable tasting!).

Nicolas Donne of Domaine Guy Allion, Touraine, Loire Valley, France

Cédric and Dorothée Allion run their 30-ha estate with great care and passion. Members of Terra Vitis, their viticultural methods are resolutely organic and sustainable, while minimum intervention during winemaking ensure the wines are pure and offer a true expression of the terroir. The vineyards are mostly planted on slopes overlooking the Cher river, close to the beautiful Chateaux of Chenonceaux and Chambord.

Touraine Sauvignon, Loire Valley 2016

Grape variety: Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon character with a real mineral edge, the palate is full-flavoured with freshly squeezed lemon mingling with white fruit, pear and green apples ending with racy, fresh notes.

“This wine is produced under the Terra Vitis ethic that it is an approach based on reason, not faith. Cédric and Dorothée Allion`s small estate minimises strategic intervention in the vineyard and studiously avoids chemical additives. The results speak for themselves here – this is a super smart sauvignon blanc that is crisp to the point of steely sharpness, bursting with gooseberry, peanut and nettle notes. A clear and startlingly well priced competitor to New World sauvignon” Tomas Clancy, Sunday Business Post

Gulio of Ampelia, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy

Ampeleia (from the Greek word for ‘vine’) is owned by Elisabetta Foradori and Giovani Podini. It was founded with Elisabetta’s overarching vision of allowing the true nature of an area, its diversity, its grapes, land and culture to be expressed. The wildness of the southern Maremma, bounded by the Colle Metallifere and the sea were virgin territory, far removed from the glamour of Bolgheri and Montalcino. The estate is interspersed with chestnut and cork oak forests as well as Mediterranean scrub. 

‘Un Litro’, by Ampelia, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy 2016

Grape varieties: Alicante (Grenache), Carignan and Alicante Bousche

‘Un Litro’ is a true expression of the wild Mediterranean terroir of the Maremma. It is a peasant wine in the best sense of the word: a joyous, infinitely drinkable blend of Alicante (Grenache), Carignan and Alicante Bouschet which grow so well in this hot, southerly corner of Tuscany. It spends 6 months in cement tanks. Unfined, unfiltered, no added SO2. (Total SO2: 41 mg/l) Balsamic character on the nose, wild herbs and spices hints. Well defined on the palate, clear-cut and neat. Contrasting finish with pleasantly bitter notes of cherries and wild strawberries.

Bertrand Ambroise of Maison Ambroise, Premeaux-Prissey, Cotes-de-Nuits, Burgundy, France

Bertrand Ambroise, and his son Francois and daughter Ludivine operate on 21 hectares and purchase grapes from another 3. Their vineyards were converted to organic viticulture and they received their certification in 2013. From manually harvested grapes, neither filtered nor fined, the wines are classic Burgundy with distinct terroir-influenced personalities. 

Cotes de Nuits Villages, by Maison Ambroise, Burgundy 2015

Grape variety: Pinot Noir

Cotes de Nuits Villages is beautifully expressive and lush, with ripe red fruits, earth and a touch of  creamy oak. It is dry and medium bodied, perfect balanced, with ripe juicy fruit. Oak on back palate with will further soften with age. Long finish.

Theo of Foradori, Trentino, Italy

The mountain ranges that make up the Dolomites, a World Heritage Site, are found between the Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions and delineate a landscape of extraordinary beauty. Elisabetta Foradori’s grandfather bought the estate, based in Mezzolombardo, in 1929, a mere ten years after Italy’s annexation of the province from the defunct Austro-Hungarian empire meant that the traditional markets for the local wines had disappeared. At first, the wine was sold to local co-operatives, but Elisabetta’s father began bottle and sell their own production. His life was cut tragically short by cancer when Elisabetta was just eleven years old. Nine years later, she had graduated in viticulture and oenology and had taken over the reigns of the estate, albeit more out of a sense of duty than passion. Teroldego from the Rotaliano plain had been singled out for its quality since at least the 14th century, but the prevailing philosophy, post-WW2, was to squeeze maximum yields through clonal selection and an industrial approach to production. She decided to dedicate her work to renewing  Teroldego and planted as many cuttings as she could. 

