You might eat ‘paleo’, love drinking coconut water and are across the fact that Miranda Kerr’s best kept beauty secret is drinking ‘Tahitian Noni juice’. But, do you know what’s in your wine?
Most of us don’t. We take great care to know what’s in our food yet have very little idea of a wine’s journey from the vineyard to the table.
But all of that is starting to change. People are increasingly caring more about what goes into their wine glass and, ultimately, their body.
Furthermore, the production of wine often uses products such as egg whites, milk proteins, fish bladder and gelatine. So, if you are one of the increasing number of people who need to avoid these in your diet, then you need to know about ‘raw wines’ (and let me tell you that they are far from being the ‘tofu’ of the wine world.)
What is ‘Raw’ Wine?
‘Raw Wine’ is a bit of an umbrella term for wines that are natural, preservative free, organic or biodynamic.
Why, this wine is organic, it’s biodynamic….It’s hydromatic. Why, its grease lightning!
Okay, maybe not. But, while we all know about Danny Zuko and his swish car, it’s not always evident what these terms mean when we are chatting about wine. So here’s the lowdown:
Organic wine – This means that the grapes are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and industrial fertilizers and only minimal handling and processing of the grapes is permitted during production. One thing to remember, if the label says ‘made with organic grapes’ this doesn’t necessarily mean that no preservatives were used, so it’s best to read the label carefully.
Biodynamic wine – This means that the grapes are grown in accordance with principles made popular by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. Biodynamic farming involves taking a holistic approach to developing the relationships between nature, animals and plants to create a self-sustaining system. Biodynamic principles include using manures as fertilisers and planting in line with lunar cycles. Sounds wacky, and kind of like Mr Steiner might have had one too many vinos. (Cow-horn stuffed with manure anyone?) But the results over the years have shown strong vineyards and clean wines.
Natural wine – Natural wine is still a bit of a ‘cloudy’ (sorry, couldn’t help myself) category. This is largely because there are no rules around what constitutes ‘natural wine’. Generally, natural wine is taken to mean wine produced using natural yeasts in fermentation, with no sulphur dioxide added or only in minimal amounts (sulphur dioxide is the most commonly used wine preservative). It can also mean no filtering or fining.
(Commentary on this area suggests that natural wine remains a confusing area for consumers and I tend to agree. For this reason, I prefer to use the term ‘low intervention’ (LI) instead of ‘Natural’. And no, this doesn’t mean I am a ‘Fruitarian’ like Hugh Grant’s disaster date from Notting Hill who believes that fruit has feelings and only eats things that have ‘fallen off a tree or bush – that are, in fact, dead already’.)
Preservative free – this means no preservatives were added to the wine. Sulphur dioxide can naturally occur in wine during fermentation and can be found in these wines yet it usually only exists in miniscule amounts. This is a fast growing area, as many people are increasingly allergic to preservatives commonly found in wine. (For more detail on preservative free wines, stay tuned for my next article ‘Cracking the code on preservative free wine’.)
Your Raw Wine Diet Plan
A lot of this ‘raw wine’ gear needs special attention, so you will need to head to the smaller independent wine retailers – or directly to the producers themselves – to hunt some of these gems down. And, let me say, it’s well worth it as there’s certainly nothing hippy-like and wishy-washy about these babies.
Many of them are tight, structurally balanced and holding their own with the big guns. Kind of like a poised ballerina or, perhaps more relevantly, Ryan Gosling.
Lucci M. Cuve Close de St Anna First Cut Sauvignon Blanc, South Australia (2012)
Around $25 a bottle. Available at selected bottle shops and at www.lucymargauxvineyards.com
This has a beautifully complex nose with minerality and slight strawiness to it. A faint touch of cooked lemon is present. Not as much green capsicum or gooseberry as in those ever popular Marlborough Savy B’s, so be ready to try something new. It has that ballerina’s balance and a textural mouth feel. An acidic finish that dries the palate acting as a perfect aperitif. Salty green Sicilian olives and prosciutto are a divine accompaniment.
The raw factor –Stunning LI wine that is unfiltered and unfined. Only minimal amounts of sulphur are added only at the bottling stage to ensure that the wine remains balanced when it hits the glass.
Kalleske Plenarius Viognier 2012 (Barossa Valley)
Around $25 a bottle. Available at selected bottle shops and at www.kalleske.com
This one is what they call an ‘orange wine’ meaning it’s been left to ferment on the grape skins for an extended period as a red wine would be (usually white wines are removed from their skins just after crushing). The result, an intriguing wine with orange peel, honey and faint cinnamon on the nose that is almost rich to taste. It is cloudy, textural and finishes long. Definitely the most ‘out there’ of this bunch. Couple with a rich winter chicken stew or an oily fish like mackerel.
The raw factor – 100% certified biodynamic grapes. Wild fermented for 7 days and matured in hogsheads for 10 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. No added sulphites.
BK Wines – Gewürztraminer 2012 (Adelaide Hills, Lenswood)
Around $34 a bottle. Available at selected bottle shops or www.bkwines.com.au
Rose petals and honeydew melon on the nose. It is a clean aromatic white, yet is not as fruit-driven or intense as some Gewürz which is likely a result of being barrel fermented in French oak for five months. It finishes dry making it very attractive to many Aussie palates. If you have been scared of ordering Gewürztraminer whether for fear of not liking it (or saying it incorrectly), I urge you to start here. Chilli and pork belly set this off. It’s such an easy and balanced wine that snuggled up on the couch, book in hand, is also a perfect match.
BK Wines – Skin and Bones, Pinot Noir 2012 (Adelaide Hills, Lenswood)
Around $50, available at selected bottle shops or www.bkwines.com.au
Smelling peppery and almost of pencil shavings. This is a special Pinot that sat on skins for 265 days – five times longer than normal. It is tight and has none of the wateriness that can creep into Pinots. A very savoury wine that finishes long and has the capacity to age well. It’s seductive nature leaves you wanting more. Team with Mediterranean lamb salad with balsamic dressing and you’ll be hard pressed getting guests to leave.
The raw factor – BK Wines are all single vineyard artisan wines that winemaker Brendon Keys makes on the premise that ‘the winemaker should only intervene where necessary’. The result: wines that reflect the character of the place that the grapes are from, or the terroir. The only fining agent used by BK is Bentonite (essentially a clay) to make the wine clear. These wines only contain minimal sulphites. A top example of LI wines.
Price around $25, available from selected bottle shops or www.shobbrookwines.com.au
Red cherry, blackcurrant and a hint of black olive on the nose. Going for the first sip you think you are going to be hit with a huge bunch of tannins. Instead, you experience a delicate and really smooth little number that almost hints at sweetness. With a maturity that seems aged beyond its 2011 vintage and its velvet red colour, it’s easy to forget that this has seen no filtering or fining. Enjoy with Italian mussels in tomato garlic broth (as I did) or, for a more classic red meat match and have with roasted duck.
The raw factor – No filtering or fining is seen here and once again, only minimal sulphur is added before bottling. All the Shobbrook wines are made as naturally as possible using the wild yeasts that form part of the vineyard’s ecosystem. Tom Shobbrook’s wines have received accolades on the international stage and are quick to sell out. An impressive wine that doesn’t disappoint.
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 Reported by AFP, ‘Natural wine? Serve it to the tooth fairy, says sceptics’ <http://finance.ninemsn.com.au/executivesuite/downtime/8574120/natural-wine-serve-it-to-the-tooth-fairy-say-sceptics> 3 December 2012 (retrieved 8 June 2013)