The wine world is full of buzzwords, some important, some not so useful. But this week we look at a few of the latest ones you can use to further your understanding of wine and, yes, even impress a few people if the mood should strike. Who knows? Maybe some of your wine-drinking friends will mistake you for a knowledgeable wine geek.
One of the most controversial topics in the wine business right now is natural wine or, should I say, its definition. Since there's no firm delineation of the word "natural" you can go to town on its meaning, including suggesting, as some have, that natural wines are fault ridden and taste too funky.
The parameters begin in the vineyard: no herbicides, no pesticides. After that, the conversation wanders to the use of indigenous yeasts versus the commercial variety, or sulphur dioxide, tartaric acid, powdered tannins — well, you get the drill: any additives are suspect.
Diversity and terroir dovetail nicely into the conversation, which eventually leads to the need for certification and more explanation. You could start your conversation with organic or biodynamic growers, and see where it goes from there.
Almost all organic or biodynamic wines refer to the farming methods used in growing grapes not what winemaking method is used, and it is here where they split with natural wines.
Natural wines are almost impossible to locate here in British Columbia but we do have a growing selection of organic and biodynamic wines you can check out. They're well worth looking for, not to mention healthier for you.
Among my favourites is the humble Soleus by MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon Organic 2009 $13. So fresh and fragrant, this savoury red is soft and juicy with a mix of black fruits, vanilla and just a hint of toast. A perfect mid-week red that expresses its Chilean origins and its cabernet sauvignon make-up.
An equally delicious white wine choice is the Bonterra Vineyards Chardonnay 2010 $19 from Mendocino County in Northern California. This is an all-organic chardonnay — including the winemaking — that opens with citrus and red apple aromas and just a touch of lees/bread dough to lift it above the ordinary. The palate is similar with dry buttery, nutty, citrus, fruit flavours and mineral notes in the background. A modern delicious, healthy, food-style white you can serve with fresh halibut and a fruit salsa.
On a more serious note, the M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers 2009 $27 is a biodynamic offering from the Northern Rhone Valley. Ripe, round, smooth and elegant, the palate is juicy and loaded with peppery, smoky, gamey, black raspberry, menthol, tobacco and liquorice flavours. Lamb chops, anyone?
Concrete is another hot topic, as in, lately many producers are moving away from the ease of making wine in stainless steel tanks in favour of old-fashioned concrete containers. Well, maybe not so old-fashioned, but definitely concrete.