Teroldego plunges its roots deep into the limestone, granitic and porphyritic rocks of the Campo Rotaliano, a small plain embedded between steep rock faces in Trentino (Northern Italy). It is the intense expression of its land, of its people, of the Dolomites. By 2002, Foradori had garnered international recognition for her work and visionary approach. However, always changing and evolving, she decided to convert the estate to biodynamic viticulture. Seeing the change in the quality and drinkability of her wines, she applied for and received organic and biodynamic certification in 2009. The vineyards cover 28 hectares – 75% of Teroldego, 15% of Manzoni Bianco, 5% of Nosiola and 5% of Pinot Grigio

Foradori ‘Morei’, Trentino, Italy 2015

Grape variety: Teroldego

‘Morei’ again from local dialect, translates as ‘moro’/’scuro’. The Teroldego here plunges its roots deep in the stones and sand of the soil carried by the river Noce giving rise to deeply coloured wines with a dense and mineral texture. Eight months on the skins in clay amphorae

‘Morei is very fresh, pure and linear with pure red cherry fruit and lovely fine-grained structure. Elegant, direct and pure.’ Wine writer, Jamie Goode

  

Guilhaume de Conti, of Tour des Gendres, Bergerac, South-West France 2014

Viticulture is biodynamic, the soil is nourished with seaweed and silica treatments to encourage microbial activity. Yields are low, 5 to 6 bunches per vine, manual picking and selection of ripe and healthy grapes is essential; on the top cuvées there are several ‘tries’ in the vineyard, and the wine will only be released if it reaches the highest of standards. The blends will also change according to the physiological ripeness of the grapes

Gloire de Mon Pere, Chateau Tour des Gendres, Bergerac, South-West France

Grape varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc.

Gloire de mon Père – The nose is intense and powerful – black fruit, dark chocolate, anisee with flowery notes. Generous and ripe on the palate, the layers of sweet, juicy fruit are supported by a firm but balanced tannic structure.

Thibaud Chaume, of Domaine Chaume-Arnaud, Rhône Valley, France

Domaine Chaume-Arnaud biodynamic vineyards are planted on slopes and terraces around the picturesque villages of Vinsobres and Saint-Maurice, near Nyons.  The altitude, between 200 to 450m, and the cool wind from the nearby Alps (the Pontias) keep the temperature lower than the neighbouring villages and contribute to the natural freshness and complexity of the wines. Harvest in done by hand and yields are kept very low.   

The Chaume-Arnaud Côtes du Rhone is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, dark-coloured, it has a rich and velvety character. Very inviting nose, sweetly fruited, with gamey/meaty hints. Gorgeously ripe and juicy cherry, plum and cream on the palate with discreet spices. Fine tannins and acidity on the finish hold and balance this brilliant wine very well.

Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa, Rivergaro, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

La Stoppa is located in the Colli Piacentini in north-west EmiliaRomagna. Founded in the late 19th century by Gian-Marco Ageno, the estate was bought by Elena Pantaleoni’s father in 1973. At the time, the estate focused on producing international style wines. Elena inherited the estate in 1991 and by 1996, she and head vignaiolo Giulio Armani began to execute the vision they had for the future of the estate. They replanted Barbera and Bornada, as well as a small amount of Malvasia Candia, Ortrugo and Trebianno, all of which were much more suited to the hot climate and heavy clay soils of the Colli Piacentini. 

The vines were worked organically from the early 90s and La Stoppa received organic certification in 2008. Elena, in typical humble fashion, describes herself as ‘la custode de la vigne’, merely a guardian, until she in her turn passes the estate to the next generation. Her low-key, but powerful conviction is that her responsibility is to farm and make wine in as sustainable, non-interventionist and authentic a way as possible. The wines qualify for Colli Piacentini DOC, but are bottled as Emilia IGT because she feels that the rules of the DOC do not allow the authenticity of the terroir to speak. Her stances on the necessity of truly artisan (as opposed to industrial) production, the use of indigenous grape varieties, yeasts and minimal intervention in the cantina have made her a leading voice for devotees of natural, artisanal wine. She featured in Jonathon Nossiter’s 2015 documentary ‘Natural Resistance’. 

La Stoppa ‘Malvasia Dolce Frizzante’, Emilia-Romagna, Italy 2015

Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, is luscious and subtely sweet with a soft sparkle, the wine is made from Malvasia di Candia grape variety. Single fermentation via the Charmat Method. Honeyed on the palate with floral, tangy fruits. Light, frothy, off-dry. White peach, lightly floral, simple, but delicious purity. Ideal as an aperitif, although Italians would drink this more as a light dessert wine with fruit desserts. It is a ‘mosto parzialemente fermentato’ wine. The method is to pick the aromatic Malvasia grapes quickly and do a very gentle pressing. The juice or ‘mosto’ partially fermented with the fermentation stopped by reducing the temperature. This results in a low alcohol, semi-sparkling, gently sweet wine.

Italian natural wine star

 Elena Pantaleoni and Nicholas Sciackitano of La Stoppa, and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, with Darina from April 2016, during Elena’s visit to the school.

We are joined recently in one of our wine classes, via Skype, by Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa.
La Stoppa is located in Emilia Romagna and the estate is run by Elena Pantaleoni, along with Giulio Armani, who both starred in the natural wine film ‘Natural Resistance’.


