Today we had our first wine tasting of 2021 and it was definitely a memorable one! With our new instructor Nicola Perullo, we learned about the different types of natural wines which are more artisanal in comparison to conventional wines, taking into consideration the varying winemaking processes, goals and even approaches to tasting.
Essentially from most to less industrial, wine can be broken down into conventional, natural, organic, biodynamic and S.A.I.N.S (the purest, most natural wine). It’s interesting to note that natural wine isn’t necessarily always biodynamic or organic.
Organic wines, however, must be made in accordance with the principles of organic farming. That means no synthetic chemicals are used and GMOs, additives and colouring agents and are all banned.
Biodynamic wines instead use organic farming methods while employing soil supplements prepared according to Rudolf Steiner’s formulas. They also follow a planned calendar based on astronomical configurations. Essentially, biodynamic methods treat the earth like a living and fully receptive organism.
S.A.I.N.S. is an acronym that stands for sans aucun intrant ni sulfites, translating into no additives nor sulfites added. This type of wine is deemed to be the most, almost hyper natural type of artisanal wine.
Another unique thing I learned today has to do with the colouring of natural wines which can fall anywhere on the spectrum of colour. While I’ve had many white, red and rosé wines while in Italy, I’ve also come across a few orange (or amber) wines. This, however, isn’t so much an actual category as it is a fun way to market natural white wines. Basically, wines that are orange in colour are made from white grapes but are macerated with skins like that of red wine vinification, resulting in a darker colour.
For today’s degustazione, we truly sampled the rainbow. Although there were only five wines, each was so different from the next, which was both exciting and challenging. We sampled:
Costadilà: 280 slm Bianco Frizzante
Made in 2019 in Veneto from Malvasia, Verdiso, Glera, Bianchetta Trevigiana grapes
An amber colour, this sparkling white wine is named after its altitude above sea level where the vineyard is found
Pairs well with a simple panino with oregano and tomatoes, but personally I think prosciutto cotto on a slice of orange butter-brushed focaccia would be unparalleled
This was my foggiest glass of wine out of the tasting flight and that’s because I was poured wine from the end of the bottle. Though sentiment levels may vary from not being filtered like conventional wines, this tends not to have an effect on overall taste.
Di Giulia: Marche Bianco Il Gentile
Made in 2017 in Marche from Verdicchio grapes
Fresh, fragrant and decisively complete with an almond finish
Recommended to serve during aperitivo with olive ascolane (meat-stuffed olives)
This wine was by far the most inviting and similar to a conventional white both in colour and taste, however, like most natural wines the smell was somewhat herbal and just the slightest bit sour
Altura Vigneto: Ansonaco
Made in 2019 in Toscana from Ansonaco grapes
Very assertive white almost burnt orange in colour and with a highly tannic mouthfeel
Pairs well with seaside getaways and seafood galore, although I’m not sure that this will be a wine that I’ll be flocking to terribly quickly
Musella: Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso
Made in 2019 in Veneto from Barbera, Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone grapes
Elegant red wine that’s soft, velvety and easy to drink anytime of day, plus it’s also very reminiscent of a conventional wine in terms of appearance and taste
Pairs well with a hearty meat dinner or served with a savoury vegetable omelette
Feudo D’Ugni: Fante
Made in 2015 in Abruzzo from Montepulciano grapes
A biting artisanal red that won’t quickly be forgotten, it needs careful contemplation and the right gastronomic understanding
Pairs well with stews, but I think I’d like a glass of Fante with a giant bistecca alla fiorentina and roast potatoes after a long day at the office
Interestingly, natural wines can be distinguishable almost immediately, even for those with a less-refined palate. The main difference being the look and the smell, although natural wines may also have a more funky or unique taste as well. Plus, the labels on natural wines are almost always more strikingly aesthetic than that of traditional wines.
Overall, today was a very engaging class and it was so cool to learn about these super trendy (dare I say hipster?) wines. I think my favourite of the day was the first orange sparkling wine as it was almost sour and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. That said, it was also somehow buttery and sort of puckeringly peachy like Fuzzy Peach candies. The second white was also quite delicious as was the final red. I will definitely be looking for some aesthetic natural wines at my local wine boutique in the near future!
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Have you ever tried a natural wine? Tell me what you tasted in the comments!