There is push by a lot of younger sommeliers for the Natural and Orange Wine movement. You have probably seen this Category on a number of wine lists and wondered what all the buzz is about.
Well I am about to start a little rant, for I am not a massive fan of these styles of wines.
You see, for me it has the hint of the Emperor’s New clothes!!!!
I love the fact wine is very personal; where everyone can have an opinion and where everyone can be right. But there seems to be a “bully boy” mentality by some people in the wine trade, where if you don’t love these “Natural” style of wines, then you are somehow not “cool” and you just don’t understand “Fine” wine.
What a load of pretentious crap! (But then again, my rant could be seen as overly negative and pretentious )
So what are we actually talking about ?
To me and most Australian wine lovers, Orange Wine, used to mean the cool climate region of Orange in NSW
However to the trendy young hipsters, Orange now means Low Intervention and Natural Wines
Natural or low-intervention wines are not the same as organic or biodynamic wines. Natural wines equates to low or no intervention in the winery. What this means is there is no addition of yeasts or adjustments to sugars or acidity by the winemaker after the grapes have been harvested and crushed. Plus the use of Sulphur dioxide is frowned upon. Some use a little, but then this is not natural. The issue with not using sulphur is that the wines will tend to oxidise very, very quickly. (My biggest concern)
Orange wines refer to the colour, as they are made from white grapes, left in contact with their skins giving the wine an orange colour and increasing the tannins.(Most white wines are taken off skins fairly quickly after crushing). The idea of the extended skin contact is that it gives the wines greater texture and mouthfeel.
The downside is that when combined with natural winemaking and low sulphur you end up with a murky, cloudy wine that looks a little like cider and tends to oxidise.
My first experiences of these styles of wines was a few years ago at a trendy wine bar in the city. I know the owner and really respect his palate, but he showed me an “orange” wine from Mt Edna in Sicily. (I have since discovered that this ticks all the right boxes for the Natural wine loving hipster.)
Well I tasted the wine and I just could not get past the oxidation. I raised this with the owner who indicated this was the style and wasn’t it great.
No it wasn’t great! In another role I sell wine to places like this and I indicated if I had tried to sell him a Hunter Valley Semillon with these same characters, I would be thrown out the door for trying to pass off a faulty wine.
Oh did I tell you he was selling this wine for $150 on the list!
I can’t get passed the feeling that people are getting lost in the cool story behind these wines and the great beards and haircuts the winemakers have. (It does tend to be mainly men who are into this style). Completely forgetting about and ignoring the quality in the bottle.
Now, I am all for wines that reflect a sense of place and terroir, by winemakers who are striving for quality and individuality, but to me “no intervention” reminds me of my uncle making some wine in his garage, with a couple of dirty old buckets and some foot stomping.
But in the end, it does not matter what I think and perhaps I have not tried enough of these wine styles.
But don’t be swayed by the experts talking about the Emperor’s new Clothes. Remember a story will only take you so far and you still need to enjoy the wine.
And close !!!!!
The rant has finished