La Stoppa is a wonderful organically-tended estate surrounded by Elena’s home, a 14th century castle, where wild herbs grow freely between the rows of vines and no chemical fertilizers, weed killers or pesticides are ever applied.
Elena spoke to the students about growing and making wine naturally. She gave a tutored tasting of the following wines, via Skype, to the 12-week certificate cookery school students:
La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Grape varieties: Barbera and Bonarda

Trebbiolo Rosso is a natural wine made from the Barbera and Bonarda grape varieties. The nose is fresh with cherry and red berries mingling with wilder notes. Lively and juicy, the palate bursts with sweet/sour morello cherries and hints of spices. In all, it is a lovely, fresh, lively and fruit-driven wine which is best enjoyed with food.

La Stoppa Ageno, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Grape varieties: 60% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, 40% Ortrugo and Trebbiano
This is an ‘orange wine (orange / amber / skin contact wines, are white wines that are made like a red, i.e. with grape skin contact)
Ageno is made from 60% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, 40% Ortrugo and Trebbiano grown on clay/limestone soils in a very warm climate (Elena says that this part of Emilia can be hotter than Sicily during the summer). The juice and skins stay in contact for 30 days and fermentation takes place spontaneously with ambient yeasts. The resulting wine is matured for 12 months, half in stainless steel, the other half in used French oak barriques, with a further 2 years in bottle before release.
“Deep golden/amber in colour. On first pouring, bruised apple. With air, it becomes incredibly complex: candied orange peel and grapefruit, honey, smoke, nuts, and a herbal and Mediterranean character. The palate is medium full, bone dry, again very complex and intriguing. Candied fruit flavours on the sweeter end, yet somehow also savoury, nutty, umami characteristics. Very well balanced, with linear, mouthwatering acidity, a touch of palate-cleansing astringency and a lengthy finish”

La Stoppa Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Grape variety: Malvasia di Candia Aromatica.
100% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica. After a soft pressing in a horizontal press, the wine is fermented using indigenous yeasts in a closed, pressurized tank. The result is a lightly sparkling, semi-sweet wine with only 7% alcohol.
Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, is luscious and subtly sweet with a soft sparkle, the wine is made from the Malvasia di Candia grape variety. Peach, apple, floral, honeyed on the palate with floral, tangy fruits. Delicious with fruit desserts – or on its own!
Our thanks to Elena for an inspiring talk to the students. Further information on La Stoppa on their the website www.lastoppa.it

Following on from this we continued the wine class along the theme of organic, biodynamic and natural wines and we were delighted to be joined by Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau (McKenna Guides Wine Person of the Year 2017). Pascal has been a guest wine lecturer at Ballymaloe Cookery School since 2006 and our thanks once again to Pascal for a fantastic class, and a tutored tasting of the following wines:

Meyer-Fonne Riesling ‘Katzenthal’, Alsace, France
For centuries, Alsace, the frontier province in northeastern France just across the Rhine from Germany, had been passed back and forth between the French and the Germans, depending on who had won the last battle. Felix Meyer has built a solid reputation in Alsace. Working extremely hard in the vineyard, keeping yields ridiculously low, the immense quality of the granitic soils of Katzenthal is reflected in every single of Felix wines. No other grower in the area produces wines with such precision, purity and expression of terroir. Riesling Katzenthal, grown on the granitic slopes surrounding the village is a very distinguished and racy wine. Pure, mineral nose with hints of citrus and ginger. Rich, ample and ripe on the palate with nectarine, orange peel and peachy character the lead to the finish is pristine and impeccably balanced by good acidity

Terre di Pietra, Valpolicella ‘Vigna del Peste’, Veneto, Italy
This farm is owned by Laura Albertini and family and situated in Marcellise in the hills east of Verona. Terre di Pietra is a reference to the particular varieties of stony soils. These vineyards of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara are over 40 years. Farming is organic – they started official conversion in 2011. All the work in the winery is done manually with respect for the grape variety and the terroir. Laura designs label composed of various bands of colour to denote the different types of rock which compose the subsoil underneath the vineyards. Red fruits such as cherries and juicy red plums with a hint of bitterness. The minerality of the estate’s limestone soil is evident in this wine and the finish tasty and fresh.

Familia Ceechin Malbec Mendoza, Argentina
Located in Russell – Maipu, this 75-ha organic farm is owned and run by the Cecchin family since 1959. Strict adherence to organic methods in the vineyard, limited yields and minimal interventions in the winery result in very articulate wines that truly reflect their terroir and capture the essence of the fruit.
The Malbec, a grape that Argentina has successfully appropriated, is made without the addition of sulphites. The nose opens up with enticing, ripe plum, bruised red cherries, liquorice, dark chocolate and a delicate earthiness. These lovely fruit and seeds are also found on the ripe, well-balanced palate and the natural acidity hold this eminently drinkable wine perfectly.

