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In Natural Wine: An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines made naturally, Isabelle Legeron MW takes readers on a thoughtful introduction to the world of natural wines. Legeron became an early advocate for the new wave of natural wines, and she uses Natural Wine as a way to share her knowledge and passion while paying tribute to those behind natural wines.
The beautifully illustrated book begins with some background on modern farming and winemaking, then quickly transitions to What is Natural Wine? This is actually a tricky subject as there is no one formal definition, but lots of opinions on what it takes for a wine to be considered natural. Legeron addresses the complexity of the issue, covering everything from natural wine organizations with different standards to how this lack of a firm definition has led to confusion for consumers.
Essentially natural is made from grapes grown organically or biodynamically with minimal intervention winemaking practices. It follows a philosophy of stepping away from many modern farming and winemaking tools to let nature take control. This is understandably difficult as grape growing and winemaking are difficult enough, even with the latest technology. Legeron shares details on various natural farming methods, including organic and biodynamic, and how the importance of soil health is at the center of these practices.
So, what does minimal intervention winemaking entail? It includes using native fermentation over use of commercial yeast, where naturally occurring yeast found in the vineyard and winery take on the task of fermentation. Making chemical adjustments for sweetness or acidity are discouraged. Winemakers use minimal filtration or fining to clarify their wines. There’s also little or no added Sulphur Dioxide. Winemakers also typically use neutral aging vessels to limit any flavors or aromas that might be imparted by an aging vessel. All of this is done, or really not done, with a goal to give as much of a reflection on time and place of the wine, maximizing the expression of terroir.
After taking readers through an intro to natural wines, Legeron shares a history of the natural wine movement, the grape growers and wine makers, and the special places where they practice their craft. There is some great storytelling here, helping readers connect with the passion of these people. This passion for natural wines has led Legeron to organize the RAW WINE events, one of the largest series of natural wine events in the world.
The final chapter is The Natural Wine Cellar, a large section of the book that covers many natural wine makers and their wines, along with some practical information about shopping for natural wines. The wines discussed here are weighted heavily to France and Italy since that’s where many natural wines are made. There is still a solid number of U.S. wines listed though. Yes, there’s even a Texas wine! Legeron gives a positive nod to Falstaff’s Sack, a fortified Blanc du Bois from La Cruz de Comal in New Braunfels as well as some interesting background on the winery.
While I didn’t have any Texas wines with natural wine claims in my collection, I did recently purchase a 4-pack of wines from Southold Farm + Cellar. Southold shies away from the term natural wine, but they do follow many of the common cellar practices used by natural winemaking, including natural fermentation. I happily enjoyed Southold’s 2019 Love Just Because, a Dolcetto from the Texas Hill Country, while reading Natural Wine. The winemaking notes include: “aged 7 months in neutral barrels and concrete, complete malolactic fermentation, 30ppm SO2.” The wine was lighter in body but had a lot of complexity. It was floral with aromas of hibiscus on the nose with ripe blackberry on the front of the palate. I picked up a licorice note on the finish, and on the second day a meatiness note showed up for me. It was a fun, interesting, and enjoyable wine, and I look forward to trying my other bottles from Southold.
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: CICO Books
Publication Date: October 10, 2017 (Second Edition)