Our thanks to Pascal Rossignol for another fantastic class to the students.

Welcome back Alice!

We were delighted to recently have the opportunity to introduce New York based wine writer Alice Feiring to the 12 week cookery students, virtually –via Skype. We beamed Alice onto the big screen in the demo room live from New York for a very interactive talk and Q&A with the students.

Alice Feiring (who presented fantastic talks and tastings at Litfest’15 here at Ballymaloe) is an internationally known author and journalist who lives in New York and leads an international debate on wine made naturally. She has been the wine correspondent for Wall Street Journal Magazine and Time Magazine and now freelances for publications including the New York Times. Alice is a winner of both the James Beard and the Louis Roederer wine writing awards.


Alice gave an inspiring talk to the cookery school students about natural wine. By way of illustration during the talk, we showed Vino di Anno, a natural wine from Mt Etna, Sicily, made by Anna Martens & Eric Narioo in a Qvevri (Qvevri in Georgia were one of the first vessels ever to be used for wine fermentation, terracotta vessels, buried completely surrounded by the natural coolness of the earth, with just the top part barely above ground)

Alice also spoke about Georgian wine and Georgia in general, a subject near and dear to Alice’s heart and the subject of one of her books ‘For the Love of Wine, my odyssey through the world’s most ancient wine culture’, published March 2016, about the people, places, food, and natural wines of Georgia.

She is author of several books, including The Battle for Wine and Love: Or How I Saved the World From Parkerization and Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally. Translations of her books have been published in French, Spanish, Italian and Georgian. In 2012 she launched The Feiring Line, the only subscription-based natural wine newsletter where you can ke ep up to date on Alice’s writing www.alicefeiring.com/newsletter
On Twitter: @alicefeiring

Our heartfelt thanks to Alice for her time and a wonderful talk which we and the students so very much appreciated.

Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine

The inaugural international Literary Festival of Food and Wine took place at Ballymaloe House, Grainstore and Cookery School over the May Bank Holiday wekend, 3 – 6 May. A magical weekend was had, with many wine & drinks events, and here are a selection of photographs and some links to write-up on the weekend. We are already looking forward to 2014 Literary Festival!

http://guides.ie/megabites/jancis-robinson-mw-ballymaloe-litfest-leslie-williams

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/tasting_articles/ta20130508.html

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a201305091.html

http://www.corkbilly.com/2013/05/the-ballymaloe-litfest-not-book-just.html

 

Jancis Robinson MW Wine Grapes presentation and tasting at the Literary Festival
Jancis Robinson MW Wine Grapes presentation and tasting at the Literary Festival

 

olm pictured with Jancis Robinson MW at Ballymaloe Literary Festival
olm pictured with Jancis Robinson MW at Ballymaloe Literary Festival
Ger Buckley, Master Cooper, Midleton Distillery pictured with Bill Yosses, Pastry Chef, The White House
Ger Buckley, Master Cooper, Midleton Distillery pictured with Bill Yosses, Pastry Chef, The White House

 

Tom Doorley and John Wilson 'Wine & Words'
Tom Doorley and John Wilson ‘Wine & Words’
Peter Corr and Literary Festival wine & drinks crew
Peter Corr and Literary Festival wine & drinks crew

 

Douro - still and fortified with Maurice O'Mahony, Wine Alliance
Douro – still and fortified with Maurice O’Mahony, Wine Alliance

 

Mary Dowey and Pascal Rossignol 'Going Natural - New Trends'
Mary Dowey and Pascal Rossignol ‘Going Natural – New Trends’

 

Ger Buckley, Master Cooper, Midleton Distillery
Ger Buckley, Master Cooper, Midleton Distillery

 

Sherry with Leslie Williams, wine writer, the Irish Examiner
Sherry with Leslie Williams, wine writer, the Irish Examiner

 

Rieslings to be Cheerful with John McDonnell, Wine Australia Ireland
Rieslings to be Cheerful with John McDonnell, Wine Australia Ireland
Nick Lander, Joe McNamee, Paul Flynn and Niamh Shields
Nick Lander, Joe McNamee, Paul Flynn and Niamh Shields
Single Pot Still Whiskey from Midleton Distillery matched with Irish Farmhouse Cheese by L Mulligan
Single Pot Still Whiskey from Midleton Distillery matched with Irish Farmhouse Cheese by L Mulligan

 

A Wine Goose Show with Susan Boyle
A Wine Goose Show with Susan Boyle

 

Pierpaolo Rapuzzi, Ronchi di Cialla, Friuli
Pierpaolo Rapuzzi, Ronchi di Cialla, Friuli

 

Penfolds Grange and The Rewards of Patience with John McDonnell, Wine Australia Ireland
Penfolds Grange and The Rewards of Patience with John McDonnell, Wine Australia Ireland
John Wilson, The Irish Times and Juan Gil, Albarino, Rias Baixas
John Wilson, The Irish Times and Juan Gil, Albarino, Rias Baixas

 

Tom Lynch, El Comandante Wines, Mendoza
Tom Lynch, El Comandante Wines, Mendoza
Wine & Literature with John Wilson, wine writer, The Irish Times
Wine & Literature with John Wilson, wine writer, The Irish Times

 

 

William O'Callaghan, Longueville Irish Apple Brandy and Cider
William O’Callaghan, Longueville Irish Apple Brandy and Cider
Maurice, Pascal and Geraldine checking the wines for Wine Grapes with Jancis Robinson MW
Maurice, Pascal and Geraldine checking the wines.
Sherry in The Big Shed
Sherry in The Big Shed
Daphne launching the literary festival with Nyetimber
Daphne launching the literary festival with Nyetimber
John Bowman with the box office crew - Nicola, Aoife and Ka
John Bowman with the box office crew – Nicola, Aoife and Ka

 

 

Sacha with delicious Iberico Ham for the Sherry
Sacha with delicious Iberico Ham for the Sherry

 

The Big Shed Fringe at the literary festival
The Big Shed Fringe at the literary festival

 

 

Upcoming event – ‘Real Wine – Celebrating the Artisan Grower’ with Eric Narioo and Pascal Rossignol, Sunday 26th May, 6pm

‘Real Wine – Celebrating the Artisan Grower’

With Eric Narioo of Les Caves des Pyrène and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau

Talk and wine tasting of a selection of artisan wines, at Ballymaloe House, Sunday 26th May, 6pm

Eric from Les Caves de Pyrène, Surrey, and Pascal from Le Caveau, Kilkenny, both specialise in artisan wines sourced from individual growers, that are ‘true to where they come from, which are made by hand with minimal interventions in the vineyard and winery, and which show maximum respect for nature and the environment’.

Pink bulles’ Pet Nat Gamay rosé by Jean Maupertuis (Auvergne, France)

Vino Bellotti Bianco 2011, Cascina Degli Ulivi (Piemonte, Italy)

Vouvray ‘la Dilettante’ 2011, Pierre et Catherine Breton (Loire Valley, France)

Vitovska Amphora 2007, Vodopivec (Friuli, Italy)

Cheverny Rouge 2011, Clos Tue-Boeuf (Loire Valley, France)

Vino di Anna 2011, Eric Narioo and Anna Martens (Etna, Sicily, Italy)

Peza do Rei 2010, Adega Cachin (Ribera Sacra, Spain)

Villalobos ‘Wild Vineyards’ Carignan Reserve 2010 (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

This is a great opportunity to listen to two passionate and experienced wine experts in this area, over a very pleasent, informal, yet educational talk, and a tasting of  different artisan wines.

Sunday 26th May, 6pm, at Ballymaloe. €15

To reserve places, please contact Colm colm@ballymaloe.ie   Tel 086 0859034

Eric Narioo
Eric Narioo
Pascal Rossignol and Darina Allen
Pascal Rossignol and Darina Allen

Natural Wine

With guest speakers Pascal Rossignol, of Le Caveau, Kilkenny and Dario Poddana, of Les Caves de Pyrène, London.

Dario and Pascal at Ballymaloe
Dario and Pascal at Ballymaloe

Our thanks to both Dario and Pascal – Dario came over especially from London, and his talk and tasting was very much appreciated by the students, along with regular guest wine lecturer at the school, Pascal Rossignol, who came from Kilkenny, and as always our thanks and appreciation to Pascal.

Pascal, Darina and Pascal
Pascal, Darina and Dario

We tasted 7 Natural with the students, all of which showed very well.

Natural wine talk
Natural wine talk in the demo room

 

ORGANIC, BIODYNAMIC AND NATURAL WINE, by Tim Wildman MW (Les Caves de Pyrène)

Wine is perceived as one of the most natural and healthy of alcoholic beverages.
Consumers might be surprised to discover that the majority of everyday wine is
produced using a wide variety of chemicals, both in the vineyard and the winery, traces
of which can end up in the final wine (ever wondered why cheap wine gives you such a
headache?). A vineyard is almost unique in that vines cannot be crop rotated, and
cannot be left to lie fallow. As a consequence the use of agrochemicals over time leads
to a build up of pathogens and a depletion of soil health. This weakens the vine,
creating a cycle of dependency on chemical treatments. As vineyards become “green
concrete” wine makers are waking up to the fact that high input farming using synthetic
herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers is becoming unsustainable. At the same
time consumers are becoming more aware of the ingredients in the food and drink they
buy, looking for healthier, additive free options. The coming together of these two
phenomena has resulted in a number of alternatives for the thoughtful and
environmentally conscious wine consumer, but what are the difference between the
various classifications, and which, if any, has any real meaning?

ORGANIC
Organic producers will only make good wine if they also made good wine before
becoming organic. This may seem self evident, but organic certification is – at its
simplest – adhering to a list of chemicals not to add to your vineyard. Tick the list and
you can be certified organic, irrespective of the quality of what you produce. An oven
pizza may be labelled organic but its not exactly haute cuisine. Requirements for
organic certification vary widely around the world, with many countries not
“recognising” each others accreditation, so there are plenty of grey areas. To add
further confusion, in the EU organic accreditation covers only the grapes, and not what
happens in the winery. Hence you will only ever see an EU wine labelled as “made from
organically grown grapes”. Think of the organically grown lettuce that is treated with
chemical preservatives to keep it fresh on the supermarket shelf. Organic therefore is no
guarantee that a wine has not had chemicals used in the processing of it. There are
many superb example of high quality organic wineries, but the term should be treated
with caution unless you know the producer in question, or trust the place or person you
buy it from.

BIODYNAMIC
Biodynamics requires a much greater commitment from the grower and is often referred
to as “super-charged” organics. Rather than simply reducing chemical inputs,
biodynamics is a proactive attempt to bring life to the soil by the use of composts and
organic preparations. Biodynamic vineyards always “feel” alive and healthy. Practices
take into account the seasons as well as lunar and solar rhythms, which would not have
seemed strange to our ancestors. Rudolph Steiner founded the biodynamic movement in
the 1920s in an attempt to bridge the two worlds of modern science and what he
referred to as “peasant wisdom”. Some critics are sceptical of the more arcane
elements of biodynamics but often concede that the end result is better tasting wine.
This may simply be down to the old maxim that the best fertilizer is the farmers
footsteps. Some of the worlds leading wine producers are now working biodynamically
including Felton Road (New Zealand), Domaine Leflaive (Burgundy) and Zind-Humbrecht
(Alsace). For many it is a practical and sustainable farming solution, and as such you will
not always see it written on the label or used as a marketing tool. Biodynamic
certification is a sound guarantee of responsible environmental practice, the wines
should always have a clear sense of place (terroir) and quality can be exceptional.

NATURAL WINE
Natural wine is a relatively recent phenomenon, but one that is currently receiving a lot
of attention. In its simplest form, natural wine takes organic or biodynamic practices in
the vineyard as its starting point, and extends them into the winery in an attempt to
reduce the total use of chemical inputs and manipulations throughout the entire
production process. The key difference is often the low or zero use of sulphur dioxide
(SO2). Natural wine is not an accredited or legally defined term, but refers to a broad
range of desirable practices both in the vineyard and the winery. These include the use
of organic or biodynamic treatments to bring life to the soil, hand harvesting, no
chapitalization (added sugar to raise potential alcohol), no added enzymes, the use of
natural wild yeasts for fermentation, no added “flavourings” or adjustments (oak chips,
tannin powder, acidification or de-acidification), low or zero use of sulphur dioxide
through ferment and elevage, no or very light filtration and fining and finally low or zero
sulphur additions at bottling (understood to be less than 20ppm for white, 10ppm for
red).
In essence, nowt taken out and nowt put in.
There is also a recognizably “natural wine style” emerging, which for many is the chief
allure of this category. For some it is also its biggest weakness. At their best, natural
wines display lightness and purity of fruit. They have higher levels of acidity, often
combined with more restrained levels of alcohol, for reds often in the 11 to 12.5 range,
yet are fully flavour ripe. They are lean, fresh, mineral and often have little or no new
oak. As a result they can be incredibly drinkable. They can also be nutritious in the true
sense of the word, being living products, they appeal to the stomach as well as the
palate. Think Yakult or unpasturised cheese. The driving philosophy of many natural
wine makers is simply to make a wine that they can drink a lot of, which may sound
strange, even irresponsible, until you consider that many “modern” show-stopper wine
styles can impress with a sip, but are impossible to finish the bottle. Natural wine can
often be simple, but what they lack in weight or complexity they make up for in
drinkability and fun.
Like biodynamics, natural wine is a trustworthy sign of environmentally friendly vineyard
practices as well indicating the minimal use of additives and chemicals inputs in the
winery. As such it is the most “organic” of the accreditations if by organic we mean low
chemical additives. In addition natural may also signal a recognizable style of wine. This
style may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but ultimately this will depend on whether you
like your apple juice cloudy, your cheese stinky and your milk straight from the cow.
The proof of the pudding will always be in the drinking, and the best bottle on the table
is always the empty one.

The previous wine class at the cookery school, we had tasted both sulphured, and unsulphured dried apricots, with a majority of the class having a preference for the unsulphured apricots – so we were all well ready for an interesting tasting of Natural wines, which included the following:

PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE, CASA COSTE PIANE
Casa Coste Piane is a tiny 6-ha, in Santo Stefano, heart of the Valdobbiadene area, owned and run by Loris Follador. For generations their wine had been sold in bulk, but since 1983 they decided to bottle the production themselves.
The organically-run vineyards lie on slopes close to the cellar. The vines are on average 60 years old (some are pre-phylloxera!!) and their roots can grow up to 30-40 metres long. This Prosecco is a gem, it is one of the few made in the champenoise method wherein the second fermentation takes place in the bottle.
Harvest is usually between the last week of September and the first week of October.
In April the wine is bottled without the addition of yeast and sugar, subsequently the indigenous yeast contained in the wine starts a second spontaneous fermentation that lasts for approximately four weeks.
After this the wine spends a further four weeks ‗sur lie‘. The process of ―disgorgement‖ is not practised, therefore the yeasts are still present in the bottle… any haziness is entirely natural.
This is very Champagne-like, with great purity and frankness; the aromas are of apple, acacia flowers with an interesting mineral twist and subtle yeastiness.

2010 MONTLOUIS AC ‘MINERALE +’, FRANTZ SAUMON
Frantz Saumon used to be a forester in both Canada and France, in 2001, after graduating from oenology school, he purchased a small three hectares property in Montlouis, which grew quickly to 5.5 ha.
Frantz set about to make true Montlouis that reflected the specific terroir of that appellation, and to this end he began converting the vineyards to organic viticulture and relying only on indigenous yeast. Most of his vineyards are planted with old vine Chenin Blanc (he likes to do everything in his vineyards by hand himself, one reason he has so little land).
The winery is an underground cellar carved into the tuffeau, the ubiquitous fossil-rich clay of the region, and all the wines are vinified in barrels (some 228l, some 400l)
Minérale+ is a natural wine, made without sulphur, wild yeast fermented, no additions and organically grown grapes. The wine delivers a lot of ripe apple and pear on the nose, with classic wet wool hints, grapey and gentle spice. Rich and full on the palate, tangy, quite mineral and ending with fresh, balancing acidity.

2010 COTE DU RHONE BLANC ‘CLOS DES GRILLONS’, NICOLAS RENAUD
Nicolas Renaud’s wines come from vineyard parcels on a variety of different soils: white sands, galets stones, yellow and redclays and marls and are exclusively classed as Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône-Villages-Signargues. He has been practising organic viticulture with dedication since 2006. In the cellar he vinifies with natural yeasts and without sulphur which is for him the only way of respecting and rediscovering terroir.

The vineyard area today comprises 15 hectares of vines most of them planted before 1960, the majority of the vines being Grenache Noir for the reds and Grenache Blanc for the white. He is also restoring the old local varieties such as Counoise and Bourboulenc and in 2011 reintroduced Picpoul Gris and Grenache Gris.

Grillons Blanc is made up of from 35 year old Grenache Blanc 70% with the balance from Bourboulenc, Clairette, Ugni Blanc 30%, a blend of four different parcels on the communes of Saze and Rochefort. After the must settles over one night there is fermentation (without temperature control) in barrels.
Honey, fennel, acacia flowers on the nose;  The palate gradually builds in intensity and culminate with an explosion of wild mint freshness. Very lenghty and perfectly balance.

2009 GRAN CERDO TEMPRANILLO, GONZALO GONZALO GRIJALBA
Gonzalo Gonzalo was born in Logroño, Spain and grew up among the vineyards that his parents cultivated in Fuenmayor.
After studying biology in León and oenology in the university of Rioja, he dedicated himself to travelling through France and Italy where he met small vine-growers and winemakers and discovered new varieties of grape and technologies After completing his oenologist training in an industrial winery, in 2003 he abandoned everything to give birth to Orgullo, his personal oenology project.

Fiercely protective of the terroir of his family vineyards Gonzalo rejects market driven fashions, formulae, chemical treatments and conformism. Instead he has sought out his own methods with respect for the land, his vineyards, and the traditions of his forefathers. He balances this respect with formal training in the latest enological techniques and methods.

Gonzalo was profoundly influenced in his choice of viticultural methods by the fact that his father became seriously ill from years of daily exposure to high-spec chemical fertilizers and herbicides while tending their vineyards in the 1970s, when they were regarded as the panacea for all vineyard problems. It was not clear at the time that chemicals that were perfectly safe in small doses had significant harmful effects from cumulative, long term exposure. The soil itself suffered as well, losing its vitality as witnessed in the deadening of the biodiversity in the vineyard. Wild flowers, insects, earth worms, snails and the various organisms of the vineyard ecosystem were no longer present as they were even two generations ago.

The ladybug on the label of Orgullo is a symbol of the renewed vitality of the vineyards which Gonzalo has worked long and hard to revive. The ladybug is one of the “good” insects that prey on aphids, mites and other “bad” insects. The chemical treatments of the recent past minimized both the “good” and the “bad” and in the process the vitality of the vineyards.

However, this restored vigour requires plenty of vigilance and creative solutions to combat the various hazards that can befall vineyards, such as mildew, mould and other pests. For this Gonzalo keeps a close watch and has revived natural treatments and biodynamic practices used in the past to maintain healthy vineyards.

The 100% Tempranillo vineyards themselves were planted 35 years ago in the town of Fuenmayor in the La Tejera subregion, which is an area between groves of trees along the Ebro River and Mount San Llorente in the heart of the Rioja Alta sub-zone. The soil is calcareous clay and the vineyards are 4.5 hectares in size. Gonzalo and his helpers Teresa and Fernando tend the vines methodically, and with perfection in mind, year round and work only with the best grapes they can coax from the land for Orgullo.

They also follow the lunar cycle in vineyard and the winery. In the end Gran Cerdo is all about the purest expression of fruit with whole bunch fermentation, no filtration, no stabilization and minimal sulphur. The wine has real character, all the juicy elements of Tempranillo, with no dirty oak to mask its charm. It has a natural way about it but with no funkiness. With its cherry-red, purplish, brilliant colour Gran Cerdo reveals primary notes of fresh fruit, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and violets with clean mineral tones from the granite. This little natural wine is phenomenal value.

2008 MENDOZA MALBEC ‘No Sulphites added‘ , FAMILIA CECCHIN
Located in Russell – Maipu, this 75-ha organic farm is owned and run by the Cecchin family since 1959.
Strict adherence to organic methods in the vineyard, limited yields and minimal interventions in the winery result in very articulate wines that truly reflect their terroir and capture the essence of the fruit.
This Malbec, a grape that Argentina has successfully appropriated, is made without the addition of sulphur. The nose opens up with enticing, ripe plum, bruised red cherries,
liquorice, dark chocolate and a delicate earthiness. These lovely fruit and seeds are also found on the ripe, well-balanced palate and the natural acidity hold this eminently drinkable wine perfectly.

2008 TOURAINE COT (MALBEC) ‘IN COT WE TRUST’, THIERRY PUZELAT
Thierry joined his brother in his family estate Clos Tue-Boeuf in 1994, but very quickly realised he wanted to make natural wines rather than conventional ones.
In 1999, Thierry embarked in a micro-negociant operation, sourcing organically-grown grapes from small local vignerons which he supplements with the recolt of his own vineyards.
Influenced by natural winemakers such as François Dutheil (Château Sainte-Anne, Bandol) and Marcel Lapierre (Morgon), Thierry produces wines without any oenologic additives. Natural wines can only be made from grapes that are grown on soils where no chemicals are used, where the natural yeasts population is large and varied.
Thierry intervenes very little in the winery; he let the grapes express their terroir and produces natural wines that are extremely lively, digestible but with very strong personality.
The Touraine Malbec ‘In Côt we trust’ is such a wine.
Fresh, lively blackberry on the nose, slightly reductive at first, with damp earth and flowery notes. The palate is plush and mouthfilling, yet it is lively and balanced, thanks to its upfront acidity, it shows pronounced aromas of wild berries, cherry and liquorice.

2009 SICILY ‘VINO DI ANNA’, ANNA MARTENS
Anna Martens trained with Brian Croser for eight years before becoming a flying winemaker and plying her trade in various countries. She eventually settled in Sicily, and has been making natural wines from grapes harvested on vineyards about 1000m above sea level in the Etna region.

The red grape of choice is Nerello Mascalese supplemented by a field blend of all manner of red and white grapes including Nerello Cappuccio and Alicante. Nerello combines a certain muscularity with good acid structure from the poor, ash-rich soils.

Jeudi 15 is described as a peasant wine and made in a way to enhance drinkability. The grapes are hand-harvested, 2/3 whole bunch and fermented in an open wooden vat, pressed after one week and transferred into stainless steel. The ferment finishes in July. After a period to settle the wine is bottled without filtration, fining or sulphur.
It is a pale red colour and wafts gentle aromas of bruised strawberries, morello cherries and balsam and background terroir notes of pepper, roast bay, mushroom and cooked earth.

A fascinating tasting and a great introduction for the students to Natural Wines. Thank you Dario and Pascal.